Tuesday's Yellow Medicine County Board meetinginvolved the approval of the hiring of a number of county employees as well as a few interesting updates from Countryside Public Health and the YMC Planning and Zoning Department.
Planing and Zoning Director Randy Jacobson was on hand and discussed a decline in Land Use, Conditional and Variance Permits, as well as associated construction costs, from January through June of 2013 compared to the same time period in 2012.
Specifically, Jacobson said that, through the first six months of the year, the county has collected $5,175 in Land Use Permit (LUP) fees and issued two Conditional Use Permits (CUP) as well as one variance request. Compare that to 2012, when there was $6,350 in LUP, four CUPs and five variance requests, and the numbers are clearly down.
In sum, there has been $6.1 million in construction in 2013, juxtaposed against $8.8 million over the course of the first six months of 2012.
Jacobson told commissioners that he was unsure as to what was causing the dip, however, he speculated that it may have had to do with the late summer and perhaps the sunset of a tax break on machine sheds that had existed for a couple of years.
On hand for Countryside Public Health was organizational director Liz Auch. A five county Community Health service agency serving the counties of Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine, Countryside Public Health has offices located in Ortonville, Montevideo, Madison, Benson and Granite Falls.
Auch spoke briefly about some of the changes the organization is seeing in terms of staff and governmental legislation, and also asked for an incremental increase in financial support from the county.
Auch said that an early retirement option offered to employees last year as a cost savings measure, led to the departure of seven of the agency’s 32 employees, most of whom will be replaced.
In Granite Falls, Auch said that the position held by Cindy Skulstad has been filled by Beth Smith, who transferred from Chippewa County, so as to retain three nurses on site.
Auch also provided an update on State Health Improvement Program (SHIP) funding. Launched in 2009 as a program to reduce health care costs and chronic disease rates, all counties received funding for the program in its first two years through the issuance of $47 million in grants.
2011 was a different story, though, as all but $15 million was removed from the program (a 70 percent funding cut) allowing only a selection of county agencies to receive funding––YMC not being one.
Rather than let the program, and its progress, die, the five counties that make up Countryside Public Health, each chipped in $10,000 on an annual basis to keep the initiative going the past two years.
With the announcement that SHIP would see a reinvigoration of funding of $35 million for the next biennia, it appears to have been a wise choice in terms of sustaining momentum as Countryside will receive $100,000 over the next two years. How Countryside will use that funding has yet to be determined.
Page 2 of 2 - During the budgeting process, Auch asked that commissioners consider a one to three percent increase in support over the current $102,000 that Countryside presently receives from YMC.
In other news:
•Commissioners approved an assortment of hires:
-Wyatt Schuster as the seasonal Park Maintenance Worker at 11.83 hour, beginning July 8.
-Sara Brustuen as a Children's Health Social Worker at an annual salary of $42,136.06, beginning August 5.
-Joshua Enderle, formerly of MACCRAY, as a Child Protection Social Worker at an annual salary of $39,448.73, beginning July 29.
-And Tabby Niemeyer, formerly of Chippewa County, as a Property and Administration Deputy at an annual salary of $33,056.73, beginning August 1.
•Commissioners also approved advertising for a new Child Support Officer to replace Diane Johnson, who is retiring March 31 of next year, as well as a new Income Maintenance Supervisor to replace Gretchen Eliason, who is retiring January 31, 2014, after 40 years of employment at the Family Service Center.
In addition, commissioners approved an elevation in step and pay grade for Office Support Specialist, Rhoda McCaleb in light of additional duties that she has inherited during the recent shuffling of county positions. McCaleb will be reclassified as an Administrative Secretary and see a $3,000 increase in annual pay, up from $13,900 to $16,900. The county expects to eventually see savings once the abnormally high period of changeover settles down and an analysis of staffing needs can be made.