Family Services reports increase in cases opened each month, drug use a big factor

Family Services continues to increase the number of cases opened each month, according to Division Manager Becky Lauer, who provided the Itasca County Board of Commissioners a 2019 first quarter child protection report on Tuesday, June 11.

The department opened 163 new cases in the first quarter of 2019, explained Lauer, which included 282 children. Of those 163 cases, she said, 13, or 8% of the total, resulted in the out-of-home placement of children.

“There were 31 kids who were placed in out-of-home placement in the quarter; 12 with relatives, and 19 in non-relative foster care,” Lauer continued.

Eighty-five percent of the children were placed because of parental drug use, she continued.

“All but two of the cases resulting in out-of-home placement were due to parental drug use,” Lauer explained, noting the department is seeing “a huge increase” in drug use and the placement of children in the eastern side of the county, in Nashwauk-Keewatin, as well as in the northern part of the county, including the Bigfork area.

“Drug use is rampant in our county and we’re just fighting an uphill battle,” Lauer said.

Lauer urged the board to consider preventative measures that could be taken to address the issue as they begin to look at budgeting.

“We really need to look at what can we do to try to address this problem,” she said.

Also discussed during Lauer’s report were rates of adult protection intakes, adult and child mental health cases and more.

The board approved the following consent agenda items:

  • Awarded the bid for the roof replacement at the IRC Building to Nelson Roofing, Inc. in the amount of $260,000, and authorized the required signatures on the contract documents. Funds for the project are to be paid out of the IRC Building Fund. Bids were opened on the project on June 6, 2019. There was only one bid received.

  • Accepted the final proposal of $288,380 from Honeywell Inc. for updates to the heating and ventilation system at the Itasca County Transfer Station, and approved Honeywell Inc. to be the general contractor during the installation of the new equipment. On Oct. 9, 2018, the Itasca County board accepted a letter of intent from Honeywell to begin development of specifications needed to bid the heating and ventilation updates in the transfer building in Grand Rapids. The first estimate to replace the original system was $875,000. The Environmental Services Department (ESD) began working with Honeywell and their engineer to look at a more cost effective way to accomplish what needed to be done in the building while keeping the safety and well-being of those that use the facility in mind. Honeywell then developed plans for a system that would better serve the needs of the building while also keeping the cost of the investment within budget. On April 10, 2019, Honeywell representatives met with several heating and ventilation companies at the station in order to get bids for the installation of the new equipment according to the specifications set by Honeywell and their engineer. Honeywell Inc. will be the general contractor during this project and will enter into a preventive maintenance contract with Itasca County ESD after the equipment has been installed.

  • Allowed the Environmental Services Department to apply for the Agricultural Best Practices Loan Program (AgBMP) and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Clean Water Partnership (CWP) Loan Program funding, thus allowing additional funding mechanisms of replacement septic systems within the county, and adopted a resolution regarding the Minnesota Clean Water Partnership (CWP). The overall goal of the proposed project is to protect, enhance and restore water quality in Itasca County by establishing a loan fund, which will encourage a faster rate of septic system replacement on properties throughout the county.

  • Adopted a resolution regarding an Itasca County economic impact study of a proposed municipal solid waste landfill located within the City of Keewatin.

  • Awarded a contract for sealant replacement on six county garages and two salt sheds to the lowest responsible bidder, The Caulkers Company, in the amount of $267,500, and authorized the required signatures on the contract documents. On April 23, 2019, the county board agreed to allow the transportation department to spend money from reserves to cover the cost of these maintenance needs. Bids were opened on June 3, 2019. One bid was received.

  • Approved a timber sale contract in the amount of $72,289.05 for the timber in the easement that was acquired for the County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 45 construction project, authorized the required signatures, and authorized immediate electronic payment. The reconstruction of CSAH 45 between Trunk Highway (TH) 38 and CSAH 7 has been occurring in phases over the past decade. On May 15, 2019, Itasca County entered into the final grading contract necessary to complete this route. Easements have been obtained throughout the corridor for right of way and the last issue to resolve is the payment for the timber that is on U.S. Forest Service lands on this phase of construction.

  • Upon attorney review, approved the 2019 Firewise Service Contracts between Itasca County with Bill Brink and John Moore for Firewise Coordinator services, and authorized the necessary signatures.

  • Approved and authorized the necessary signatures for the 1st Amendment of the T-Mobile/Marcell tower antenna site use agreement. T-Mobile wishes to change out antenna arrays and miscellaneous equipment on the tower.

During the regular agenda, the board:

  • Approved the minutes of the Tuesday, June 4, county board work session.

  • Recognized the following county employees: New employee Kory Johnson, Highway Maintenance Director, Transportation Department, effective June 3, 2019; new employee Matthew Alstad, Clerk Treasurer, Auditor/Treasurer Department, effective June 10, 2019; new employee Jonathan Ryan, Corrections Deputy, Sheriff Department, effective June 10, 2019; and Shelley McCauley, who has accepted a promotion from Care Coordinator to Quality Improvement/Utilization Management Director, IMCare Division, Health and Human Services Department, effective June 2, 2019.

  • Approved Commissioner Warrants with a check date of June 14, 2019, in the amount of $754,488.61.

  • Approved and authorized the necessary signatures for the 2019-2021 collective bargaining agreement for Local 1626 Courthouse Unit.


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