Human Services Board looks into reopening County Services Center

The Marquette County Human Services Board met on February 8th to discuss multiple updates to county services, including discussing the reopening of the Marquette County Services Center in Montello.

Director of Human Services Mandy Stanley began by discussing changes being made to the Food Bank program. They have been looking at long-term sustainability for the food bank, while also increasing access for residents and having more efficiencies and coordination. At this point they have decided to terminate their long-term contract with Diverse Options and the County Human Services Department will be taking over duties internally. The current contract goes through the end of June 2021. Their next step is to work on a transition plan between them and Diverse Options to ensure it goes smoothly.

Next, Jennifer Vote gave an update on the budget. She explained that the budget for last year was done before the pandemic, and that the pandemic had created challenges in regard to budget impact. The 2020 fiscal year ended up being a surplus, due to COVID affecting the services that they offered. Overall, they have a net surplus of about $450,000. Staffing restructuring, computer software optimizations, and other factors also attributed to this surplus, in addition to the County receiving additional funding from State and Federal partners due to the pandemic. Vote said that she would not be surprised to see the surplus grow and that she will be analyzing the 2020 financials to see how it would impact the 2021 financials, and will use that to plan for the 2022 budget.

Mary Walters then commented on the Guidelines to Transition Back to Office that the board were given. This laid out safety guidelines for the staff and has most of the staff back in the building by April 5th. Walters said, “I am extremely happy to see this. I think with the vaccines being rolled out and other protective issues we have, I am happy to see this and am thinking that we need to get back into the office sooner rather than later. I understand that there are any number of things that could delay this, but I am very, very happy to see this guideline and plan that has been put in place.”

Stanley then brought a request to the board, asking for permission to reopen the Services Center building back to the public. She had talked with the other departments there about this and they felt that it would be helpful if the building would be unlocked or open. Business picking up at the Health Clinic was one of the factors leading to this request, and they hoped that it could reopen immediately. Members of the board were in agreement about the importance of reopening the building. A few asked questions about the staff there being vaccinated, and Stanley said that they had a number of staff that would be vaccinated within the next few weeks. Walters thought that this would be a big help towards the Veterans and Mental Health Services they provide.

The board was in agreement though that this reopening would not apply to the Health and Human Services building. With far more staff and far more procedures and protocols to deal with, they believed that it should be reopened once the building is fully staffed again. The committee made a motion to reopen the Services Center starting immediately and the motion passed unanimously

However, later in the meeting Robert Miller followed up on questions they had discussed earlier. They were unsure as to whether they had the authority to make a decision like this. Miller contacted Corporation Counsel Natalie Bussan about this question and she said that that committee is not in charge of determining whether the building could be reopened again. However, she believed that bother Miller and Gary Sorensen could authorize it under the Emergency Orders Act. Miller said he would bring it up later that afternoon at the Executive and Finance meeting and would work to allow the building to open as soon as possible. At that meeting, it was determined that Miller and Sorensen did have the authority to allow the building to be open and made it official.

Stanley then gave an update on their nurse hiring efforts. Despite their best efforts, they have still not filled the position. They recently sent out an email to county employees asking them to forward on the information to any interested parties. With this, they received responses and an application for the position. They also clarified that the position may not require a Bachelor’s Degree but they will prefer the applicant to have one. They will continue to work towards filling this position going forward.

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