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Starting from square one

LUVERNE -- The Nobles-Rock Public Health Service (NRPHS) will begin anew the search for a director to lead the agency.

The decision comes one month after an offer was ex-tended to a candidate from Michigan who subsequently decided not to accept the posi-tion.

Board chair Karen Pfeiffer said the search committee is now considering working with a firm to help find a qualified candidate for the position. As that process begins, she said there are a number of things with which NRPHS needs to move forward.

"Several issues have been put on the back burner for the new administrator (to handle)," she said. "Now, those items need to be brought into the discussion."

Those items centered primar-ily on staffing issues, specifi-cally changing the status of all but two staff members from exempt to non-exempt. The change means employees, once considered salaried, will now be hourly. Their wages will not change as a result of the switch, but compensation would be provided for employees who must put in extended hours during the week or do weekend on-call work.

The new system, said Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre, will require accountabil-ity and employee scheduling. The department, divided into two different types of nurses -- those in home health care and those in family nursing -- will now require cross-training be-tween the two to help cover weekend on-call scheduling.

All nurses will be required to work four week-long, on-call shifts during the year covering both home health and family nursing needs.

"We're going to create a cross-pool -- a fluid workforce that can adjust to the other side," Oldre said.

"The timing needed to happen now," Nobles County Adminis-trator Mel Ruppert added. "We need to get the structure and staffing of the agency down."

Exempt from the on-call weekend shifts will be the agency's two team leaders, who Ruppert said are basically on-call 24/7 now.

In other action, the board:

l Approved the 2006 budget for NRPHS at $1,788,023. The financial recap of 2005 was also prevented, with expenditures for the agency at approximately $1,670,800, and revenues of $1,601,300 -- a shortfall of more than $69,000.

l Approved additional mone-tary compensation for the three team leaders who have had ex-tra responsibilities in the ab-sence of an agency director. Ruppert said in the past, a flat stipend has been offered to peo-ple who have had additional, yet temporary duties.

l Received an update from NRPHS sanitarian Jason Kloss regarding the meth house that was destroyed near Hardwick, and the plans for the demolition of the meth house near Hills. Kloss also reported on the pro-gress associated with code vio-lations at the Oxford Motel in Worthington.

"They're going to close one of the buildings and try to main-tain the other one," said Kloss, adding that the owners received a list of compliance issues that need to be met with the building they plan to keep open.

l Received an update on the progress of the Joint Powers Agreement for NRPHS. Oldre said both the Nobles and Rock county boards of commission-ers will act on the agreement at their Jan. 24 meetings.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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