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County board briefed on flu threat

The number of human cases of swine flu infection is constantly changing.

On Tuesday morning, when Douglas County Public Health Director Sandy Tubbs gave a brief update to the Douglas County commissioners, the number of confirmed cases in the nation was at about 50. As of Wednesday afternoon, the number increased to more than 90.

Tubbs told commissioners at their regular board meeting that the county's department of health is in constant contact with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) about the swine flu.

She said there are daily conference calls between the departments and with other local entities, such as the school district, so that everyone can stay on top of what is going on with this strain of Influenza A.

She also explained, that as with any strain of flu, people need to take the necessary precautions that they should be doing on a regular basis, such as washing hands, covering their mouth when coughing and staying home when sick.

People who have traveled to Mexico recently, as in within the last couple of months (but not in January or February) and have flu-like symptoms might want to call their doctor to see if they should be tested, Tubbs indicated.

She suggested to the commissioners that now would be a perfect opportunity for county department heads to get together to go over the county's continuity plan.

"It behooves us to have discussions about this issue," said Tubbs.

In other board action

•Vacationers heading out of the country can now get their passport through the Douglas County Recorders office.

Dawn Crouse, Douglas County recorder, notified the board that she purchased a passport photo camera for her office to make it easier for those needing a passport.

In the past six months, the county recorder's office accepted 550 passport applications or roughly 92 per month, Crouse noted.

"The goal," she said, "is to make applying for your passport a one-stop shop at the recorder's office."

The commissioners approved Crouse's recommendation that the charge for passport photos be set at $10 per person.

She also told the board that the plan is to have the passport printing system up and running by May 15.

•Public Works Director Dave Robley discussed wetland credits with the commissioners.

He explained that Alexandria School District 206 wanted to purchase wetland credits from the county for the new elementary school project.

At a previous board meeting, the commissioners denied the request because of a policy in place that states the county's wetland credits should remain at 20 acres. If credits were sold to the district, the number would have dropped to just under 15 acres.

After a lengthy discussion at Tuesday's board meeting, the commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of selling 6.6 acres of wetland credits to the school district. Norm Salto and Jerry Johnson voted against it.

The county's policy about wetland credits states that the credits would be sold to the school district at 5 cents per acre. However, Johnson made a motion to increase the charge per acre to 35 cents. His motion was defeated 3-2.

Paul Anderson made a motion to increase the fee per acre from 5 cents to 15 cents and the vote passed 4-1. Salto voted against the fee change.

•County Coordinator Bill Schalow asked the commissioners to come up with a resolution concerning storage for power poles owned by Alexandria Light and Power (ALP).

ALP currently leases land near 3rd Avenue West from the county for storage of its power poles. Because of the Public Works/Douglas County Jail projects, ALP had asked that the county deed them the 2.5 acres needed for the poles instead of ALP purchasing or leasing land.

Commissioner Salto made a motion that the county lease the necessary land to ALP for $1 with a provision that ALP fence or enclose the area as needed.

All five commissioners voted in favor of the agreement and asked Douglas County Attorney Chris Karpan to draft a letter with the terms of the agreement that will be sent to ALP.