County hires two new social workers
Tuesday, November 06, 2012 3:54 AM
Human Resources director Tess Kruger asked Houston County commissioners to hire two full-time social workers on Oct. 30.
Melissa Foth and Susan Rockers-Wittkopp would work primarily in the areas of children's mental health and child welfare targeted case management, she told the board.
Kruger said that the former area is basically reimbursed through state and federal funding, while the latter is partly subsidized with local funds. The program, however, is a state mandate, she added.
Both vacancies are the result of employees who have left the department and subsequent "shuffling of the deck," Kruger said.
With the hiring, the county's Human Services Department will be fully staffed once again, she noted.
"As expensive as it is to keep fully staffed, it's still a necessity," Chairman Jack Miller observed, "first, to provide services to our constituents that we should be providing, (while) secondly, if we don't meet state standards, there are some severe repercussions."
The county could face the state stepping in and charging to provide services, another county taking over services, or even litigation from citizens if state-mandated services aren't provided, commissioners noted. The vote approving the new hires was unanimous.
Jailer decision rescinded
At the request of retiring jailer/ dispatcher Sandee Feuerhelm, the board rescinded last week's motion placing her on the 67-day temporary roster for her old job.
Kruger said the motion was premature, and that Feuerhelm may eventually decide to help out on an as-needed basis.
Victim Services receives support
County Attorney Jamie Hammell appeared before the board, asking commissioners to consider placing the Victim Services officer within her department and funding the position in 2013.
Six communities have been asked to step in to help fund the office, Hammell said. Most have not yet committed, but La Crescent recently passed a resolution to provide more than their share (offering $5,000 while only $3,500 was sought.)
Caledonia is being asked to pay $2,000, Spring Grove $1,500, Houston $1,250, while Brownsville and Hokah would each give $500. Houston County will need to ante up $29,660, Hammell said.
Citing two testimonials from individuals who used the service and found it invaluable, Hammell said, "I just want to remind you how important this position is to our office.
"We've been very lucky (getting grants) for 20 years, and now it's Houston County's turn to step up and show the citizens of Houston County that we actually do want what's best for them with this victim services position."
The idea got unanimous approval, but did not result in a motion.
"I personally used this service," Commissioner Justin Zmyewski said. "We'll find the money somewhere."
"I think we all feel the same," Commissioner Tom Bjerke added. "It's a real important part of our criminal justice system. We've got to stand up for our victims, too."
Meth trailer saga continues
The Caledonia meth trailer that recently fell to the county to dispose of has been moved to a secure location for asbestos mitigation, Public Health/Nursing director Deb Rock reported.
She brought a proposal from Immediate Response Abatement of La Crosse to do the work for $4,950, which was approved.
The problem is, the company will now need to remove the roof of the trailer to get rid of the asbestos, Environmental Services director Rick Frank said.
That may leave the unit too weak structurally to withstand towing to the La Crosse County landfill.
"I've spoken to Sentence to Serve, and they may be able to frame up with the lumber that the mitigation company will use to enclose the trailer for their work," Frank said.
Otherwise, the unit may need to be torn apart where it stands, loaded into dump trucks and hauled away, he added.
"The Houston County taxpayer is a victim of this nonsense," Miller stated. Rock and Frank reported that the county will attempt to recapture the costs of disposal by adding those dollars to back taxes owed by the former owners of the trailer.
Frac sand issues reviewed
Miller reported that the county's frac sand study committee is making progress towards its goal of a new mining ordinance recommendation, but added, "It's extremely complicated.
"I can't emphasize enough that we're trying to do it right. What we're going to do has to be enforceable. Both sides are very vocal. Goodhue County just extended their moratorium for another year, so we're not the only county struggling with this."
Frank reported that he had sought out four different firms to serve as third-party consultants to evaluate the Erickson mine's environmental assessment worksheet (EAW). He has been turned down twice, since those companies already had connections with mining interests that are involved.
He added that cost estimates should be forthcoming from the remaining companies. Expenses to the county to work on/evaluate the EAW will accrue during both 2012 and 2013, Frank added.
Other news from the board
County engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought the yearly bridge replacement list back to the board for a vote. Although discussed on Oct. 23, the resolution wasn't actually voted in at that time.
Local engineering costs generally run about $20,000 per bridge, Pogodzinski said.
"We want to keep our bridge replacements 'planned up' in advance," he added, since having a project ready and in the "waiting line" for state legislators helps when bridge bonding monies are meted out.