County Board discusses banning e-cigarettes

NEW ULM – Brown County commissioners discussed the regulation of electronic (e) cigarettes Tuesday.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that simulate tobacco smoking with a heating element that vaporizes a liquid that may or may not contain nicotine.

According to the Brown County Public Health Update, Minnesota e-cigarettes are taxed as tobacco products, and it is illegal to sell them to minors. Currently, they do not meet the “smoking” definition, under Minnesota’s Clean Indoor Air Act, so their use in public places like bars and restaurants is not against the law. Businesses and local governments have the option to limit their use.

Brown County Public Health Director Karen Moritz said e-cigarettes are similar to cigarettes in that they may contain nicotine and things that are not regulated yet.

The board took no action.

“We need to wait and see what tests show before we ban them,” Commissioner Scott Windschitl said.

Moritz honored

Moritz received the Legislative Committee Leadership Award on Nov. 14 at the Local Public Health Association (LPHA) Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon in St. Paul. She was recognized for her work communicating with legislators on behalf of the LPHA.

Earlier this year, she testified before the Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee in support of healthy housing legislation. Moritz was appointed by the LPHA Executive Committee to be its liaison to the Alliance for Healthy Homes and Communities Steering Committee.

In other action, commissioners approved:

Renewing a 2014 consulting services contract Tuesday with Madden Galanter Hansen, LLP, Plymouth, for assistance as needed in negotiating union labor contracts.

The proposed contract shows a basic labor relations services hourly rate of $132, up 3.1 percent from $128 an hour; and from $134 an hour to $138 an hour (3.0 percent) for representation in arbitration and administrative hearings for calendar year 2014, according to the Request for Board Action (RBA).

“Unions have their stewards,” Commissioner Richard Seeboth said. “It’s appropriate we get the best representation to handle negotiations.”

Appointed Seeboth to serve on a Complete Streets Leadership Team.

Moritz said the project works well with strategies identified in the SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Plan) grant. Commissioner Scott Windschitl was appointed a Complete Streets Team alternate.

Team members will attend a Complete Streets follow-up meeting, set for 7:30 to 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 12 in the District 88 Administrative Center second floor board room. Recent New Ulm tour information has identified community assets and priority areas where safety could be improved with street scape changes over the next few years, according to the letter.

Planning Commission Recommendations including Conditional Use Permit (CUP) applications of Verizon Wireless, Leavenworth Township for construction of a new 190-foot wireless communications tower with related, ground-based equipment in the A-1 Agricultural Protection Zone; Peter and Jean Eichberger, Albin Township, renewing an existing mining permit to include mining, gravel processing and screening in the A-1 Zone; Raymond Seifert, Milford Township, to continue to allow mining and extraction to include crushing and screening in the A-1 Zone; LADD Demo and Aggregates, Leavenworth Township, to continue to allow use of property for mining/extraction, crushing and hot mix plant in the A-1 Zone; Preliminary Plat single-lot splits by Ken and Marilyn Sell, North Star Township; and John and Barbara Garrioch, Eden Township, both existing homesteads being split from tillable ground; and a Final Plat single-lot split by Scott Schimschock, Milford Township, existing homestead being split from tillable ground, by a 4-1 vote with Seeboth dissenting.

A $4,445 salary adjustment (plus general increase) to Moritz as of Jan. 2, 2014. The board chairman and vice chairman met with Moritz and reviewed results of a 15-county survey for the job.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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