IONIA — The Ionia County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved three requests for its Health Department.
Aimee Keefer, public health director, introduced the requests and answered questions in the absence of Health Officer Ken Bowen.
MDHHS funding amendment
Commissioners approved a second budget amendment to the Health Department’s agreement with Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, which adds $29,413 for public health emergency preparedness. The revised total budget is $1,132,657.
The funds support the Health Department’s emergency preparedness coordinator position, which works to protect the health of citizens during public health emergencies by minimizing health threats from infectious diseases, terrorist acts, and other public health emergencies; collaborating with local, regional, state, and federal agencies to prepare for and respond to incidents that threaten public health; and providing accurate and practical information about public health emergencies to the citizens of Ionia County.
The position is currently held by Chad Shaw.
Michigan Center for Rural Health
Commissioners also approved a grant agreement between the Health Department and the Michigan Center for Rural Health. Keefer told commissioners that Michigan State University applied for grants to help rural communities with challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic grant.
The grant provides one-time funding for the period from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2023 in the amount of $236,373.
“MSU applied for the funds from the federal government. They just got the approval and are now disbursing them,” Keefer explained. “What they offered with this was three different ways that departments could use those funds.”
The grant can be used to implement a community health worker program within the department to serve as liaisons between health and social services and the community to facilitate access to services; provide outreach, community education, informal counselling, social support and advocacy; and identify and support vulnerable/ or at-risk populations to support vaccine administration and testing, provide vaccine education to alleviate vaccine hesitancy, and connect community members with social and health resources.
The grant also can be used to implement a Healthy Families of Michigan home visiting program, which works to strengthen the parent-child relationship to ensure healthy child growth and development through home visits, providing parents with information on topics like child development, infant care and keeping their baby healthy, connecting them to other events and programs in their communities, emphasizing the importance of COVID 19 vaccinations, along with other childhood immunizations, and connecting families to the healthcare system.
Finally — and the program the county Health Department plans to use the funding for — is to implement a public health nurse in local school settings, including training, hiring, and sustaining public health nurses to reach vulnerable/at-risk populations, support vaccine administration and testing, provide vaccine education to alleviate vaccine hesitancy, and connecting community members with social and health resources.
Public health nurses in the schools are not as common as they once were, according to Keefer. The county currently has only two nurses in school districts—Ionia and Portland—who travel between schools. The grant will used to fund two nurse positions for school districts that do not currently have public health nurses, Keefer said.
National Tuberculosis Conference
Commissioners also approved the health department’s request to allow public health nurse Yolanda Rivera to attend the 2022 National Tuberculosis Conference May 23-26 in Palm Springs, California.
Keefer said Ionia County has had four cases of tuberculosis, or TB, in the past two years. A potential fifth case last week is being investigated.
TB is a highly communicable bacterial infection that usually affects the lungs.
The Health Department will cover the conference fee of $700. The state of Michigan has offered $1,900 for small rural health departments, which will be put toward the hotel and airfare.
Tax Allocation Board mileage
Commissioners also approved a request for authorization of a county mileage of 4.3231 mills to support county operations and services.
Ionia County Interim Administrator Jason Eppler, told commissioners that the request for approval by the Tax Allocation Board, which meets April 18, is “an annual exercise” for commissioners. He noted that there is a “sizable increase” in the taxable value in the county this year over last year. The recommendation this year compares with 4.6245 mills in 2020 and 4.6247 in 2021.
Board Vice Chairman Larry Tiejema said county revenues that support the budget also include state and federal grants and charges for services.
“To make up the difference, we need that 4.3231 on applicable properties in Ionia County to balance … the almost $15 million budget,” said Tiejema.
Of this total budget, approximately $8.4 million is proposed to come from the County property tax levy, according to Eppler.
Disbanded COVID Committee
Commissioners also voted to disband their ad hoc committee appointed to work out a formula for distributing COVID-19 hazard pay to county employees, “after the money is out,” said Commissioner Georgia Sharp.
Eppler said the pay is scheduled to be released in a special check run next week.
Commissioner Karen Banks brought up the issue, asking whether the vote was necessary. No one was sure, so commissioners took the action “just so there’s not an issue with it,” Eppler agreed.
It takes effect next Friday at 5 pm
Banks, Sharp and Tiejema were appointed by Board Chairman David Hodges to serve on the ad hoc committee.
In other matters
- The Ionia County Board of Commissioners also:
- Approved a memorandum of agreement between the Commission on Aging and the MDHHS/Health and Aging Services Administration for Senior Project Fresh and to purchase $12,000 in coupons. Coupons are distributed to Ionia county seniors with annual incomes of less than 185% of the poverty level to help them buy fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables from authorized farmers markets and roadside stands.
- Ratified the Commission on Aging signature on the Michigan Department of Transportation Project Agreement 2022-75 for $12,658 in Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act funding, and approved the corresponding budget amendment. The Commission on Aging intends to use the funding for driver wages, according to Director Carol Hanulcik.
- Granted permission to hire a substitute part-time driver for the Commission on Aging’s home-delivered meals program.
- Granted permission to hire a part-time driver for the Commission on Aging’s transportation program.
- Approved a request to increase the 911 Surcharge from $2.85 to $3.00 per device per month. Ionia County voters approved the 911 surcharge, with the potential for an increase of up to $3 through June 2027, in August 2020. On April 13, 2021, commissioners increased the surcharge from $2.30 to $2.85. Local and state surcharges are the primary funding source for Central Dispatch, according to Director Lance Langdon. The 15-cent increase will provide Central Dispatch with an additional $50,000 a year in new revenue, at an increase to citizens of $1.80 a year. The increase takes effect July 1.
- Accepted the sole bid from Hi-Tec Building Services in the amount of $173,390 to provide janitorial and grounds maintenance services at the Portland and Saranac rest areas on I-96, contingent on MDOT approval. The costs are fully paid by MDOT, according to Road Department Managing Director John Niemela.
- Approved a soil erosion, sedimentation and stormwater control permit fee schedule, the final order of business in moving soil erosion and sedimentation control from the Drain Office to the Building Department, according to Eppler. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy requires that a fee schedule be set that supports the cost of the program. The permits issued under the old fee schedule, which number about 30, will be honored by the county until they are closed out.
- Approved an extension of the current contract and fees with the Ionia County Conservation District for hazardous waste collections. Collections are set for Saturday and May 7. District Manager Melissa Eldridge noted that fees are expected to increase in the next contract by 18-20%. (For times and locations, visit www.ioniacd.org/resource-recovery-and-clean-sweep.)
- Reappointed Linda Purcey, Nancy Patera and Mary Barker to the Community Mental Health Services Board for three-year terms.
- Appointed Mariah Lab to her first three-year terms on the Community Mental Health. Services Board.