County Administrator Bobbie Hillery lead a discussion on appropriate uses for American Rescue Plan Act dollars at the board’s October 5 meeting. The county will receive about $4 million total. The deadline to spend the funds is December 31, 2024. A preliminary budget for the use of the funding is due January 2022.
Hillery offered some ideas presented by county department heads. The possibility of adding two social workers, two case aides, and a registered nurse was discussed. Hillery said salary and benefits through 2024 for the five positions would cost about $1.3 million. The need to deal with adult mental health issues has exploded. An additional social worker and case aide could help with mental health issues among adults and in schools. The possibility of one of the social workers and one of the case aides to be tasked with a pre-trial program was also discussed. The RN is needed in schools for COVID testing.
What happens to these additional positions when the federal funding runs out? Jessica Erickson, Public Health, noted that retirements are expected prior to 2024 in two social worker positions. She suggested other funding and grants could cover the cost of an additional RN, but couldn’t guarantee how that position will be paid for after 2024. Erickson said the work load for her staff is soon going to increase significantly; they will be really strapped for time and people.
Kevin Olson, Social Services, explained they have no time for targeted case management. They don’t have the capacity to take care of all of the people wthey are seeing now. COVID has made it tough on people, increasing mental health issues. Olson stated there will be retirements by the end of 2024; and suggest to not replace the retirements at that point. Hillery asked for a report from Olson’s office on the number of cases per worker in Fillmore County compared to other counties.
Chairman Randy Dahl said he was in favor of adding staff. Hillery said the greatest need is for an additional social worker, an additional case aide, and an additional RN. Olson agreed. It was decided to discuss additional staffing to be paid for with recovery dollars at the upcoming Personnel Committee. Details will brought back to a future board meeting.
Hillery said she and Erickson have discussed the HVAC systems in three buildings: courthouse, county office building, and jail. The cleaning of air handlers is long over due. This could be eligible for recovery dollars as it is the maintenance of air flow. Terry Schultz, Maintenance, added that several dehumidifiers are being used to reduce humidity because re-heaters were not installed in a portion of the courthouse. Commissioner Mitch Lentz suggested they look at fixing the HVAC system completely in each building.
Hillery added they will need to verify that this would be an approved use of recovery funds. Related issues in the old jail could be assessed and the improvement cost could be rolled over into a new jail. The recreation space is a problem in the old jail; would the value of an appropriate recreation area be able to be rolled over to the new jail using recovery funding? Commissioner Duane Bakke asked how many expenses for the new jail can be covered using recovery funding? Hillery said each idea will need to be verified with the government as a qualified use of the funding.
Other business in brief
•The 2022 County Veterans Service Office (CVSO) operational enhancement program grant in the amount of $10,000 was accepted. Jason Marquardt, veterans service officer, said this is a yearly grant from the state. These funds have been and will again be expended on things like publications/advertising, office equipment, and software.
•An access permit to CR 8 for Mitchell and Nikita Albrecht, section 10 Fillmore Township was approved as presented. The access is for a driveway to a future building site.
•A request to keep Alexis Hall at 0.9 FTE permanently following a three month trial period initiated on June 25 was approved. Hall is a social worker who works in Public Health and does wellness checks.