Should counties share human services?

Published 9:52 am Monday, June 4, 2012

Freeborn County commissioners could vote as early as Tuesday about whether the county will continue to be a part of a proposed regional human services redesign.

The commissioners are slated to discuss and potentially take action during the Freeborn County Human Services Board meeting, which takes place after the regular Board of Commissioners meeting.

Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever said commissioners could vote either to join or withdraw from the proposal — or to join with a series of recommendations.

Email newsletter signup

The county is one of 12 considering the collaboration. Counties have been asked to vote before the end of the month to decide whether to join.

The proposal has been in the works for more than two years and came about because of continuous cuts in state and federal funding. This 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 economy and the aging of the population. The proposal seeks to streamline services for residents, thanks in large part to increased technology.

Kluever said the current plan is proposed to help Freeborn County avoid $2.45 million in costs after the first five years, $5.48 million after the first 10 years and $8.4 million after the first 15 years.

After 15 years, all the counties combined would avoid $172 million in county money. Costs are estimated at $19 million in startup costs across the region to transition to the model.

Kluever said Freeborn County commissioners have shown some concern with the governance model for the plan, which calls for a weighted system of representation based on the number of people served. That means Olmsted County, for example, would have many more people on the regional board than Freeborn County because of Olmsted’s greater population.

“They’re concerned about the delivery of the services to the residents of Freeborn County,” Kluever said. “Is it going to cause a hardship for the residents to get the services they are entitled to and have access to?”

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