Fillmore County Human Resources Officer Kristina Kohn presented a policy for a smoke- and tobacco-free workplace, along with several other updates and a request to hire a part-time custodian during the Tuesday, April 1, Fillmore County Board of Commissioners meeting.

The board discussed at length the prospect of eliminating cigarette smoke and smokeless tobacco in county facilities by prohibiting employees from using tobacco.

Kohn stated, "There's been a lot of discussion about the health hazards of tobacco use. This would be a separate item from what the public (would be expected to follow). The safety committee felt that this is not wide enough to prevent smoke from getting into the buildings."

She shared that the committee had inquired with Public Health educator Brenda Pohlman about whether a separate policy would be necessary to govern visitors to county buildings and that Pohlman had replied that it would be.

Commissioner Duane Bakke inquired, "Do the department heads know this is coming?"

Kohn replied that the committee's intentions would be sent to department heads, then brought for further examination.

Commissioner Tom Kaase said, "I'm in favor of this and the direction it's going, but our employees are basically going to be handed this and told they can't smoke or chew in the vehicles...you know they're going to violate it. So how are we going to address this? We're putting things out there that we know people are not going to abide by."

Bakke posited that the county stands to lose work through employees' needs to take breaks to smoke or chew.

Commissioner Randy Dahl suggested the policy include an implementation date so employees who smoke any kind of cigarette - even e-cigarettes - or use chewing tobacco would have some time to come into compliance with the policy.

Kohn cited the policy would be published in the employees' newsletter and that smoking and tobacco cessation products would be available through the county's health insurance plan to those wishing to use them at work.

Chairman Chuck Amunrud commented, "This is about all forms of tobacco use, and its elimination makes for better, healthier people."

Acknowledging that a county employee using tobacco while dealing with the public is now deemed unsavory, Kaase countered, "I realize that's what it's about, but do we next take a look at what people are eating for lunch?"

He then made a motion to make the department heads responsible for sharing the proposed policy with employees and getting their input to be brought back to the board.

In another matter, Kohn updated the council on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the automated defibrillator (AED) grant and made a request to hire a half-time custodian.

The commissioners approved posting the custodian's position both externally and internally because Kohn noted the Human Resources department feels it does not have an adequate candidate pool assembled.

Kohn went on to outline what the county must do to be in compliance with the ACA. She was pleased to be able to report that even though current requirements mandate the county offer health insurance benefits to 70 percent of its employees who work more than 30 hours a week, it already complied with the previous requirement to offer it to 95 percent of employees who work more than 30 hours per week.

If temporary and intermittent employees were to be included, the county would add six individuals to its rolls.

Amunrud said, "It is important that intermittent employees are a part of the departments and how they function."

Kohn commended the county's operation in regard to how well it complies with the ACA.

"Fillmore County is positioned very well," she said. "I want to thank you for that."

She added that 32 AEDs will soon be distributed to public places as per a committee's plan, and that determinations will be made as to the county's legal responsibility and transfer of liability for their use.

Planning and zoning

Next, Fillmore County Planning and Zoning Officer Chris Graves asked the board to approve granting a conditional use permit (CUP) for Lyle and Marilyn Affeldt to allow AT&T to construct a 295-foot tower on their property in Fillmore Township.

Another CUP was requested for Ron and Mary Ullom to have a 280-foot tower placed on their Beaver Township property for cell phone services.

Both were accepted and the board went on to pass a zoning resolution amending the ordinance governing extraction of water for water bottling purposes.

Before amendment, it included the statement that "any business established and conducted in the ag district for the extraction of water for water bottling purposes shall extract and bottle no more than two thousand five hundred (2,500) gallons per day. Said business shall provide proof of actual water usage to the satisfaction of the county board."

The ordinance still states, "No person shall establish a water bottling business in Fillmore County without receiving a conditional use permit," and "Any business extracting water for water bottling purposes shall adhere to all regulations established by the Minnesota Departments of Health, Agriculture and Natural Resources. A letter from each of these departments stating that no adverse effects will be realized from such water bottling activities must be submitted to the planning commission and county board as part of the conditional use permit application."

Soil and water

Donna Rasmussen of the Fillmore County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) brought forth a request for the board to consider signing a letter of support for participation in developing a watershed plan for the Root River watershed.

She explained several local governments' watershed plan agreements are due to expire and now would be a good time to consolidate those plans into one since grant funds might be available to do so.

A local government ordinance would be established by the end of this year, and a final draft of the watershed plan would be available by the end of 2015.

The commissioners voted their support of the watershed plan.

Revenue adjustments

Shirl Boelter, county auditor and treasurer, asked the board to make adjustments to the 2013 revenue figures since several grants, totaling $152,028.56, from the state and federal governments did not arrive before the end of the calendar year, as they usually do.

The adjustments, along with a temporary transfer of $50,000 to the county airport's books, will reconcile the 2013 budget.

Conference request

The board considered a request for Fillmore County Veterans' Services Officer Jason Marquardt to attend the National Association of County Veterans' Services Conference in Michigan for continuing education credits. The board did ask for an exception to the standard out-of-state overnight travel policy on the condition that the county not be asked to reimburse portions of his expenses. This is due to the fact that the county's standard overnight stay expense limit is $500 and Marquardt's travel and lodging could be covered by alternative funding.

Other business

The consent agenda included approving the annual renewal of the 2014 State of Minnesota County Boat and Water Safety Grant agreement for $1,921 as recommended by Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen.

The board also authorized payment of an invoice to Stantec Consulting Services for $11,188.94 for work done for the Greenleafton wastewater treatment project and payment of a second quarter invoice of $9,169 to Community and Economic Development Associates for economic development staffing services.