County adds Family Services positionRising caseload forces move
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Increasing caseloads in the Nobles County Family Services Agency have led to a workforce shortage and overworked employees in recent years, and the disparity is only expected to widen as more people seek assistance in a perceived recession.
To help ease the strain on his staff of 11 financial workers, Family Services Director Lee McAllister went before Nobles County commissioners Tuesday morning with a request to add one more full-time financial worker position to his staff. While it will still leave the agency shorthanded, it is what the agency can afford at this time.
“Because of the growth in the caseloads, we’ve gotten further behind,” McAllister said. An assessment of the agency showed the need for 15 full-time financial workers already last September.
The financial worker shortage dates back to 2005, when it was identified 12.5 FTE positions were needed and only 10 workers were in place. By 2006, the annual report showed 13 FTEs would be adequate, but the county only had 11 full-time workers.
“The biggest growth area is in medical assistance applications,” McAllister said.
He said the cost for the new position in 2008 could be covered by salary savings after two positions in the agency were vacated and the newly hired individuals were brought in at lower pay steps.
Commissioner Diane Thier expressed concern about funding the financial worker position in future years.
“Certainly, we are considerably short here,” responded Commissioner Marv Zylstra. “Sometimes you have to bite the bullet.”
County Administrator Mel Ruppert said the shortage is having an impact on staff.
“While the agency has seen some of the trends, I’m not sure we’ve seen (the worst),” Ruppert said, adding that in exit interviews with those who have left Family Services, workforce overloads were a leading complaint.
Commissioners approved the hiring of an additional financial worker.
In other action, the board:
* Approved a conditional use permit for the Lao Temple to continue operating in the northwest quarter of Section 16, Worthington Township.
* Authorized signing of the 2008 Natural Resources Block Grant. The county receives $96,294 through the grant to implement and enforce environmental programs.
Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith said the grant will be portioned to $10,000 for on-site subsurface septic treatment systems; $54,300 for the county feedlot program; $3,032 for enforcement of the shore land ordinance; $18,962 for local water management; and $10,000 to enforce the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA). The money for the WCA will be forwarded to the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District, which is the county’s enforcement body.
* Approved a request for a one-year extension from the Board of Water and Soil Resources to allow the county to complete the revision process on its Comprehensive Local Water Management Plan.
* Approved agreements with the City of Bigelow and Leota Township for completion of bituminous paving work on the county’s paving contract. This will reduce costs of local tax payers.
* Authorized advertisement for bids for bituminous surfacing projects in 2008. Bid opening is slated for 1:30 p.m. March 13.
* Approved a request made by the Nobles County Public Works Department for aerial photography in the rural and municipal areas. The City of Worthington is interested in participating in the contract if the county moves forward with the process.
Public Works director Stephen Schnieder said the aerial photographs would assist in the county’s GIS (Geographic Information Systems) mapping program. Schnieder is also interesting in an additional service, which would provide contour lines showing elevations in 2-foot intervals in municipal areas.
* Approved a Family Service Agency contract with Counseling Resources Inc. to provide outpatient chemical dependency counseling services to Spanish and non-Spanish speaking individuals for 2008.
* Approved a $9,700 transfer from the General Fund to the Ditch Fund to counteract three ditch systems that had a negative balance at the end of 2007. The ditch systems — County Ditch 11, Judicial Ditch 12B and Judicial Ditch 24 N&J — will be required to reimburse the county when funds become available.
* Reviewed the annual report of tax delinquency as presented by Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Balster.
* Approved the funding formula and allocation for distribution of more than $291,000 for the township road system.
* Approved a legal services agreement with Ahlquist & Wiltrout for prosecution services.
*Approved a $2,000 annual appropriation to Manna Food Pantry of Worthington.