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Paynesville Press - July 2, 2003

Stearns County Commissioners

The Stearns County Board of Commissioners took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, June 24.

•The commissioners established a task force to develop a new ordinance to deal with drug labs, which seem to be a growing problem in the county. Last year, the Central Minnesota Drug Task Force busted 28 methamphetamine labs in the county. In the first three months of 2003, they found 20 meth labs.

Drug lab busts require many different county departments: the sheriff's department to investigate and make arrests; human services to handle child protection; public health to assess the health impacts of the chemicals involved in manufacturing; and environmental services to deal with any clean-up for the environment.

The task force will address issues in order to develop cooperation, procedures, and training to enable the various county departments to work together and appropriately respond to a drug bust while the ordinance will target clean-up.

•The Stearns County Extension Service will apply to have a regional center located in St. Cloud. The move is in response to the University of Minnesota Extension Service's plan to eliminate all local extension offices and fund 20 regional centers instead.

Word could come as soon as mid-July if St. Cloud is picked to house a regional office. Counties can choose to fund local offices and staff for desired extension programs. Stearns County did allocate $294,000 for a local extension office next year.

•The county is looking into the possibility of charging a parkland dedication fee onto new developments. The parkland dedication fee charges developers a set fee per house that is built. Any dollars collected must go into a special fund used to purchase, develop, or improve parks or open space in the county.

Approximately 200 lots are developed each year in Stearns County.

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