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H1N1 gives county chance to hone emergency skills

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Stevens County is preparing for a pandemic, whatever it might be, with the current H1N1 outbreak serving as a good example of how the system will work.

Dona Greiner, Deputy Emergency Manager and Safety Coordinator, briefed the county board on Tuesday about work going on following the H1N1 outbreak late last month.

As of May 5, there have been 2,500 reported cases of H1N1 in 25 countries.

Greiner outlined discussions about a H1N1 flu discussion in late April that involved coordinating efforts with public health, hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, the University of Minnesota, Morris, emergency response, emergency operations, central command, the media and a multi-agency coordination center.

"The virus is still unpredictable but it's looking more like seasonal flu, so it's not as bad as we thought," Greiner said.

In other county business:

• The Stevens County Ag Society, which operates the county fairgrounds, received a tax abatement for remaining money owed for street repairs by the fairgrounds and Lee Community Center.

The Ag Society had been paying assessments for both the fairgrounds and Lee Center, both of which were about $9,000. To date, the Ag Society had paid about $15,500 on the two assessments, and had about $8,200 remaining. That's about the total of the county's share for the Lee Center work, and the county board voted to pay the balance.

• The county approved spending $38,000 for LiDAR mapping in the county.

LiDAR mapping is an initiative of the International Water Institute, which is working with local, state and federal officials to collect and make public high-resolution elevation data of the Red River's north basin. About 176 square miles of the county are located in the basin.

The information is intended to be used to help reduce flood damage and protect water resources.

• County Engineer Brian Giese told the board that Central Specialties, Inc., was the low bidder for work on County State Aid Highway 9.

The bid of $1.13 million was 16 percent below the estimated $1.36 million. The other four bids ranged from $1.22 million to $1.29 million.

Giese said he still must obtain state approval to award the bid.

Giese also updated the board on other highway work, including efforts by county dairies to install underground piping to transport manure for fertilizer and methane digestion. There will be instances where the dairies will need to cross county highways, or might need permission to lay pipe in county right-of-ways, Giese said.

Giese also received board approval for several county ditch repair projects.

• County Auditor/Treasurer Neil Wiese suggested an alternative to a resolution to designating about $4 million of reserves for the county's building project.

While the scope of the project is still being discussed, there is agreement that at least $4 million will be needed to remodel the courthouse.

The board was going to take the entire amount from revenue fund reserves, but Wiese said the State Auditor's office recommended splitting up the total, taking about $1.5 million from revenue fund reserves and $2.5 million from human services reserves.

As of Dec. 31, 2008, the county had about $3.37 million in revenue fund reserves, $1.23 million in road and bridge fund reserves, and $4.08 million in human services reserves.