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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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County Board Okays HHS Meetings In HHS Building

Issue Date: June 28, 2018

Despite strongly voiced objections from County Administrator John LeFebvre and County Board Chair Mark Anderson, Marinette County Board at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 26, overwhelmingly supported ordinance changes that will allow the Health and Human Services Committee to move its regularly scheduled meetings from Thursdays to Wednesdays, and to again meet at the Health and Human Services Building instead of at the courthouse.

Vote was 24 in favor and three opposed on the motion to change the meeting date, and 18 to nine in favor of allowing the committee to meet in the building occupied by the departments they are assigned to oversee.

Opposed to changing the designated meeting day were supervisors Josh Anderson and Rick Polzin and Board Chair Mark Anderson. The 24 who voted in favor were supervisors Mike Behnke, Glenn Broderick, Penny Chaikowski, Tricia Grebin, John Guarisco, Paul Gustafson, Bob Holley, Bob Hoyer, Tom Mailand, Shirley Kaufman, Ken Keller, George Kloppenburg, Al Mans, Don Pazynski, Bonnie Popp, Al Sauld, Ted Sauve, Vilas Schroeder, Bill Stankevich, Jillian Schutte, Gail Wanek, Clancy Whiting and Dave Zahn. Supervisors Ginger Deschane, Chris Gromala and Tom Mandli were absent.

Changing the meeting from Thursday to Wednesday allows Dr. Vickie Marie Cloutier to remain a member of the committee, a position in which she has served for several years. State law highly recommends that the Health and Human Services Committee include a physician, and committee members have repeatedly stated that it is unlikely they could find one who could attend Thursday meetings.

Vote on changing the location was slightly less lopsided, but nonetheless was two to one in favor of allowing the committee to choose the location of its meetings. Opposed to this were Mark Anderson, Josh Anderson, Grebin, Holley, Keller, Polzin, Schroeder, Schutte and Stankevich.

The actions changed the county ordinance adopted in March of this year to set rules of procedure for the board that was then seated after the elections in April. The new rules, adopted on a split vote with many veteran supervisors opposed, combined committee responsibilities, sharply reduced the number of standing committees, set established meeting days on either Tuesdays or Thursdays, and dictated that committee meetings would be held in the courthouse. That ordinance was rejected by the Executive Committee, and came to the board floor only in response to a petition filed by other board members.

The other major action of the day came when supervisors approved purchase of the Crossroads Juvenile Group Home on Schacht Road in the Town of Peshtigo from the Marinette County Group Home Association at a total price of $220,000. Of this, $200,000 repays part of the money the Group Home Association borrowed from the county to construct its facilities, and $20,000 is being transferred from the Contingency Fund. The Group Home Association will continue operating two adult residential care facilities in Marinette - Anthony House and Taylor House.

The Group Home Association had notified the County that they were no longer willing or able to operate the juvenile group home, and would terminate their contract as of Friday, June 15. They also offered to sell the facility to the county for its appraised value. Eventually that value was set at the $220,000.

At its May 29 meeting County Board approved a contract with Advocates for Healthy Transitional Living to provide foster care services at Crossroads, starting as soon as possible and running through December 31 of this year, at a cost not to exceed $95,000. However, at Tuesday's meeting, Elsner said he is still working on that agreement.

Part of the sale agreement with the Group Home Association had been that juveniles housed there could stay there until the sale is final. Employees of the Advocates group reportedly will be supervising them once the sale is finalized, but through a type of foster care arrangement that is different from a group home license. It will take 90 days to get the group home license. Health and Human Services Administrator Robin Elsner has advised the board the Advocates group has no interest in owning the real estate, they just want to run the program.

At Tuesdays meeting, Elsner urged approval of the purchase. He said keeping these juveniles in Marinette County is in the best interests of the juveniles, and will save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by avoiding out of county placements in high-priced institutions like Lincoln Hills, where cost of care exceeds $400 per day. Crossroads had charged the county $143 per day. There had been 15 juveniles there at various times during the past year. Crossroads has been serving the county for 25 years as a home for troubled juveniles. When it came time to vote approval of the purchase was unanimous.

The meeting started with a request by Supervisor Shirley Kaufman to have provision for a moment of silent prayer or reflection returned to starting procedures on the agenda. Anderson agreed it should be there, and promised that next month it will be formally listed. He said provision for that is even specified in the board procedures ordinance.

Sauve asked that the board recognize and thank Lori DeWitt Davidson, who has retired from the NWTC board after 28 years of service.

"Lori was a great asset," Anderson agreed. "She was very level headed, and was a great source of valuable information in the conversations I've had with her."

LeFebvre told the board he was somewhat surprised to be there. He had hip replacement surgery just two weeks prior to the meeting. "God bless the doctors who did the surgery!" he declared.

He formally informed the board that Finance Director Pat Kass has retired. He continues officially until September when all his vacation time will be used up, but his last actual day on the job had been on Friday, June 22. His duties as finance director will be handled by Assistant Finance Director Laura Mans with the help of others in the office at least until September when Kass' job officially becomes vacant. LeFebvre said at that time he will start looking for a replacement.

He thanked Kass for his 15 years of service to the county and said he will be greatly missed.

During his report to the board LeFebvre argued strongly in favor of keeping all committee meetings in the courthouse. "Keep in mind that the courthouse is the county seat," he declared. He said rooms are always available and the public is familiar with the courthouse and may have other business there.

He expressed concern that having committee members and others attending their meetings at the Health and Human Services Building would expose the wide range of clients who might be in the waiting room at the Health and Human Services building.

Mark Anderson later expressed somewhat the same sentiments in regard to privacy of individuals seeking health from Health and Human Services.

Those ideas led to some angry responses from Health and Human Services Committee members, who were upset at the idea that people should be ashamed of being there.

One of their main reasons for wanting the meeting at that location was to continue a healthy relationship with staff members, who are often called into meetings for a brief conversation and then allowed to go back to work.

There was an allegation from Polzin that people would need to go through locked doors to get to the meeting, and several committee members declared that was absolutely not true. There is ample parking, "you enter through the front doors, take an elevator to the basement, and there you are," Supervisor Mike Behnke declared. "No permission is needed."

The County Nurse's office, ADAPT, and other services are located there. Financial assistance offices are in the NWTC building on Roosevelt Road, not in the Health and Human Services Building.

Elsner also spoke in support of the Wednesday meetings with the Health and Human Services building as the location.

Several supervisors declared during discussion that County Board should run County Board, and if they are going to follow the Committee system they should respect the recommendations of the committees, particularly when it came to setting their own meetings.

In the end, a majority of board members supported that opinion.


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