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Rock County reaches delegation status agreement

LUVERNE -- Rock County has worked out an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to allow Southwest Health and Human Services (SWHHS) delegation status for food, beverage and lodging licensing, according to a letter received by Rock County Administrator Kyle Oldre.

Nobles-Rock Community Health Services (NRCHS), which is in the process of ending a joint powers agreement between the two counties, was notified last week it was denied a delegation agreement. The MDH, which denied the agreement, said it was stepping in to take over the service, which would have likely resulted in higher fees for businesses in both counties.

"It struck a nerve with us when they yanked the authority," Oldre said. "We have since agreed that they may have been a bit hasty in saying we couldn't have the service provided by SWHHS."

Oldre said he and others have worked with the MDH over the past week to convince them the county's plan was reasonable. The letter, signed by April Bogard of the MDH and addressed to director of SWHHS Christopher Sorenson, states a compromise has been reached which will allow SWHHS to provide services in Rock County.

Within the next 30 days, the letter continues, SWHHS must provide to MDH a detailed self-assessment and supporting documents to describe program status, along with a work plan for how Rock County will be incorporated into the existing governance of SWHHS.

"MDH will provide services in Rock County from Oct. 15, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2011," the letter states. "Pending a satisfactory self-assessment and work plan, we will begin the transition of Rock County establishments to your agency. Our goal is to have SWHHS license Rock County establishments and begin providing services... on Jan. 1, 2012."

As far as Nobles County is concerned, Oldre said, they are on their own.

"This letter addresses only Rock County," he explained. "That's what got the state in trouble in the first place -- they lumped us in with a letter to Nobles and never communicated any of this stuff to us."

One of the reasons SWHHS hired former NRCHS sanitarian Jason Kloss, Oldre said, was to increase their capacity to do delegation service, understanding that Rock County would be added to Lincoln, Lyon, Murray and Pipestone Counties.

"Then the state said they weren't going to let it happen," Oldre added. "The whole thing got way out of hand. It's not like we have 500 establishments in Rock County -- we've got about two dozen."

Nobles County Administrator Mel Ruppert said his office has contacted MDH with questions regarding an appeal, but have not yet heard back from them. His understanding, he said, is that the MDH took over delegation services as of Oct. 15 in Nobles County, when the NRCHS agreement was terminated.