County insists on more effort from Tri-Valley for recruitment

By Anna Jauhola
Although the Kittson County Commissioners approved a renewed contract for a volunteer medical driver program, the board wants more effort for recruitment.
Social Services Director Kathy Johnson brought the renewal before the board at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19. She said her department used to handle volunteer services, but began contracting with Tri-Valley Opportunity Council for the Rural Transportation Collaborative (RTC) volunteer driver services.
“Recruitment was tough,” Johnson said. “Then I came to the board and asked to either hire a new position to recruit drivers or we can contract with Tri-Valley.”
Tri-Valley does the recruiting, but “their presence hasn’t been very good,” Johnson said.
Currently, Kittson County has one volunteer driver. Johnson has talked with Tri-Valley to increase recruiting efforts for the county, emphasizing the great need. Requirements to be a driver require volunteers to register with Tri-Valley, pass a driving test, driving history check and background check. Each volunteer supplies their own vehicle, Johnson said, and each person who uses the service is supposed to be able to walk to the volunteer’s vehicle for curb-to-curb pickup and drop off. While drivers receive the standard IRS mileage rate of 58 cents per mile when transporting a client, they do not receive no-load miles. So, if they’re driving from Karlstad to Lancaster to pick someone up, they do not receive mileage when they’re not transporting a client, Johnson said.
“This is a real important position,” she said. “I’m not sure what the right answer is, because we don’t have the power in our office to go out recruiting.”
She suggested possibly Marshall County would share their volunteer recruiter to help find more drivers in Kittson County.
“We need to put pressure on Tri-Valley to get up here,” said Commissioner Loren Younggren.
Commission Chair Leon Olson, who is on the Tri-Valley committee, said the group is trying and looking to hire a person to do more recruitment. The commissioners all agreed it’s a needed position within the county to help elderly and ailing people to get to medical appointments. The board approved the agreement with the Tri-Valley Opportunity Council for the RTC Volunteer Driver Services but agreed Tri-Valley needs to make more of an effort to recruit volunteers.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved the 2020-21 child support cooperative agreement between the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Kittson County.
• Approved a non-lobbying certification, stating the county will use no federal dollars for lobbying efforts.
• Approved a county child support cooperative agreement between the county attorney’s office and the sheriff’s office.
• Approved the SNAP Civil Rights Assurance agreement, ensuring the social services department follows all civil rights laws such as providing an interpreter.
•  Approved a joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, which pays for services from the career force center in Thief River Falls to help social services clients in finding and preparing for employment.
• Heard from County Engineer Kelly Bengtson that repairs are complete at the bridge on County Road 10 east of Lake Bronson. The plowing units throughout the county were ready to plow prior to the snowfall within the county last week. And many of the roads that were closed due to flooding issues were opened last week. However, some roads remain closed due to thick layers of ice.

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