The Itasca County Board of Commissioners heard a positive update from the County Based Purchasing IMCare Division a regular session meeting Jan. 28. IMCare is a health care program that provides health care coverage for people in the IMCare service area and who are eligible for Minnesota Health Care Programs. The division is administered by Itasca County Health and Human Service (ICHHS).

IMCare Director Sarah Duell presented the update to the board.

“I’m continually talking about the high-level of oversights and audits that IMCare for many different regulatory authorities,” said Duell. “So now that 2019 is completed, I just wanted to give you an update on that and I’m going to focus on the ones that are mostly staff and time intensive.”

Duell reported that all audits had gone well in 2019 and continue to for those going into 2020.

“We have passed all audits to date in 2019. We’re very busy in 2020 focusing with complying with all the requests. They all want something a little different than the other one, the other organizations. So we’re busy doing that,” Duell commented. “These audits do prove to be very resource intensive for our staff and very burdensome but are requirements.”

County board members approved the consent agenda which included the following items:

Accept resignation of Christopher Reed from the Nursing Home Board, effective Jan. 23, 2020.

Authorize IMCare Director and County Board Chair to sign a Provider Participation Agreement with Renew Health Services, LLC, Jessica Lundquist.

Authorize going out for bids for a new 2020 Chevrolet Silverado CK4500 HD Ambulance for the CIty of Nashwauk.

Approve Purchase of Service Agreement between ICHHS and Niemala Mediation for conflict consulting, mediation and conflict assessment services between Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020.

Modify child care variance policy developed April 1, 2016.

Bowstring Airport updates

At the request of Commissioner Burl Ives, the last item on the consent agenda regarding improvements to the Bowstring Airport was moved to the regular agenda to allow for more discussion. Greg Miller, a member of the Bowstring Airport Commission, spoke with board members about the project. Included in the request was the approval to build a new 750 square foot pilot lounge, a new 400 square foot shelter by the airport’s campground and a new sewer system.

Miller explained that the shelter would only be open to pilots coming through the airport. The purpose of the shelter is to provide a space in case of stormy weather and a way to get away from bugs. Commissioner Terry Synder reminded other board members that the cost of the project would be paid for my grants and private donations, rather than county tax dollars.

Miller reported 151 pilots signed into the airport’s logbook in 2019.

“We estimate a very conservationve, at least 50 more that didn’t sign in. So we’re estimating over 200 people a year using the airport,” said Miller.

The board then approved the request from the Bowstring Airport Commission.

Changemaker retreat

Kelly Chandler, manager of the Itasca County Public Health Division, came to the board seeking approval to apply for grant funding to host a changemaker retreat in 2020 addressing substance use in Itasca County. A Changemaker Retreat was held August 21-22 in 2019 with 16 participants from Itasca and Aitkin counties at Long Lake Conservation Center in Palisade, Minn. Chandler reported that they received more than 40 applications for 20 spots. Participants were able to apply for seed grant funding up to $1,200 at the end of the retreat and have since then began many initiatives in their own communities.

This year, Itasca Public Health will host the retreat at Camp Hiawatha. The total budget for the project is estimated to be $45,949 and financial support will be sought from the Blandin Foundation, Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital, Northland Foundation, Bigfork Valley Foundation, SHIP, Essential Health, and other organizations if necessary. Funding for the retreat will not affect the county levy or require additional staff time.

“I think anytime we have a chance to address substance abuse in the community is a good thing,” said Commissioner Terry Synder. “Part of just about everything has driven increases in our budget surrounding substance abuse in our court systems. So I applaud you for your hard work on it.”

The board of commissioners approved the request.

Voting equipment

Chief Deputy of the Auditor/Treasurer’s Office Debra Davis presented a request to the board to authorize the Elections Division of her office to apply for a voting equipment grant. The grant is through the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State and is in the amount of up to $5,000 per precinct.

“We are in the process of updating our voting equipment and we purchased some in the past election,” stated Davis. We also purchased 40 poll pads which take the place of the precinct rosters. So we’re trying to get away from paper.”

Davis explained that they would be seeking to purchase more poll pads as well as new ballot boxes. The board approved the request.

Commissioners said farewell to the following county employees: Tom Borash, Corrections Deputy; Candy Carsella-Kee, Information Systems Manager; and Libby Peterson, Fraud Prevention Investigator. They also welcomed new employees Kirsten Johnson, Care Coordinator with IMCare Division and Chris Gunderson, Information Technology Director.

In other business, the board took action on the following items:

Approved Commissioner Warrants for $1,521,541.79 with a check date of Jan. 31, 2020.

Approved ICHHS Department Warrants for January in the amount of $1,002,430.75.

Approved a commercial purchase agreement for the sale of ITasca County Condominium Interest to North Homes, Inc. between Itasca County and North Homes, Inc.

Approved the 2019-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement with AFSCME Local 580 which represents the Health and Human Services employees.

Approved the Cancellation of Forfeiture for Parcel #40-036-4100, Owner Betty A. Hartshon.

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