NRCHS agency nearing splitWORTHINGTON — After 34 years, the Nobles-Rock Community Health Services board met for the final time Wednesday afternoon in Worthington, shoring up some final details as the two counties move toward their Dec. 31 split and dissolution of the joint powers agreement.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — After 34 years, the Nobles-Rock Community Health Services board met for the final time Wednesday afternoon in Worthington, shoring up some final details as the two counties move toward their Dec. 31 split and dissolution of the joint powers agreement.
Earlier in the day, board representatives to the dissolution committee took their first look at a draft master agreement outlining protocol for the breakup, addressing such issues as distribution of agency funds, client and employee records storage and handling of bills and payments.
Most notable in the master agreement is the split of assets, which will follow the guidelines of county participation under the joint powers. As such, Nobles County will retain two-thirds of the assets — both cash and physical assets — and Rock County will receive one-third. Among the physical assets to be split are public health preparedness supplies. As for cash, the NRCHS balance as of Nov. 30 was $783,096. The committee, which included both Nobles and Rock county administrators and a commissioner from each county, agreed to leave $150,000 in an account to cover any bills received after Dec. 31. The remainder would be paid out in the two-thirds, one-third split by year’s end.
Of the $150,000 to be retained for bills, it was decided that administrators from both Rock and Nobles counties will meet as needed to approve bills for payment. If the fund is depleted before all bills are paid, Nobles County will contribute two-thirds of a decided upon dollar amount and Rock County will contribute one-third.
Draft letters have been written to public health clients in both Nobles and Rock counties, and those will be mailed in the near future.
The letters ask clients to OK a transfer of their records to the new agencies. The goal is to make the transition as seamless as possible, and clients will be informed that most of the services provided in the past will remain.
“Outside of FBL (food, beverage and lodging) licensing, we’ll be providing most everything,” said Janet Howard, public health supervisor for Nobles County Community Services. She said the public health office will remain on the third floor of the Nobles County Government Center in Worthington.
One of the areas of concern that hasn’t quite been worked out is billing by NRCHS through the remainder of this year. The secretary who handled the billing resigned Nov. 28 and began a new job outside of county government the next day. As such, billing has not been done since Dec. 8.
“We don’t want to miss out on the revenue for three weeks,” said Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre, wondering if anyone else knew how to operate the agency’s billing system.
Nobles County Administrator Mel Ruppert said he knew of no one working for the county that could operate the program, and Oldre learned during the meeting that Southwest Health and Human Services didn’t have anyone on staff that could operate the program either.
Barb Bents, NRCHS administrative secretary, said one firm could handle the billing, but they charged $100 per hour, plus $75 per hour for travel time and required the system be updated before they do the billing.
The program wasn’t updated this year because of the planned dissolution.
The board determined it wouldn’t be cost-effective to hire the firm because it was estimated there would only be $5,000 to $7,000 worth of billable expenses during the remainder of the year.
The employee who resigned had agreed to work as an intermittent part-time employee, coming in a couple of nights a week to do billing, electronic transfers and immunization entry, but it’s unsure how much of the work she will be able to complete before the end of the year.
With much of the detail worked out in the dissolution committee meeting regarding the agreement, the NRCHS board approved the master agreement with the noted changes made in the morning meeting. The recommendation will be forwarded to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday for approval, with Rock County Commissioners to take action on the matter at their Dec. 27 meeting.
In other business, the NRCHS board:
l Received the financial recap, showing the agency is at 76 percent of expenditures and 80 percent of revenues for the year. The balance as of Nov. 30 was at $783,096, with a minimal amount of ClearWay grant money included in that balance that will need to be paid back at the end of the year. ClearWay withheld its final quarterly payment of 2011 because of the planned split of the agency.
l Was notified of a new tuberculosis case in Nobles County. Public Health Nurse Barb Navara will need to complete a contact investigation for the case.
l Learned that current NRCHS employees Barb Navara, Jane Feller, Karen Bullerman and Teresa Pomrenke were hired by Nobles County Community Services; while Paula Bloemendaal accepted a position with Southwest Health and Human Services (SWHHS). Of the NRCHS employees, four did not have positions available to them within either Nobles County or SWHHS and will therefore be laid off Dec. 31 and be eligible for unemployment.
l Approved the cancellation of 10 cell phone contracts held by NRCHS, effective by the end of this year. The early cancellations will cost the agency $800.
l Received a program report from Paula Bloemendaal regarding petitions taken to local bars and restaurants supporting current Freedom to Breathe legislation in Minnesota and wanting it to remain “as is.” Of the 51 bars and restaurants in Nobles County, 47 have signed the petition thus far; while in Rock County, 16 of 23 establishments signed their support. Bloemendaal said she will continue to work with the ClearWay grant in Nobles County, even though she will work for SWHHS as of Dec. 30.
l Was updated on a request from the AFSCME union representing NRCHS employees in a request for mediation. Board Chair Karen Pfeifer said she met with the mediator Dec. 8 to address 11 items being requested by employees. Of those 11 items, most could not be acted upon by the NRCHS board.
One item, pertaining to severance pay, was not acted upon; and the final item — requesting payouts wait until pending matters under negotiation with Nobles County were settled — was brought before the NRCHS board Wednesday.
Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre said the payout referred to paid time off, and he said the PTO would go into the employee’s health-care savings plan.
l Discussed year-end reporting requirements for NRCHS. It was determined that both SWHHS and Nobles County Community Services would collect the statistical data and complete the reports by the deadlines.