Weather Forecast


Commissioners outline goals for 2013

WANAMINGO -- The arrival of comprehensive universal health care coverage could open the door for Goodhue County Board to break off mental health services just as it did home health care a few years ago.

"I'm thinking we need to privatize the mental health services," Commissioner Ron Allen said in the opening moments of the board's 2013 annual workshop.

Commissioners spent the first two hours of their meeting examining five goals for 2013: mental health service, library funding, potentially breaking the assessor staff off from the auditor's office, consolidated recycling services with the city of Red Wing and making Highway 52 safer.

Ramsey County is taking advantage of the federal government's health care changes, Allen said. The county already successfully relieved property taxpayers of home health care costs, Allen said, and he advocated that Goodhue County Health & Human Services staff look at privatization options for mental health services.

"That is the trend," said Allen, who is a school psychologist. "I think if we go the private route, we will have more mental health providers coming into the county."

Chairman Dan Rechtzigel said the two things have changed since Goodhue County incorporated the services Zumbro Valley Mental Health provided 20 years ago. Until recently, some people had no insurance coverage; ObamaCare addresses that. And just a year or two ago, people who had insurance didn't have coverage for mental illness.

"If we can refer these people to the South Country Health Alliance, why not?" Rechtzigel said, referring to the care consortium of which Goodhue Count is a member.

The board also said working with the newly expanded Mayo Clinic Health System in Cannon Falls, Lake City and Red Wing must be part of the discussion.

@Sub heads:Libraries and highways

@Normal1: SELCO wants Goodhue County to increase the local tax levy and eventually cover 27 percent of library services.

Rechtzigel said giving SELCO $400,000 is one way, but equally important is getting the library cooperative to reduce its costs so that county funding becomes a bigger part of the pie without a huge tax increase.

Commissioners agreed they are not interested in signing a multiyear SELCO contract. Ted Seifert, who is the board's SELCO liaison, said he again will ask SELCO for budget specifics.

Highway 52 remains a focal point for board. Commissioners said County Road 9 is the region's most dangerous intersection, but the County Road 7 and 8 at-grade crossings need attention, too. The board will step up press on the Minnesota Department of Transportation as well as state and federal lawmakers.

"We're not asking for much: just safety," Commissioner Richard Samuelson said.

@Sub heads:Efficiencies

@Normal1: Also on Samuelson's list is splitting the Auditor/Assessor's Office. The two functions aren't really related, he said.

Commissioner Jim Bryant said he doesn't mind looking at changes but then wants to look at bringing any finance-related duties taking place in other departments -- such as in the sheriff's office -- under the assessor and gain perhaps gain efficiencies that way.

He, Seifert and Allen also hesitated over any suggestion that the change would result in another department head.

Administrator Scott Arneson said he will report back to the board.

Bryant then addressed having county and city recycling operations two miles apart.

"How can we get down to one?" he asked.

The two governments have tried and failed to agree on changes. Bryant advocated trying again.

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 

(651) 301-7870