January 17th Richland County Board Meeting

The Richland County Board of Supervisors met for regular monthly business on January 17th, and the cloud of the county's financial situation made its way into nearly every decision made by the board.

 It was stated that the over-run in the 2016 county budget is currently at about $700,000. One resolution before the county board sought to increase shift differential compensation for the nursing and patient care staff at Pine Valley Community Village. The county previously hired the consulting firm of Carlson Dettman Consulting to do a wage study. The firm's findings resulted in a recommendation to increase PM shift differential from 25-cents per hour to $1.50 per hour; night shift differential from 30-cents to $1.50; and weekend shift differential pay from 40-cents per hour to $1.50. It was explained that the increases would make Pine Valley competitive with other care facilities. There were concerns raised about how the raises would affect the county's financial picture, but it was stated that the differential pay would help lower costs associated with overtime paid at Pine Valley. Per Rules of the Board, the resolution required ¾ of the supervisors present to gain passage. With several members absent because of the weather conditions, the resolution ultimately failed with 9 supervisors present saying “yes”, with 5 voting “no”. 11 “yes” votes were needed for approval.

After a long discussion, the Richland County Board approved the purchase of two new tractors with mower combinations by the County Highway Department at a total cost of $186,588. One motion to postpone the purchase for two months to get a clearer picture of the county's 2017 finances, and another motion to purchase just one tractor & mower unit both failed. In the end, the purchase was approved on an 11-to-4 vote. The funds for the purchase were included in the 2017 Highway budget.

A resolution was approved that caps the county's contribution toward the monthly premium for employee dental insurance at 2016 levels. The previous language had the county paying 50% of the premium. Moving forward that will be capped at just over $52 for a family plan, and $18 for the single plan. There were concerns that the savings the county would incur are very minimal, and this is just one more example of the county looking at employee salary and benefits to make up the shortfall instead of other expenses. The resolution was approved on a voice vote, however it was not unanimous.

The Richland County Board approved a resolution amending 2016 and 2017 contracts with the Department of Health & Human Services – including one contract in LaCrosse for residential care for a child that jumped from $45,000 to over $182,000. Health & Human Services Director Patrick Metz explained that they do not take institutional placements lightly. He said that they often result in exhausting the local resources that are available, but the ultimate goal is to manage the safety and well-being of the individual involved. Board members expressed their frustration with the ballooning costs of institutional care. It was stated that a mechanism is being developed that will help monitor contracts and cost overruns within the agency.

In other action from the Richland County Board meeting this (Tuesday) morning, the board made a transfer of funds received from the City of Richland Center totaling $190,295 from the closure of a Tax Increment District in the City. $40,000 of those funds will go to the 911 Outlay Account, with the remaining being transferred to the 2017 Contingency Fund.

Supervisors approved a FEMA grant up to $117,000 to acquire and remove properties severely damaged by the September 2016 flooding. The properties must reverted to “green space” once mitigated. There is no requirement of the county to match the grant.

The County Board approved a resolution electing Karen Knock-Lucas as the Richland County Veterans Service Officer whose term officially ended on January 2nd. She will continue in that capacity unless removed by the County Board.

Finally, resolutions were approved expressing appreciation for five retired county employees. They are Jeanne Rice after 28 years with the Ambulance Service; Bob Frank for over 29 years with the Sheriff's Department; and Laura Krueger's 25 years, Susan Kuykendall's 14 years, and Patty Yanske's 22 years all at Pine Valley Community Village.