Nobles County commissioners vote for single-county planWORTHINGTON — Two weeks after voting to pursue a couple of different options for the future of the county’s public health agency, Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 3-2 to form a transition team and move in the direction of a combined public health, human services and community corrections agency.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Two weeks after voting to pursue a couple of different options for the future of the county’s public health agency, Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday voted 3-2 to form a transition team and move in the direction of a combined public health, human services and community corrections agency.
Commissioner David Benson continued to speak in opposition to the single-county plan, reminding his fellow board members once again of the efficiencies that could be achieved with a collaboration. The county, up until Tuesday, was continuing to research information from Lincoln-Lyon-Murray-Pipestone Public Health on a potential creation of a six-county agency with Rock County, which has already opted to make the switch on Jan. 1, 2012.
“If the motion is to not continue to get information from LLMP, then I’ll oppose the motion,” Benson said prior to the vote. He and Commissioner Vern Leistico voted against the motion.
The public health discussion hadn’t been on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, but the issue was raised by county administrator Mel Ruppert during committee reports. Ruppert told commissioners staff was gathering information, but reiterated from the meeting two weeks ago that it would take until at least January before the information would be available to commissioners.
Ruppert said if the county waited until then to make a decision, it would be a challenge to work out the details with the state in just one year — if the county opted to establish its own county collaboration.
“At what point do we make this decision?” asked Commissioner Marv Zylstra. “We’re at this fork. Which path do we take?”
Benson said he didn’t have enough information from either LLMP or Nobles County to make a decision on the fate of the agency. He requested again that county staff continue to collect information and asked for a three-year projection from both LLMP and Nobles County.
“If you join together, you have better opportunities for grant applications and spreading good people across a larger area,” Benson said.
While Benson asked that it be a carefully considered, informed decision, Zylstra reminded board members that they only had 15 months before Rock County left the public health joint powers.
Zylstra presented the motion to establish a transition team to look at combining public health, human services and community corrections within the county, with Commissioner Gene Foth offering the second.
“The intent of the motion is to look at the single county route — to look one way,” Zylstra said. “We could spend a lot of staff time (researching), and we need to make a clear decision.”
Leistico, though he voted against the motion, said he didn’t like the way LLMP had outlined its joint powers board.
“LLMP has the authority over everyone — there’s no question in my mind,” he said. “They may not exercise (control), but then again, they could.”
In other action, the board:
l Approved the following appropriations: $21,000 for the second-, third- and fourth- quarter appropriations to the Nobles County Historical Society; $5,625 for the Nobles County Art Center; $1l,000 for the Southwest Crisis Center; $1,000 for the Civil Air Patrol; and $4,500 for the Southwest Initiative Foundation.
l Approved an interim agreement for formation of the Southern Minnesota Regional Dispatch Center. At this time, Nobles, Rock and Murray counties continue to express an interest in the joint venture.
l Reappointed Tim Taylor to a three-year term on the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District board.
l Approved refilling the 4-H program coordinator position in Nobles County at 100 percent time, following the resignation of JoAnn Ammann, effective Oct. 8. Zylstra said the Extension budget makes up roughly .6 percent of the county’s overall budget.
“I believe it’s a good investment of our county dollars,” he said.
l Awarded the low bid on the Seward Township bridge replacement project to Larson Crane Service of Worthington, at a cost of $94,092. Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the engineer’s estimate on the project was $67,716, and explained that bids may have been impacted because there are fewer contractors available this time of the year, there is less competition and more concern about getting the work completed as the end of the construction season approaches. Work on the bridge is expected to be completed by Larson Crane Service in late October or early November.
l Heard an update from Schnieder on the county’s road and bridge construction projects. Work has begun on the removal of the bridge on CSAH 11 northwest of Ellsworth, and the road is anticipated to reopen soon. Paving projects are ongoing on Nobles County 19 near Leota, and on roads near Bigelow and within the city of Rushmore. Bridge replacements northeast of Wilmont and west of U.S. 59 in Seward Township have yet to be done this year.