Zerla asks review of health dept. contract
By Jim Nowlan
At a regular meeting of the Stark County Board this past week, Chair Coleen Magnussen reported that talks with Peoria and Bureau counties continue regarding collaboration on E911 service (Peoria) and emergency management (Bureau).
“We are hoping for a proposal from Peoria after we provide them all the information they are requesting,” said board vice chair Fulvio Zerla.
Stark may be the only county in Illinois without E911 (emergency calling) or plans to develop such service.
“We have to do it (provide E911) and it’s the right thing to do,” added Zerla. “It could save lives.”
Magnussen also reported that the Bureau County emergency services unit is busy evaluating how it can collaborate with Stark to operate two distinct yet coordinated emergency response programs.
Health department contract to be reviewed
In other business, Zerla asked State’s Attorney James Owens to review the contract or other operating agreement that Stark has with the Henry County Health Department.
“Do we have a contract with Henry County and do appointees to the Stark County Health Board report to us (the county board)?” Zerla asked of Owens.
The Henry-Stark Health Department is headquartered just south of Kewanee on Route 34-78. Stark has its own appointed board, while the Henry County staff provides health services to both counties.
According to several reports provided to The News, there was a testy exchange between Zerla and members of the Stark health board at a recent regular meeting of that board. The News was not at the meeting.
Zerla is reported to have criticized Henry-Stark Health Department director Duane Stevens for “under the table” payments of about $3,000 to the office of the county treasurer.
Stevens retorted that the funding in question was in the budget provided to the Stark County Board.
Zerla contends that all funding from the health department should flow through the county board budget process and not directly to any county official’s office.
“We need to improve communications with the health department,” Zerla told the board.
Courthouse repairs, budget, open seat, health insurance discussed
In his role as manager of county buildings and grounds, Sheriff Steve Sloan reported there is a hole in the roof of the 1856 courthouse plus rotting windows and wood above the second floor. He will get estimates on the cost of repairs.
Magnussen and Zerla noted that the sheriff’s office is $20,000 over budget in his personnel line during the first quarter, (the fiscal year begins in December).
“We’ve had a lot of overtime,” Sloan noted, who added that he hopes to start a new part-time deputy soon. This should reduce overtime, he added.
Board member Al Curry asked Magnussen about the status of appointing a new member to fill an open seat on the eight-member board. The seat has been open since the November election, when no one ran for a seat in the district that covers the east side of the county.
Curry stated that he heard two persons had expressed interest in being considered for appointment.
Magnussen said those two persons have not responded to her request to meet nor to the encouragement to become more involved, for example, by observing board meetings.
“I can’t appoint someone I don’t know,” said Magnussen. She added that she hoped to fill the open seat but that, “It has to be the right person.”
Curry also reported from a meeting with county employees that Stark County resident Judge Thomas Keith had ordered the circuit clerk’s office to be closed Good Friday. Because of this, Curry said, other county employees also want the day off.
“At my job, I have six vacation days,” observed Magnussen, “while county employees already have 12, not including Good Friday.
“Is the judge willing to pay the county for the costs of giving all employees the day off?” she asked.
Magnussen also asked if the board should revisit the topic of providing health insurance for county employees, who have not had health coverage for several years.
“First, we need to know how many employees are interested in or need coverage,” responded board member Tom Howes. He observed that a number of county workers have coverage through their spouses.
Zerla suggested that maybe some kind of flexible offerings, tailored to the needs of individual employees could be considered, but only after the county budget is stabilized.