Nobles County approves tobacco ordinance
WORTHINGTON — In a rare afternoon meeting, the Nobles County Board of Commissioners approved a new tobacco ordinance Tuesday that works to snuff out tobacco-related products targeted to today’s youths.
The county has not had a tobacco ordinance in place since the dissolution of Nobles-Rock Community Health Services several years ago. The new ordinance updates the license application process, requiring all license holders to undergo a criminal background check, and includes several new provisions.
Among them are that new licensees will have to meet certain requirements pertaining to proximity to schools, that the maximum number of retail establishments per county be based on U.S. census data, that roll-your-own machines be prohibited, that the minimum age of a tobacco seller be increased from 16 to 18 and that blunt wraps and imitation tobacco products be prohibited from sale in Nobles County.
Nobles County Public Health Administrator Terri Janssen said input from the Public Health Law Center, the Local Public Health Directors Association and local grant partners assisted in the development of the ordinance.
“Our main focus is to protect youth from harmful effects of use or exposure,” Janssen told commissioners.
Paula Bloemendaal, tobacco control coordinator for the six counties of southwest Minnesota, said the Southwest CHIP organization has worked since 2001 to reduce harms associated with tobacco.
“Even though we know policy work is the most effective in tobacco prevention, we also know it’s not the most popular,” Bloemendaal said. “We know it’s not an easy choice, but it’s the right one for kids.”
Olivia Weidert, a Partners In Prevention member and Adrian High School student, also urged commissioners to support the ordinance.
“The tobacco industry is constantly targeting the youth,” she said. “We don’t need any more attempts by the tobacco industry to get us addicted to their products.”
During the public hearing, only one individual raised concerns with the new tobacco ordinance. Charlotte Taylor, owner of the bar in Bigelow, was concerned that license fees would increase and she wouldn’t be able to sell tobacco.
“If I didn’t have tobacco, in the middle of winter my people would be driving 10 miles to get a cigarette,” Taylor said. “They’re also, when they’re intoxicated, going to drive 10 miles to get a cigarette.”
While Taylor said she didn’t think the ordinance was going to affect her, she was concerned that it would hamper her ability to make money on cigarette sales. She said she’s too close to Iowa already, where tobacco products are cheaper.
“I don’t want kids to smoke either, but the adults have a right to their decision,” Taylor said.
In response to Taylor’s remarks, Bloemendaal said there is no proposal to raise fees for tobacco licenses.
Diana Madsen, Statewide Health Improvement Program coordinator for Cottonwood, Jackson and Nobles counties, said the state has put a lot of money into tobacco prevention, and “we need to support the strongest ordinance we can to minimize use by kids in our area.”
Commissioners approved the ordinance as presented and authorized Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening to conduct background checks on applicants for tobacco licenses.
In other action, the board:
- Authorized Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder to push a bridge replacement project on County State Aid Highway 1 to the forefront, further delaying the repavement of Dundee’s Main Street.
Schnieder said the bridge was restricted this spring, and trucks have to detour 6 to 12 miles out of the way. On the other hand, the road in Dundee has a gravel base and is open to all traffic.
“What is more important, the bridge or Main Street Dundee?” Schnieder asked commissioners.
The estimated cost of the bridge replacement is $300,000, and it was not included in the state’s bonding bill this past legislative session.
“My recommendation at this point is the bridge is important and we should get this done,” Schnieder said.
If the funding can be obtained, Schnieder said the bridge project could be done in late August or September.
- Approved a final change order of $14,939 to Doom & Cuypers Construction Inc. for facility improvements at the Nobles County Government Center. The changes were for work relating to the elevators and fire alarm system. The total project, which spanned nearly three years, cost $1,132,870.
- Approved a Public Health Emergency Preparedness Award of $23,000 for Nobles County Community Services. The contract extends from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015, and the funds are primarily infused in staff salaries.
- Approved a work release contract renewal with the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
- Approved a county credit card for Sgt. Jay Clarke in the Nobles County Sheriff’s Department.
- Appointed commissioners Matt Widboom and Marv Zylstra to serve on the canvassing board for the 2014 general election.
- Reappointed Rita Domagala to the Nobles County Library Board.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.