The Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners once again attempted to tackle the thorny problem of childcare funding, and once again, delayed their decision. Commissioners are divided over questions of fair funding for childcare centers and smaller at-home providers. They also disagree about how to ensure a fair allocation of resources for each community in the county.

This time, the Board was considering a proposed childcare funding scheme proposed by county officials. The program would establish a childcare fund available to county residents. The original proposal allotted up to $25,000 for centers and $1,500 to childcare providers.

Funds are distributed as deferred 5-year loans. For every year that a recipient stayed in business, 20% would be deducted from the total owed. Participants who quit before the 5-year period expires would be expected to repay the remaining amount of the loan.

Commissioner Ron Antony expressed his concern that the proposal didn’t include provisions to ensure additional community support aside from county contributions, adding, “We’ve got no teeth to recoup the money.”

Antony seemed to find support from commissioners Gary Johnson and Glen Kack, each of whom echoed his feelings. Commissioner John Berends supported the proposal, though he eventually agreed withAntony’s motion to add a matching fund requirement for center recipients.

Although commissioners seemed close to an agreement, they were unable to hammer out the new language for the program during the allotted half hour of the meeting. County Administrator Peg Heglund, who helped draft the original proposal, agreed to rewrite a new draft incorporating the changes. The Board will review the matter again during their next meeting later this month.

County Healthcare

The County Board also listened to a presentation by PrimeWest’s Director of Membership and Program Development Matt Magnuson and Big Stone County Commissioner Brent Olson about the benefits of joining a county based health care program. Yellow Medicine, along with several other counties are exploring the option of pooling their collective resources and creating a joint powers agreement.

This entity would allow the county to sing on with a third party health care provider like PrimeWest. Olson and Magnuson both spoke about the varied benefits of Prime West, citing the high quality of service, ample financial security, and flexible provider networks.

Olson also stressed that joining PrimeWest would help preserve local control over health care. He also observed that large healthcare providers are often located far away from rural communities, joking that “it’s not been my experience that St. Paul has been better at providing service.”

Commissioners seemed favorably disposed towards the plan, though they asked for more time to review the specifics. Commissioner Antony noted that the plan constitutes a “significant investment” on the part of the county, and urged other commissioners to carefully evaluate the proposal before making a final decision.

Antony also asked the two about what the county could expect to receive in its “return on investment.” Olson cautioned the commissioner to think about it another way, explaining, “you’re not joining a country club.” He said that the county would be making a partial purchase of the venture, and would therefore be investing directly in the health of the most vulnerable in the community.

Family Services Director Rae-Ann Aus said that she supported the proposal, adding that she has “heard nothing but good things about PrimeWest.”

Olson added that county based purchasing models also tended to benefit local providers by securing financial sustainability. He also touted the fact that it took PrimeWest on average only 10 days to pay out a claim.

Commissioners asked to see additional financial figures from Prime West before making their final decision. Although no specific timetable was given, it is expected that the Board will reach a decision before the end of the month.

In other news:

The Board voted unanimously to allow the creation of the “Counties Providing Technology Organization,” an extension of an existing Joint Powers Agreement between Yellow Medicine County and surrounding counties. The new entity will negotiate the purchase of a software maintenance company currently in private ownership. Antony will serve as the primary delegate to the new organization, with Berends elected as the alternate.

The Board also voted unanimously to allow the sale of old office furniture to an online auction site known as GovDeals -- a company that specializes in the sale old office equipment. GovDeals takes 7.5% from the winning bid, and purchasers are expected to pick up items on site.

The County Board agreed to a lease agreement with the City of Hanley Falls whereby liability for an upcoming construction project at the Minnesota Machinery Museum will be held entirely by the city. Currently, both entities own the property, though the updates are being undertaken by the city and museum, and not cost will be incurred on the part of the county.

County Attorney Keith Helgeson introduced Charlie Paslawski (his office’s student worker) to the Board. Because of changes in staffing, the Board agreed to allow Helgeson to hire Paslawski as a Student Attorney at grade 23, step 1. He is eligible to work up to 40 hours a week, but will not be able to work on juvenile cases, sign off on motions, or handle criminal complaints. Paslawski will work with the county until October 1, at which point a full time attorney will take over permanently.