Resignations impact public health and human service departments

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus


The Houston County Board was asked to support changes brought on by the resignation of two key employees at their April 16 board meeting.

First, public health home health care coordinator Dana Helton tendered her resignation to accept a job closer to home. Helton has served the county for 14 years and will be sorely missed, according to her supervisor Deb Rock.

“She represented the county so well,” Rock said.

To fill the gap brought on by this change, Rock requested that a another staff member, Marcia Bauer, be temporarily promoted and Mary Thompson take on additional duties as well. The request was approved and will allow public health “to function as an efficient department in the interim,” Rock said.

Second, social services supervisor Karen Sanness tendered her resignation as the interim supervisor. The announcement did not surprise the county board.

“I think she’ll be missed, and I can understand the stress she has gone through,” Commissioner Steve Schuldt said.

“It sounds like an overwhelming [situation],” Commissioner Teresa Walter added.

Human Resource Director Tess Arrik-Kruger warned it will take three months to get a qualified individual to fill the role, and department head Linda Bahr was eager to begin the search.

“One way or another we do need a supervisor in that position,” Bahr said.

The board was hesitant to react so quickly, saying that a position evaluation should take place to review job duties. But with some pressing, the board agreed to post the position.

“The case load is increasing in Houston County,” Bahr said, with Kruger adding that it is a challenging position.

Sanness agreed to stay on until a suitable replacement can be found.


Highway shop

In light of the county highway department’s need for a new facility, or major renovation of the old facility, the board entertained a presentation by Bob Sworski of CBS Squared, an architectural firm.

Sworski has more than 20 years of experience, much of which has dealt with municipal buildings. He’s also served on township government himself and said that experience has helped him serve his clients well.

He said whatever the county decides, it must, “Plan, plan, plan.”

“Design from the inside out, and  establish life cycle costs, develop a cost versus benefit analysis, consider sustainability, consider co-locating two departments,” Sworski said.

He talked about proper design as it relates to surface area and cost. For example, nooks and crannies have to have snow removed, lighting, etc. More surface area equals more cost for materials.

He talked a little about what different building materials cost these days and said, overall office space runs $150 per square foot; heated vehicle storage, $90; maintenance bays, $116; and unheated storage, $65.

One recent project he was involved with ran $14.2 million for 100,000 square feet of space.

“There’s cost for not doing something as well,” he said.

“I can tell you right now we’re experiencing some good bidding. Good luck to you. I know it’s a big thing to wrap your arms around,” he said.

The presentation was informative in nature. The county has not committed to a remodel or a new building at this point but continues to gather information.

Commissioner Steve Schuldt thanked Sworski for the information and said, “I take it it does cost a lot more to build a commercial building than to stay in compliance.”


Other business

In other business, the board approved an agreement with Mead & Hunt to prepare plans for the rehabilitation of the airport runway and apron.

The contract shall not exceed $88,000, and County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said he believes he will be able to significantly reduce that total.

The board approved a $4,800 contract with Structures Unlimited for an analysis on retrofitting the Spring Grove salt shed, which keeps county salt and sand contained and dry.

The shed was not built to code by Coverall, which has since gone out of business.

“It does not meet combined snow and wind load – that’s the issue,” Pogodzinski said. The county attorney, “recommends we do something and keep people out in the meantime,” he added.

The study will help determine a course of action.