County board discusses Bigfork ambulance, CISMA strategy, crime victims grant, broadband survey

Itasca County logoby Barbara Cameron

The Itasca County Board of Commissioners met without Davin Tinquist (Dist. 1) on July 22, but the others were all present, and there was nothing of contention on the agenda. Matters handled during this fairly routine summer meeting included Bigfork’s new ambulance, the CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area) strategy for invasive species, the application for the crime victims grant and a broadband survey.

Chair Leo Trunt (Dist. 3) gaveled the room to order and following the flag pledge the board approved minutes from their July 8 regular meeting and added the broadband item to this day’s regular agenda.

The 28-item consent agenda covered a wide range of housekeeping matters, everything from mediation agreements, professional services agreements and mail ballot election judge appointments to bridge and grading contracts, utility easements, and application approval for this year’s emergency management performance grant (worth $66,048).

Consent was approved unanimously by the four commissioners present.

Among the county employees recognized were two social workers, Ron Storlie and David Saino, retiring after more than 14 years and seven years, respectively. Scott Smith has hired on at the Max Garage. Patricia Souter has transferred into environmental services, while Janice McKinney has moved over to the attorney’s department. Stephanie Mattson has been promoted to an eligibility specialist in Health and Human Services (HHS).

The next two items on the regular agenda were for spending money, and following each presentation the commissioners voted their unanimous approval.

Commissioner warrants amounted to $1,183,392.47, with $150,000 of that being for Honeywell for the air exchange project at the Itasca Resource Center building.

The HHS warrants for June’s bills (paid in July) were at $782,570.07, with out-of-home placements accounting for about half.

HHS Director Eric Villeneuve had good news for Bigfork residents. Their new ambulance, replacing the 1998 vehicle, would be arriving the next day.

Villeneuve said this had been a good collaboration between the county and Bigfork. While the county had budgeted $120,000 for the ambulance, Bigfork wanted to meet its own needs, and that meant they had to be willing to come up with another $46,794. “For Bigfork, that’s a pretty hefty share for them,” he commented. The Bigfork Ambulance Service Association is a non-profit with two ambulances. The other one is a 2008 model.

Becky Lauer continued the HHS reporting from the family services division. She publicly acknowledged the good work of the two staffers who, upon receipt of notification about vulnerable adults, exceeded the state’s reporting standards in that extremely busy first quarter by getting 100 percent of those reports in on time.

A pleased Brett Skyles brought a request for the board to accept the Department of Commerce’s 2012 audit of IMCare. Every three years health plans are assessed for both financial stability and risk mitigation. According to this examination, IMCare had no reportable findings or recommendations and there were no subsequent events noted.

The motion to accept the report was made and seconded; it passed unanimously.

Skyles continued patting his program on the back as he offered the IMCare compliance plan and standards of conduct to the board for approval. These are mandatory by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to ensure that staff people are properly trained to address fraud, waste and abuse and to comply with all applicable federal and state compliance directives.

This document was also unanimously approved. Anyone interested in reading the IMCare audit report or other documents may visit the county website, looking at the board meeting packet for this date.

An important initiative for the county was brought by Garrett Ous, the county’s land commissioner and agricultural inspector, in his capacity as one of the CISMA “Cooperators.” He outlined the CISMA strategic plan and requested board approval for that plan, with the county auditor to serve as fiscal agent when necessary.

The Itasca County CISMA aligns with the political boundary of the county, and the strategy for invasive species control would be reviewed every five years by the member partners. There are two levels of CISMA partners, Cooperators and Informal Participants. These categories encompass a wide range of cultural, ecological, public and private interests.

The current list of Cooperators (signatories to the original July 2013 Statement of Agreement) includes representatives from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, the DNR, MnDOT, the U.S. Forest Service, University of Minnesota – Extension, the Itasca Soil and Water Conservation District, the Itasca Water Legacy Partnership (IWLP), the City of Grand Rapids and Itasca County.

As Ous explained, this county is a mosaic of lands and waters whose economy relies heavily on natural resources. The purpose of CISMA is “to promote increased cooperation and coordinated efforts between stakeholders to minimize the adverse effects resulting from current invasive species and the introduction of new invasive species within Itasca County’s political boundary.”

County funding, always a sensitive matter, is a separate issue from approval of the strategic plan. Indeed, the idea here is to grow methodically, and rely on “existing agency programs and personnel…and volunteers. New state money is great but can’t be counted on in the long term.”

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