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Businesses fail tobacco compliance checks

WORTHINGTON -- Four businesses in Nobles and Rock counties failed tobacco compliance checks conducted in July by Nobles-Rock Community Health Services.

The Pit Stop in Round Lake, Wal-Mart and Fareway Foods in Worthington, and Casey's Gas on U.S. 75 in Luverne all failed after clerks at those locations sold tobacco products to teens younger than 18.

NRCHS Health Educator Paula Bloemendaal reported during the NRCHS meeting Wednesday in Worthington that Fareway Foods has failed the compliance checks two years in a row.

Businesses who fail the compliance are fined $75 for the first offense, while the clerk who actually sold the tobacco product is fined $50. For its second offense, Fareway Foods will be fined $200.

Bloemendaal also reported that work continues through the agency's ClearWay grant to promote the QuitPlan program at businesses.

Work also continues to progress on getting apartment complexes to go smoke-free.

Education on smoke-free apartments and daycares is the focus of NRCHS displays at local fairs this summer.

Other items discussed at the NRCHS meeting include:

* As Rock County continues its transition to Southwest Health and Human Services on Jan. 1, Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre reported Wednesday that SWHHS will advertise three full-time equivalent positions within its agency: a public health nurse supervisor, a public health nurse and a community planner (similar to the health educator position but will also involve human services programming). The job postings will be available to NRCHS employees and the public simultaneously, with a targeted start date of Nov. 1. Oldre encouraged employees interested in applying for the positions to get on the Merit list, as hiring will be done through a state agency.

Oldre said if all three positions are filled with employees from NRCHS, it may create a hardship for the agency to continue to operate through the end of the year. SWHHS has agreed to work with the agency if that happens.

NRCHS board chair Karen Pfeifer said she didn't have the same degree of information from Nobles County, and was unable to address where the county was at in terms of filling positions for the Nobles County Health and Human Services agency that launches on Jan. 1.

Nobles County Commissioner Marv Zylstra said with the new public health supervisor beginning this week in Nobles County, the goal is to begin identifying "how many core, initial positions we need."

"Hopefully, if they are in the position, they will apply," he added.

Layoff notices were sent to all NRCHS employees in July, with an effective date of Dec. 31.

* An executive session to discuss labor negotiations was called. Following the closed meeting, the board approved a collective bargaining agreement with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 65. The NRCHS agency recently formed a union.

* The agency is providing monthly medications to 30 individuals with latent tuberculosis and serving five individuals, including four children and one adult, with active TB. The adult resides in Rock County, while the children are Nobles County residents.

l NRCHS will receive a $24,338 dividend this year from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust.

* NRCHS Community Health Organizer Kristin Butenhoff has requested to be moved from a full-time to part-time employee as she has accepted another job. Because her position was created to work with the agency's Statewide Health Improvement Plan grant and the ClearWay grant, Bloemendaal told the board it would be "very difficult" to reach the goals of the two grants without having Butenhoff on staff. The board approved the request, and will classify Butenhoff as a part-time intermittent employee effective Sept. 6.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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