By Emily Bialkowski
After months of meetings, discussion and research the Houston County Board voted unanimously to end a proposal that would have had the county share human services with six other counties.
The item first came down from the state – as a potential cost sharing effort – and started out with a 12 county push.
As discussion ensued counties dropped out of the proposal like flies. Houston County was left to consider a fragmented six county option.
Based on geographic obstacles, among others, commissioners were ready to sever the ties Sept. 4.
“I think, in my mind any how, Houston County would not see any cost avoidance moving forward. The consensus is we need to explore our other options,” Commissioner Jack Miller said.
Commissioner Teresa Walter agreed with her colleague, saying, “Preliminary costs are over $9,000 just moving forward. There was a consensus among us it wasn’t to our advantage. We would be better off working with our neighbors.”
With that, Walter motioned to adopt a resolution to not join the redesign.
“It seems so disadvantageous going with that group,” Commissioner Steve Schuldt said with his vote.
The board will pursue a refund of about $5,600, which they had to invest at the beginning of the program.
In an effort to curb growing insurance costs, Human Resources Director Tess Arrick Kruger presented a proposal to eliminate two mostly unused insurance options for county employees.
Labeled CMM $500/$1,000 and CMM $1,500/$3,000, the plans have five and three enrollees, respectively.
“We had a pretty significant claims history this year. I am told we could get up to a five percent reduction if we continue to refine our plans,” Arrick-Kruger said.
She further stated that the county is looking at a 31 percent increase on health care costs going into the new year.
“We have to do something,” Arrick-Kruger suggested, adding that she has moderated the number down to 24 percent and expects to cut another five percent with the elimination of the plans.
Commissioner Tom Bjerke said the numbers don’t look great this year and that he would like to see every effort made to cushion the blow.
The board gave a unanimous nod in favor of cutting the two plan options.
In other personnel business the board voted to:
• Hire the following persons as transport officers at a rate of $13.52 per hour: Kelley McGraw, Michael Spittler, Jeffrey Brohmer, Jackie Kuch, Carol McGraw and Audrey Stadtler.
The county currently has about 12 male transport officers, with only six actively working, and six female officers. The position is gender sensitive, and the jail administrator said he likes to keep an active roster to maintain complete coverage.
The work is unpredictable and sporadic, and the employees are categorized as 67 day temporary.
• Hire Susie Goetzinger as a 67 day temporary employee for public health at a wage of $11.99 per hour.
• Install motion sensor lights in the jail stairwell/hall at a cost of $1,100.
Contact Emily Bialkowski at