Dodge, Steele merge county human services, wait on Mower, WasecaPublished 10:08am Wednesday, June 12, 2013
On the day the Dodge County and Steele County boards both moved ahead on a plan to merge the Human Services departments of four counties, Mower County’s board expressed more uncertainty about the costs.
Dodge voted 4-0 and Steele voted 4-1 Tuesday to move into the costliest phase of the four-county merger, but Mower County commissioners continued to hedge at the $1 million price-tag to move to the next phase the Human Services Merger. The fourth county, Waseca, has not voted.
“I’m not in favor of spending $1 million on anything,” Board Chairman Jerry Reinartz said.
To Reinartz and other commissioners, there are many unknowns about the costs and potential savings to be gained from the merger.
“You’re risking a million on a lot of ifs,” Reinartz said.
Human Services Coordinator Julie Stevermer admitted it would be better if there had been another phase where county finance directors, attorneys and other employees could have detailed more specifics on the project.
Reinartz suggested the board look into this issue locally.
“I think we should be looking at it locally with our finance people,” Reinartz said.
The Mower County board is looking for more answers at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. June 18 to discuss the costs of merging Human Services. Mower and Waseca counties will vote on whether to move forward or stay on their own by the end of June.
The next phase of the merger would be the most expensive and the most permanent. Officials have compared the coming vote to a wedding engagement in that it’s almost certainly permanent, but counties could back out if something big happens. Last week, County Attorney Kristen Nelsen cautioned that she views the wording of the vote as binding.
“That’s what scares me a little bit,” Commissioner Mike Ankeny said.
Plus, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson warned the board that voting “yes” now but backing out later could hurt relations with the other three counties.
Oscarson told the board it’s better to get out now before the other counties spend the money on this phase.
“To me, if you’re to get out, get out now,” he said.
Cost savings, which were a significant part of the original, 12-county model, are almost non-existent in this model. The main thing this model would gain is more efficiencies and the effectiveness of three counties working together.