Freeborn commissioners unsure of Human Services redesign

Published 9:03 am Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ALBERT LEA, Minn. — Questions abounded locally Tuesday about a proposed regional human services redesign, which Freeborn County is considering.

Commissioner Dan Belshan asked whether the redesign was necessary and said he thinks the county could save a lot of money simply by following other counties’ examples.

He was concerned because he said Freeborn County overspends on human services compared to neighboring counties.

Email newsletter signup

With all of the questions that came up, Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said it is unlikely commissioners will make a decision by May 1. By that date, they will have to decide to continue or drop out of discussions.

Discussion on redesign proposals began after continuous cuts in state and federal funding, which has led to reduced funding in most of the region’s counties. At the same time, more people are turning to county government for help with human services because of the lagging economy and the aging of the population.

It seeks to streamline services for residents, in large part with increased technology.

Twelve counties are considering the collaboration, which would be for a minimum of 15 years.

Figures released last week show that Freeborn County could avoid human services costs of about $3 million over the next five years under the plan.

But the cost of implementing the plan is still not decided, along with what was referred to as the governance model, or ultimately who will make the decisions.

Officials stated a figure of $19 million total as an estimated cost of implementation.

Kluever said it is being discussed whether each county should simply have one vote or whether the larger counties should be given more weight.

Kluever said he will look to gather a breakdown of what the other 11 counties spend on different areas within the Human Services Department to compare how Freeborn County ranks.

Kluever said he anticipates the discussion will be on commissioner agendas for several more meetings.

Counties participating in the development of the model are Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca and Winona.