Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Don't miss your chance to bid on the 2018 NIE Silent Auction!

Nobles County to join PrimeWest

WORTHINGTON — In a unanimous vote, Nobles County commissioners decided Tuesday to join PrimeWest Health, a county-based purchasing program that provides health-related services to residents who qualify for medical assistance.

The action means the county will pay an estimated $1.87 million into PrimeWest within the next two years.

Nobles County is one of 12 counties — all current members of Southern Prairie Community Care — voting on the action. As of Tuesday, Nobles became one of nine counties agreeing to join PrimeWest. Redwood County commissioners — who previously voted not to join the program — were going to reconsider the option Tuesday. Neighboring Rock and Murray counties voted not to join.

Commissioner Justin Ahlers said he spoke with people from both counties and said sticker shock was their primary reason for voting against the move.

Nobles County Community Services Director Stacie Golombiecki recommended joining PrimeWest. She said 5,204 residents — about 25 percent of the county’s population — are on medical assistance, and she said the numbers have generally continued to increase.

“I really do feel like it’s an investment in our community,” Golombiecki said. “It’s not just an investment in the Medicaid population; it’s to keep the services here — the medical and dental.”

Golombiecki said there would be some savings as a PrimeWest member for out-of-home placements. As of Tuesday, 39 Nobles County children were in out-of-home placement. These children are past the point of traditional family foster care, she said, adding that they include the severe and persistent mentally ill, as well as those with chemical dependency, behavioral disorders and other ailments. One of the children in out-of-home placement is currently costing the county $1,800 a day.

“Out-of-home placements have been a very tough burden for community services budgets,” said Terri Janssen, integration care coordinator for Southern Prairie Community Care. “PrimeWest has proven to do a lot of good things in the community, including assisting with a dental clinic, and we could certainly use that.”

With the decision to join PrimeWest, commissioners then discussed how to pay the estimated $935,743 cost in each of the next two years. A list of seven options developed by the county’s finance department ranged from financing the bill from wind energy production tax revenues and building fund reserves to increasing the county levy, and mixes of the three.

Each commissioner weighed in on the option that most appealed to them, with three of the commissioners — Matt Widboom, Bob Demuth Jr. and Ahlers — favorable to an option that increases the levy by 1 percent (an estimated $136,117) and takes $550,000 of wind energy production revenues and $249,626 in building fund reserves in each of the next two years.

The option to increase the levy by 2 percent (an estimated $272,235) and take $360,000 of wind energy production revenues and $303,508 in building fund reserves in each of the next two years was also favorable among three commissioners — Donald Linssen, Gene Metz and Ahlers.

Metz also said he liked a third option, which also called for a 2 percent levy increase, but took $550,000 in wind energy production revenues and a lesser amount, $113,508, from building fund reserves.

Widboom said he’d like a repayment plan for the money the county will pull from building fund reserves to get it back to $1 million within a couple of years.

Ahlers said the board needs to be very conscious of the increase to the levy.

“If we’re going to do this (join PrimeWest), we’ve really got to tighten the belt everywhere else,” Ahlers said.

As of Tuesday, the finance department noted a 5.62 percent levy increase — without PrimeWest, and without setting aside the requested $75,000 for a future library project (that would impact the levy by .5 percent). The levy did reflect all of the requested salary increases, all of the requested equipment for various departments and all of the requested appropriations by agencies.

In other action, the board:

  • Accepted the resignation of Auditor-Treasurer Beth Van Hove, effective Sept. 7, and appointed Kristine Ray, deputy auditor-treasurer, to take over the duties of the auditor-treasurer until Jan. 6, when the newly elected auditor-treasurer is seated. Ray’s salary will increase to $75,012.24 during the temporary appointment. Louise Nauman was also temporarily appointed deputy registrar and license agent for the state of Minnesota in the interim.
  • Approved three-year labor agreements with Teamsters Local 320 for courthouse and library employees, as well as a three-year labor agreement, retroactive to Jan. 1, for community services agency employees.
  • Approved a change from three-fifths to full-time employment for a payroll technician to take on some additional duties in the auditor-treasurer’s office.
  • Accepted Nau Construction’s bid of of $11,423 for construction work in the Government Center to prepare for the installation of a new air handler unit.
  • Approved final payment of $9,417.83 on the county’s 2017 bituminous paving contract; payment of $858 to Apex Environmental for work on the underground fuel tank replacement project at the Government Center; and amended a professional services agreement with Graham’s Concrete, Adrian, for construction of a second retaining wall behind the Adrian Branch Library at a cost of $1,800.
  • Approved a conditional use permit for Josh Petersen to operate a cleaning and landscape business at 23232 Palm Ave., Worthington.
  • Reappointed Layton Gruis to the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District.
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 The Farm Bleat

(507) 376-7330