homepage logo

Mental Health Issues Still Causing Headaches

By Staff | Sep 11, 2012

Continued discussions on the future of the delivery of mental health services in the county continued to give Palo Alto County officials headaches due to continued uncertainty of what the future holds for mental health. The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors wrestled with the issue once again in their Sept. 4 board meeting.

With the State of Iowa proposing a revamping of mental health service delivery in the state, counties have been creating regions to administer and develop policies and procedures to meet the state’s wishes.

County Mental Health Director Maureen Sandberg opened the discussion with a recommendation that the board sign a letter of intent to join forces with a potential regional authority that would be comprised of counties in the northwest corner of the state.

That recommendation started a discussion.

“I don’t want to go into a region with Woodbury County in it,”?Supervisor Ed Noonan said. “We don’t want to have to pay for their people through a region.”

Supervisor Jerry Hofstad posed a question. “Why not just stand alone – be our own region?”

“If we’d do that, say we file for an exemption to be our own region and the state denies us, then we would not have chosen a region we wanted to go with,”?Sandberg said. “We’d be in a real mess.”

“We wouldn’t be better off by ourselves?” Hofstad pressed.

“No,”?was Sandberg’s answer. “There are other reasons not to be by ourselves other than money. And, I don’t think the state would allow us to go it alone.”

Sandberg explained that to the east, regions have already been established and since Palo Alto County has not worked with those counties in the past, trying to fit in now would be difficult, at best.

“Let’s send a letter to the state,”?Noonan suggested. “We’ll tell them we don’t have enough information to make an informed decision on this regionalization yet.”

“Yes,” agreed Hofstad. “What are the rules? who is in the regions? how will they work?”

“How about we form a region with the counties on the Seasons Board?”?suggested Noonan.

“That’s who we’re used to dealing with,”?agreed Board Chair Keith Wirtz,

As the discussion wound down, Sandberg urged the Supervisors to make some contacts with their counterparts in the counties that are served by Seasons to feel out their interest in the idea. The board came to a general agreement to look into the idea.

In other items of business, Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz presented a pair of budget amendments to the board for approval. The first, totaling $346,000, was to cover the cost of additional gravel crushing at the Emmetsburg pit. The second amendment, for $45,000, was to cover the cost of a new truck for use by the survey crew of the engineer’s office.

“Both of these originally appeared in the 2011-2012 budget,”?Fantz explained, “But, we are moving them to the 2012-13 budget since that is when the money is being expended. The funds are there, all we’re doing is transferring them from the old budget to the new budget.”

The Supervisors approved the amendments on a unanimous vote.

Fantz reported that gravel crushing at the Emmetsburg pit has totalled 230,000 tons, compared with last year’s 60,000 tons. “We’re also going to do a sizeable crush at the Cylinder pit and we’re also planning a large crush at Hungry Hollow, which is the leased pit in Clay County that we pay a royalty on.”

An offer from the Iowa Department of Transportation to the county to assume maintenance of Iowa Highway 15 was declined after discussion by the board. Fantz reported that he had met with DOT?officials who proposed that the county take over the maintenance of the nine-mile stretch of 15 running south from U.S. Highway 18 to West Bend.

The DOT offered the county $17,000 to take over the roadway as part of the proposal.

“I’m not real excited about this proposal,”?Fantz admitted. “Firstly, the state would be removing snow early until 9 p.m., where our forces would work until about 5 p.m., which could be troublesome for the public.”

Fantz also pointed out that Secondary Roads had cut staff in an effort to be more cost-efficient, and that adding more miles for snow removal would necessitate the addition of another truck and plow, along with an operator.

“And, the county would have to assume tort liability for the roadway under this proposal,”?Fantz added.

“I’d say thanks, but no thanks,”?Noonan said as Fantz finished. Hofstad quickly moved to decline the DOT?offer for the maintenance agreement and the board gave unanimous approval to the motion.

In a final item of business, the board heard a concern from Howard Finnestad about weeds in road ditches. Finnestad urged the board to take care of the problem. Board Chair Keith Wirtz explained the recent hire of a new roadside vegetation worker should get the weed program back on track.