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Health coalition hits roadblock

Becker County has stepped back — at least for now — from a joint powers agreement that would have created a public health consortium with neighboring counties.

The Becker County Board voted Tuesday to rescind its modified version of the joint powers agreement, after it failed to find acceptance by the other counties.

Becker County Administrator Jack Ingstad said there were too many unanswered questions concerning the joint powers agreement at a recent teleconference of county officials.

And when he found that Becker County’s version of the joint powers agreement had never been reviewed by the county attorney’s office, he recommended holding off on the consortium until all parties are comfortable with the final language.

Officials from the four counties will meet in February to work out their differences, he said.

If it ultimately wins approval, the Partnership4 Health Community Health Board will serve Becker, Clay, Otter Tail and Wilkin counties.

The idea is for each county health department to keep its identity and employees, while cooperating on areas of mutual interest,

Each county health department will retain its own budget and employees, and will continue to be responsible for things such as infectious disease control, health promotion, access to services and environmental health issues.

Benefits will come in the potential for shared staffing, shared grant writing and avoiding the duplication of effort in several areas: writing strategic plans; community health assessments, community health improvement plans; quality improvement planning and preparations for accreditation.

Becker County has run its own public health department under the umbrella of the Human Services Department since it pulled out of the Multi-County Nursing Service 10 years ago.

In other action Tuesday, the board elected Commissioner John Okeson to a one-year term as chairman. Commissioner Ben Grimsley was elected vice chairman.

The board split the official county newspaper designation between Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the Frazee Forum, under the same arrangement as last year.

The board heard a request from the Humane Society of the Lakes to purchase the land the animal rescue facility now leases from the county on Highway 59 North.

Commissioners were amenable to selling at least the land under the building at some point, but want to hold off until the new public works facility is built, in case some of the property in that area is needed or some of the wetlands there are needed for a wetlands bank.

Commissioners accepted the 2013-2015 DNR snowmobile safety enforcement grant, which will reimburse the sheriff’s office up to $6,660 this fiscal year and the same amount next year for snowmobile patrols.

The board agreed to a contract with Enchanting Events of Vergas to provide up to 400 meals at the new Willow Tree mental health stabilization unit, which has two beds. Commissioners wanted to review the contract and put a cap on expenses before agreeing to fund meals for the facility for the entire year.

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