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County to pick up remaining WIC funds

After a lengthy debate, Davison County commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 to cover a $67.50 weekly wage shortfall that will be created when the state-administered federal Women, Infants and Children program reduces an employee's hours next month.

After a lengthy debate, Davison County commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 to cover a $67.50 weekly wage shortfall that will be created when the state-administered federal Women, Infants and Children program reduces an employee's hours next month.

The hours in question originally were part of a 35.1-hour weekly contract, which reimbursed the county for clerical services to administer the WIC program. Those hours will be cut 7.5 hours starting next month, allowing only 27.6 hours for WIC caseload work.

Region 6 Community Health Manager Deb Haak and nurses Connie Fergen and Shannon Tobin say they still need the clerical help for a growing caseload of county health work and asked commissioners to make up the difference.

Haak and her nurses said the need for clerical support is growing at their busy office, which receives occasional help from nurses in Hanson and Aurora counties.

Paying for the support now, said Haak, is a wise investment in health services that would reduce future welfare payments.

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"We teach prevention," she told commissioners. "We can cut those (wage) costs, but your (longterm) welfare costs will increase."

Commissioner Jerry Fisher moved to cover the additional hours, arguing that the nurses provided essential community services.

"I respect (Commissioner Dick Ziegler's) concern for the budget but this is a good program. It's a terrible thing when cuts come from above," he said.

Commissioner John Claggett agreed, but also told Fergen that the additional amount would be the second budgetary supplement to the county nurse's office in a three-month period. He said they needed to be aware of the county's shrinking revenue sources.

Ziegler, who cast the sole dissenting vote, said he supports community health services, but the funding request, which mixed county health and WIC programs, was a confusing presentation for commissioners.

"The program is good but I don't like the mix of data and I thought the approach was poor," he said.

Ziegler asked Auditor Susan Kiepke to assemble budgetary data on the community health program so that information will be available for contract renewal discussions later this month.

The hours approved Tuesday are unlikely to be revived as an issue when the community health services contract comes up for renewal at the end of his month, said Commission Chairman David Weitala.

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Planning for budget needs under state-county contracts is problematic at times, said Ziegler, because the state fiscal year runs from June 1 to May 31 and the county budget works on a calendar year.

In another matter, commissioners invited the public to a 3 p.m. special meeting Thursday to open bids for rebuilding four miles of Loomis Road (247th Street) from state Highway 37 to the Poet Biorefinery at Loomis.

Carey Bretsch, president of Civil Design, Inc., the county's engineering firm, will be present to answer questions on the estimated $1.2 million project and some bidding contractors also are expected to attend.

Kiepke said the county had received no bids as of Tuesday afternoon. "I assume the contractors will bring the bids with them on Thursday," she said.

While bids will be opened Thursday, none will be accepted at that time.

Bretsch will study all bids and make a recommendation at the commission's May 8 meeting. It will be the commissioners' decision to approve or deny that recommendation.

In a related point, Claggett, who will be out of town on that date, said he would be participating by telephone in the May 8 meeting.

Also Tuesday:

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n Commissioners continued informal discussions on how to slow financial bleeding at Davison County 4-H Fairgrounds. The new fairgrounds cost the county about $270,000 a year, an amount that includes building payments and other expenses. The old fairgrounds were destroyed in a windstorm and rebuilt at a cost of more than $1 million. The county spent about $70,000 annually before that time, Ziegler said. The county will consider usage fees and marketing for outside events with an eye to recovering costs, said commissioners.

n Commissioners approved the hire of two seasonal employees: Hazel Faircloth, spray truck driver at $10 an hour, CDL certification required as a condition of employment; and Steve Gross, water truck driver at $8 an hour.

n The commission heard Todd Hanson's complaint regarding a drainage problem near his property in Blendon Township. Hanson said he was not getting return calls on his complaints. The matter was referred to Highway Superintendent Duane Zard.

n Commissioners said road load limits probably will remain at current six-tons-per-axle levels for at least two more weeks.

n Commissioners approved county matching contributions to grant programs that will provide additional security and monitoring equipment at the courthouse and jail. A Department of Corrections Prison Rape Elimination Act grant will supply about $10,000 for equipment to prevent violence among inmates and staff in juvenile and adult correctional facilities. The total of all projects is $31,193, and the county will pay half that, or $15, 597.

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