• Last modified 431 days ago (Feb. 16, 2023)


5,300-square-foot health office proposed

Staff writer

Health department director Krista Schneider wants a building roughly the size of St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary’s thrift shop for the nine full- and part-time employees of the health department.

Schneider told commissioners Monday that she wanted a 5,300 square-foot building that would have space for additional programs and storage of items the health department gives out, such as smoke detectors, child safety seats, and carbon monoxide detectors.

She wants to offer family planning programs, programs to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

The building would need space for vaccination clinics and for Women, Infants and Children programs, she said.

“We are in need of a separate lab area due to infection-control risks,” Schneider said. “We use the counter in the vaccination room for COVID-19 testing. Clean and dirty should not be housed in the same area without definitive separation. We will need a locked med room to meet pharmacy requirements for the family-planning program. We also need a closed area to store biohazardous waste.”

Schneider said the COVID pandemic had created a need for a covered drive-through for testing and immunizations for people who have difficulty walking.

“Are you going to build a hospital or what?” commissioner Kent Becker asked.

She reminded Becker that the space would include storage.

Becker said he’d seen health departments operate in less spacious quarters.

However, county counsel Brad Jantz said: “If you’re building new, you have to have everything up to code standards.”

Becker said commissioners needed to identify how to pay for this building and implications on county residents.

Commissioners nonetheless voted unanimously to spend up to $1,200 to have an architect design a building and make a cost estimate.

At an average residential construction cost of up to $250 per square foot, construction could cost $1.325 million.

The nine employees of the health department include Schneider, a program assistant and WIC clerk, a billing manager, a Safe Kids program coordinator, a nurse WIC coordinator, an immunization coordinator, a public health emergency preparedness coordinator, a breastfeeding peer counselor, and two registered dietitians.

Health insurance

In other matters Monday, Claudio Preller of Blue Cross and Blue Shield told commissioners employee health insurance would cost 3.6% more this year.

The county now pays $1,181,569. The plan commissioners are considering would cost $1,224,020.

A dental plan offered by the county would increase from $82,805 to $85,247.

“Last year’s rate increase was 6%, so it’s about half what it was last year,” Preller said.

Noting that few other groups have plans with $500 deductibles, Preller said plans with higher deductibles “are the most efficient.”

He told commissioners that 15 county employees had more than $1,000 of claims paid last year.

He compared self-funded options and said the county would pay $300,000 more in a worst-case scenario.

“If you’re interested in exploring self-funded plans, I could prepare information on that,” Preller said.

Becker clearly was not interested.

“We’ve looked at self-funded every year that I’ve been on the commission, it hasn’t been the way to go,” he said.

County clerk Tina Spencer told commissioners they needed to decide whether to pass the increase along to employees.

Preller said BCBS offered two new things this year.

One is a program called Versa to reverse Type II diabetes.

“We are investing in paying for our members to work with Versa,” he said.

He also said BCBS also wanted to use coupon programs to reduce patients’ copays.

Becker suggested discussion of insurance be tabled until next week.

Other business

In other business, commissioners:

  • Heard an update from register of deeds Rebecca Winfield.
  • Heard an update from Families and Children Together director Terry Bebermeyer, who explained the program’s projects in county school districts.
  • Met in executive session with EMS director Curt Hasart, county counsel Brad Jantz, and county clerk Tina Spencer to discuss potential litigation.

Last modified Feb. 16, 2023