Douglas County keeps license bureau, talks public health, solid waste and fire
Seven Douglas County families can resume their lives as usual without fear they are losing a source of income.
Douglas County commissioners voted on whether or not to turn the license bureau service over to the state at Tuesday's meeting. In a two-to-three vote, the motion failed.
"It stays as it is," said Chair Jerry Johnson. Johnson and Commissioner Norm Salto voted to relinquish the county's control of the office.
The county estimated that $58,000 would need to be paid out in unemployment costs had the union workers lost their jobs, said Senior Human Resources Representative Heather Schlangen.
Had the county lost control of the bureau, the state would offer the city of Alexandria the opportunity to take over the business. If the city didn't show interest, it would be open to private enterprise.
"It would be foolish to go to a private sector," said Commissioner Bev Bales. Commissioner Paul C. Anderson agreed saying it is a service organization for the citizens of Douglas County.
Salto said the license bureau has continued to show a loss in revenue going back to the early 2000s, a total of $196,904 in the past eight years alone. Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow explained that much of that expense is attributed to retirement payouts.
Department head Danita Ward retracted her request for an additional employee prior to the commissioners' vote.
RX FOR REVENUE
The Coast2Coast prescription drug savings program has continued to increase in popularity. Rosenow said that the county received its second royalty check, $102.50, for participation in the program.
In October 2012, 83 prescriptions were filled using the Coast2Coast cards. Eighteen were filled in September.
Area pharmacies have the cards available for people interested in signing up for the program; some are also available at the court-house.
For each prescription filled, the county receives $1.25. Residents saved $4,471 in October and were discounted $2,234 on prescriptions retailing $6,651.
Public Health Director Sandy Tubbs reported $7,495 in donations to the Douglas County Hospice Program in November.
In preparation for the five-county public health department, Horizon Public Health, commissioners approved a resolution supporting the Horizon Community Health Board's continued integration of three public health departments into a single organization.
Douglas County Public Health, Pope County Public Health and the combined Stevens Traverse Grant Public Health departments will unite to provide shared services to the region.
Commissioner Paul C. Anderson expressed concern that combining these counties may "dilute" the hospice program since Douglas County is the only county that provides hospice. Tubbs assured commissioners that will not be the case.
A restructuring committee is presently working on identifying and resolving areas of concern; discussion will be ongoing.
Tubbs also informed commissioners that the county has received a $249,234 e-connectivity program grant that will aid in electronic exchange of health records between the clinic and hospital. Commissioner Jerry Johnson questioned the security of records through this online exchange which Tubbs said will not be an issue.
County Attorney Chad Larson said the program would need to adhere to federal HIPPA safeguards that are currently in place. Tubbs said there is still much planning to do before the program is implemented.
Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management (PDSWM) has reduced its budget for the coming year. In 2013, the company will operate on $7,986,667, $29,871 less than in 2012.
PDSWM Director Pete Olmscheid said the unit-three combustor is up and operating. A second turbine generator will be installed. He said there will be plenty of steam for the second generator.
The electrical production capacity will grow from 500 kilowatt-hours to 1.5 megawatt-hours. Additional power will not be put on the grid; rather it will be used to off-set PDSWM operating costs.
Payment on the long-term unit three construction bond has begun and tipping fees have been increased slightly. Olmscheid said he doesn't see any negative backlash coming from the increase to $67.60 per ton from this year's $65 rate.
Olmscheid said recycling is on the upswing and new signage on the property has "spiffed up the place."
Last August was hot. In three days there were two house fires within three city blocks.
Commissioners approved an application for abatement for David Prchal for his 5th Avenue property in Alexandria which caught fire on August 17.
Assessor Keith Albertsen estimated pre-damage value at $86,500. The home and property are now worth $45,900.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.