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County to discuss costs, possible help for Ikes E. coli testing

A group of volunteers planning to test points on the Cedar River in Mower County to trace causes of E. coli could get answers about requisition during Tuesday’s 1 p.m. Mower County board meeting.

Volunteers with the Austin’s Chapter 10 of the Izaak Walton League went to the county board last month asking for help forming maps of feedlots and other potential contamination sources through county systems and records. On Tuesday, the county board will discuss a proposal to charge about $350 for the service, though commissioners could opt to waive the fee as a donation.

The Ikes volunteers will use McKnight Foundation grant dollars to collect samples to test for E. coli bacteria. Ikes member Bill Buckley said the work will complement the recent work of the county and groups like the Cedar River Watershed District.

The plan is to first identify possible hot spots and then work collaboratively to find potential solutions. After initial testing, which is slated to start in June, the group will then complete genetic tests to determine if the E. coli is coming from wild animals, like a raccoon or goose, or from cattle, septic systems or farms.

Before the testing gets underway in June, Ikes volunteers asked the county for help. The volunteers asked to use up to four hours of Environmental Services Supervisor Angie (formerly Knish) Lipelt’s time each month on the project.

The volunteers want to form maps of potential contamination sources, but County Coordinator Craig Oscarson noted data may be best accessed through the county’s geographic information system (GIS) maps and IT department, not Lipelt.

In May, Oscarson asked Ikes volunteers for a more detailed outline of potential services and maps they’re requesting from the county. That way, the county can see what it already has and gauge how much staff time it’d take to meet additional needs. The county board could ask the Ikes to pay for county services, or the board could offer the services for free as a partnership.

In other business, the board will:

—set a date to begin discussions on the half-cent sales tax for road projects — which is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2018 — along with other road funding possibilities now that the legislative session is finished;

—discuss a tax abatement request for an assisted living project in Brownsdale and recommendation to set a public hearing;

—hear two conditional use permit requests, one to build a single-family home in Red Rock Township and one to eliminate a driveway in Lansing Township;

—hear an update from Medical Examiners Dr. Reichard and Monica Kendall; and

—approve a temporary road closure of County Road 16 in the 27000 block, north of County Road 2, in Brownsdale for the burning of a building during a training exercise.