By Anna Jauhola
The Kittson County Commission approved last week to pay lost revenue for the public health nurses who care for elderly and disabled social services clients in their homes.
Social Services Director Kathy Johnson proposed using her department’s reserve fund to pay the additional $31,450 per year that Kittson Healthcare public health nurses lost out on in 2018 and 2019. Social services contracts with Kittson Healthcare for home health nurses and wants to provide this funding as administrative support, Johnson said.
With this huge loss, “they can’t go on,” Johnson said. “My fear is if we don’t support these programs, we will no longer have them and to get them back is hard.”
Johnson presented the numbers, which include what the state Department of Human Services covers and the actual cost of what the nurses should receive. The state covers only the direct care salary/benefits of $19.36 per hour, which amounts to $27,284. They do not cover mileage or time used for case management and service coordination, Johnson said.
The home health nurses care for 19 in-home clients on average per month in Kittson County.
In reality, a private-pay client would pay $25 per hour for the nurse, 58 cents per mile for mileage, and $101.84 per hour for case management/service coordination services.
In 2018 and 2019, Johnson estimated that Kittson Healthcare lost $31,448.33 in benefits, mileage and case management costs because the state does not cover that amount.
The social services department has $1.8 million in reserves. Some of this has been used to create more private office space within the social services department at the courthouse. Now, Johnson believes the reserves can help the home health nurses at Kittson Healthcare at least break even for helping elderly and disabled social services clients.
“At this point in time, we have a healthy balance and I believe we have a responsibility to take care of our people,” Johnson said. “And we have such good relationships with Kittson Healthcare. I believe no one takes care of Kittson County people like Kittson County people.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to pay the $31,450 lost in 2018. As they continue their budget talks, the commission will budget the same amount for 2020 to pay for the 2019 costs. The commission will revisit the issue for future budgets as Johnson said the cost could go up or down.
In other business, the commission:
•Approved hiring a new sheriff’s deputy. Sheriff Mark Wilwant asked to hire Alex Rudnik as a deputy. Rudnik is a deputy in Marshall County now, but would like to move to Karlstad when he begins work in Kittson County. The commission approved Ruknik to start at $28.69 per hour as he not only has years of experience as a deputy, he is also fully certified as a dispatcher. His effective start date is Thursday, Aug. 29.
• Approved hiring Richard Johnson, of Drayton, as a full-time dispatcher. He has 12 years of experience at Pembina County dispatch. The commission approved Johnson to start at $22.96 per hour.
• Approved hiring two part-time dispatchers, Corey Rich of Lake Bronson and Krystal Peterson of Lancaster. Both need some training and can start immediately. Each will be paid $20.45 per hour.
• Approved County Administrator Eric Christensen to draft a resolution and letter supporting the replacement of the Lake Bronson dam. He will bring the documents to the next commission meeting to be approved and then sent to the governor.
• Approved an FMLA request for Daniel Olson, effective Wednesday, Aug. 28.
• Approved resolutions for the highway department to acquire right-of-way by condemnation to replace culverts on County Road 1 by the Red River Lutheran Church and County Road 14 north of Karlstad.
• Approved County Engineer Kelly Bengtson’s request to sell 10 percent harvest overweight permits for $50. The state sells similar permits that only work on state roads, he said. These permits will cover producers on county roads. The permits will be good through Nov. 30.
From the Tuesday, Aug. 6 Kittson County Commission meeting:
The board heard an update on new tax software for the county.
County Administrator Eric Christensen said the county, which co-ops with other area counties, had been working with a company to get a better software. However, the counties considered in February walking away from the project because the company – which has switched hands three times – defaulted on the contract. Kittson County has paid this company a portion for what development of this software has been completed, Christensen said.
The company has proposed an amendment to the agreement, however, the counties are doubtful regarding the timeline to get the software complete as it wouldn’t go live until 2021.
“Now we have a 60-day window to decide to go with the project as-is, or if we’re going to bail out and cause into default,” Christensen said.
Unfortunately, the county will not get any money back as the company did work for what was paid. The co-op agreed to start a request-for-proposal process in September to possibly have proposals for a new product next spring.
Although the board took no action of the informational item, Commissioner Corey Wikstrom said he’d advise the co-op to go with a different vendor.
“If they haven’t done anything by now, they’re not going to do anything in a year or two,” he said.
In other business, the board:
•Approved Wayne Jacobson, county veteran services officer, to apply for an annual state grant of $7,500, which is mostly used to pay veterans for travel. In 2018, Jacobson said his office used $1,300 of that funding to purchase a computer program. Any veteran who is 30 percent or more disabled can receive money from this fund to help pay for gas to travel to appointments.
•Approved a resolution to support a TED Grant and the MnDOT and Kittson County Construction Agreement for the right turn lane for County Road 10 off of Highway 75.
•Approved County Engineer Kelly Bengtson to advertise for the canola plant frontage road project, which will take place sometime after this construction season.
•Approved advertising for a part-time janitorial position for the courthouse. The person hired would work one or two hours a day. The commission has budgeted $5,000 for this position.
•Appointed Kalli Peterson to fill the remainder of Commissioner Loren Younggren’s term on the Extension Committee. Younggreen filled another vacant term of Betty Younggren when she left the board.
By Anna Jauhola