Mitchell County Commissioners – May 15, 2017

The Mitchell County Commissioners met on Monday morning and were joined by Robbin Cole, Executive Director of Pawnee Mental Health. She presented the commissioners with Pawnee’s annual report. She said it represented the smallest annual revenue total since she began her time in the position. She expressed multiple concerns about their funding mechanisms and losses in potential revenue incurred due to a three percent across the board cut in Medicaid reimbursements. She claimed that action alone has accounted for about $250,000 in lost revenue.

Cole worked to paint a grim picture in her comments about Pawnee’s financial situation, but she also acknowledged current limitations with county budgets in setting the table for a request of increased funding. She also noted the possibility they may have to reduce services or close offices in some locations due to their current shortcomings in terms of revenue and funding.

Cole said Pawnee is working on making their operation and employees more efficient to help offset financial losses including a change in their funding match from the state which went from 90/10 to 60/40. She is asking participating counties to help them break even. Mitchell County represents about 3.4 percent of the clients Pawnee provides services to. They served 242 individuals from Mitchell County last year which was a 10 percent increase from 2015. Last year, Mitchell County provided $46,335 in funding to the organization.

She proposed setting up a committee with possibly one commissioner from each of the 10 counties Pawnee Mental Health operates in. She hoped to have them come to a basic agreement on funding while taking into consideration county size in terms of population. She said she expects it to be challenging, but she also said she believes there is a desire among the counties to sustain the organization and their services.

Cole said they will be conducting “tours” of the organization over the course of the year beginning in August. Culminating with a large funding drive to help offset current shortfalls. The commissioners expressed uncertainty in terms of what they could do in the way of increasing the funding provided by the county to Pawnee Mental Health. Budget work is underway, but the commissioners could not say what type of increase they could inject into Pawnee Mental Health. They appeared to be of the mindset that Cole’s request for increased funds was not out of line. The question is simply whether the county budget will allow for the requested increase.

Pawnee Mental Health receives funding from the state as well as the 10 counties in which they operate. They also receive Medicaid reimbursements and payments from individuals who seek out services as well as court ordered services that people must pay to receive. She said they had a total of about a half million dollars in total losses last year, and she expects a similar shortfall this year. Her request for the next fiscal year is $63,030 which is a 36 percent increase over the current year’s funding level.

Director of Public Works Dale Housh discussed the ongoing county wide cleanup which was extended and is running through Saturday this week. About half of the available $20,000 in funds for the week-long cleanup were used earlier this month, and they have funds remaining and will continue to take loads at no charge through Saturday this week or until the funds run out.

Housh also discussed the pending Cawker Causeway project in conjunction with the Central Federal Highway Lands branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Engineering studies which have been conducted and billed are due, but the county has not yet received grant monies for the project.

Commissioner Tom Claussen expressed concern about paying the engineering fees ahead of their receipt of the grant funding, but they could incur late fees if the bills are not paid. The county is expecting about $727,000 in grant money and will have to match that at 20 percent. The total project cost is estimated at $909,000. Current, yet to be confirmed, funding totals would leave the project about $36,000 short of the $909,000 total project cost as estimated at this time. These numbers can and may likely change before the 2018 slated project is completed.

Housh also reported a bridge in Blue Hill Township is in need of address due to washout and may have to be shut down for work before harvest to be replaced with a new bridge or culvert large enough to properly disperse water flow.

Mitchell County EMS Director Kelly Hawk presented the monthly report for April. A total of 53 runs were conducted during the month. Beloit and the surrounding area registered 43 calls with the other 10 runs spread from Cawker City, Glen Elder and Simpson. Forty-two patients were treated and transported for the month. The EMS response time was five minutes or less in about 83 percent of the calls for the month.

The EMS currently has an accounts receivable balance of $88,613 as of April 30. DeLisa’s Medical Billing, who is contracted with the county to perform the EMS’s billing, is undergoing a software change. Total billing for the EMS in April was not available on the report which was submitted. Commissioner Mike Cooper asked Hawk to talk with DeLisa’s on the status of their software changes and to provide current figures for total billing in March and April.

Hawk also said current EMS employee Andrew Hartzell has become certified as a paramedic after completing his testing this past week. Hawk also discussed replacing a bay door at the EMS station which is damaged. No decisions on a repairing or replacing the bay door were made.

Hawk also asked about an EMS unit in Cawker City with 99,743 miles on it. The City of Glen Elder is interested in using the truck as a rescue vehicle for the dive team at Waconda Lake and also to serve as an equipment truck for the Glen Elder Fire Department. The commissioners agreed allow Glen Elder to use the truck for a period of one year and revisit the issue at that time. The county will then likely offer to sell the unit to the City of Glen Elder. In the meantime, the City of Glen Elder will be responsible for the maintenance of the vehicle.

Hawk is also a member of the Mitchell County Planning Commission. He shared that with the passing of Dale Twadell, the commission is one member short. Hawk asked the county if they would extend an invitation to Barbara File, who is an alternate, to take Twadell’s vacated seat on the commission and to make Mark Eilert the replacement alternate spot left by File. They agree to place File on the commission and Hawk said she had already agreed to take the position.

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Now in his third year as News Director at KD-Country 94 and Z-96.3 The Lake, Chad is a jack of not all, but many trades. He spent previous years of his working life in hotel management, event planning, security, the aviation industry, staff writing for a newspaper, and as a small business owner. He began doing play-by-play of high school sports for KDNS and KZDY in 2009 and came to work full time for the stations in July of 2015. He is the father of an eight year old daughter who enjoys spending his free time with her, his very significant other and her children. His favorite activities include attending live music and sporting events as well as being a singer/songwriter. A natural conversationalist, he also enjoys a good discussion/debate on a myriad of topics from current events and politics to sports and philosophy. He resides in Beloit with his daughter and continues to write sports and meeting stories for the local newspaper.