Buena Vista County Board Supervisors fielded comments and protests on the proposed sale of the county care facility site, but no decision was made and a public hearing planned for this week had to be rescheduled because the county did not get notice published as required.
The public hearing will now be held November 18 at 10 a.m. The county met with mental health care providers and advocates Monday for an informal meeting, with several opposing the County's thoughts to sell the property.
Board chair Dale Arends said despite some misconceptions it was not the County's intent to close the Spectra facility but to sell the remainder of the property that the facility for mental disabilities care leases from the county.
Arends said the sale would not preclude the facility remaining open under the current administration or someone else. The facility was County run until 1986 when Spectra purchased it and privatized mental health care.
Arends said during the meeting that the County had not yet been approached by any prospective buyer. "There's not a compelling reason for the County to continue owning the facility," said Arends. However, several in attendance said they felt if the County sold the facility it would close down, dealing a devastating blow to mental health care. Who will care for the mentally ill and where would they be placed that is close to their homes? some of those present asked.
Sue Morrow, Administrator with Spectra, prepared a presentation for the Board saying she hoped they would reconsider their resolution to place the care facility up for sale. Morrow said she felt the business helped contribute to the local economy and says if the facility would close their doors, 28 employees who currently work at Spectra would be left without jobs.
Morrow said when the facility was first privatized in 1986 it was estimated that Spectra saved the County nearly $400,000 in the first year. Morrow said the savings came in the form of medical care, that was paid for through Medicare and Title 19. She said they were also able to draw money from the State Supplementary Assistance Program which helped pay for basic operations like electricity, heat and food. Morrow said the facility is also a place for those who cannot live on their own and says if the facility closed they would have to travel several miles to find another similar facility.
Arends said there was a number of reasons the County reached the decision to look at selling the property. Arends said the maintenance costs have exceeded the rent payments, costing the county several thousand dollars each year. One option would be to have Spectra purchase the remainder of the property, however, Morrow said she didn't feel they had the reserves available to buy the site. "What money we have goes into services," she says.
Morrow said there have been some statements made claiming there were no Buena Vista County residents are utilizing the facility, but says these statements are false. She says although the County is not funding any clients at Spectra at this time, she says two BV residents currently utlize the services and pay privately.
In other County news:
*Neal Kuehl with Kuehl and Payer presented a work authorization agreement to the County for the sanitary sewer project which lays out 12 steps to be included in the study. Kuehl said they are currently preparing a layout of unsewered areas surrounding Storm Lake and Lake Creek and have already formed a steering committee. A group of interested individuals has met once already. "I think we had an excellant turnout at the meeting," said Kuehl.
Kuehl said they would also review alternatives for providing sewers to the unsewered areas, review options with the County, City, Regional Water and sewer districts and discuss treatment options with Storm Lake and Alta.
Another step would be to work with County staff regarding all aspects of study as well as reporting all progress made regularly to the Board of Supervisors.
Neal Kuehl said they would also look at preparing loan applications for a possible planning design loan. Kuehl said K&P would plan to do the study on an hourly basis with a maximum cost of $32,500. Kuehl said they are tentatively looking to complete the study by Feb. 15, 2009 just in time for a sanitary sewer district hearing for Casino Beach on Feb. 24.
*County engineer Jon Ites reported that they would like to do repairs to a bridge over the Raccoon River and a bridge across Outlet Creek. Ites said with older bridges they look at either posting lower load limits or repair the bridges. The Board approved a motion to post a three ton sign at a bridge in Maple Valley Township that had originally had a six tons load limit. Ites said three tons is the lowest limit the County is allowed to post on a bridge. He said if a bridge goes any lower than that they would have to close the road or repair the bridge.
*Ites also reported that two railroad crossings had been approved for State funding to upgrade the crossing beds to concrete. One crossing is located on the west side of Newell and the other is located on M31 in Alta. Ites said the County would need to receive approval from the two cities before the projects could be completed. The county would be required to pay 40 percent of the cost of the projects totalling about $50,000 for both projects.
*Lloyd Galbraith, BV County Veterans Affairs Commissioner announced to the Supervisors that the Commission had hired Garlind Otto of Albert City as the Director of Veterans Affairs, Otto will begin the position in February 2009. Currently Otto is also an American Legion County Commander. Galbraith said the Veterans Commission is made up of five commissioners. Dr. Harold Kestel was also sworn in during the Supervisors meeting as a new member of the commissioners replacing former commissioner Jon Ites.