Belshan questions room rental for event

Published 9:39 am Friday, October 22, 2010

Public Health Dept. says federal dollars paid for cost

Freeborn County District 2 Commissioner Dan Belshan requested Tuesday that Freeborn County Public Health pay a claim submitted to the county out of its own budget.

A bill in the amount of $331 was submitted by the county’s Public Health Department for a one-day nutrition training session on Sept. 29 for the Women, Infants and Children program.

The invoice was from Wedgewood Cove Golf Club for use of the facility, food and rental of equipment.

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“I have nothing against Wedgewood Cove; I think it’s a wonderful facility,” said Belshan.

His comments came at the regular Tuesday county board meeting.

According to Director of Freeborn County Public Health Lois Ahern, the funding for the workshop came from federal WIC dollars and was specifically designated for training. She said no county tax dollars were spent for the workshop, meaning the county would pay for it from these designated funds.

Belshan recommended not paying the claim and having Public Health pay for it out of its budget, deeming it, “a waste of money.”

“I respectfully request you consider payment, so we can reimburse our vendor,” Ahern said. “We will take a closer look at these things next time.”

He said that except for the food, everything needed for the event was available for use in the Freeborn Room at the Freeborn County Government Center, at no charge. He questioned why the event wasn’t held there instead. “We felt it was reasonable to look for a place to have discussions, in an environment conducive to learning,” Ahern, director of Freeborn County Public Health, said.

She said that the workshop had been planned for some time, and she anticipated that a larger number of people would attend the event, which would’ve been more than the Freeborn Room could accommodate.

Twenty-one people attended the event.

The Freeborn Room can seat about 24 people, if tables are not used.

Belshan said when sending RSVP requests, senders should receive an idea of how many people will attend an event. He said not knowing how many people are coming ahead of time is a “poor excuse.”

A breakdown of the costs included $221.61 for food, $69.47 for equipment rental and $39.89 for an 18 percent service charge and tax. Equipment rentals included $15 for one easel, $25 for a microphone and $25 for a flip chart.

For many events, rooms are reserved prior to RSVPs or registration requests being sent so the location can be noted on the form. This event was no different.

District 1 Commissioner Glen Mathiason said maybe the situation could’ve been handled differently, but pointed out that another alternative would have been to send participants and staff to a location in the Twin Cities, which would’ve resulted in even more expenses.

“I think we should pay it and hopefully change how we go forward with these things,” said District 4 Commissioner Christopher Shoff.

Belshan also questioned what happened to the registration fee of $20 per person charged to attend the event.

Ahern said the registration fee went toward additional costs of a speaker, handouts and additional materials at the event.

The board approved paying the claim on a 3-1 vote, with Mathiason, Shoff and District 3 Commissioner Jim Nelson in favor and Belshan opposed.