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Supervisors reluctantly approve public health stipend

Ottumwa Courier - 4/30/2024

Apr. 30—OTTUMWA — One sentence in a stipend request by the Wapello CountyBoard of Health didn't sit well with supervisor Brian Morgan.

"The line, 'The health board budget has not been overspent since FY 2019,'" he said. "I would love to vote against this. By law and court rulings, I can't."

Indeed, Morgan and supervisors Bryan Ziegler and Darren Batterson reluctantly approved a $5,000 stipend for public health clinical director Lynelle Diers this fiscal year during Tuesday's meeting at the courthouse.

"We are not in a business of use it or lose it," Morgan said of county department budgets. "We're in a business of, if you don't use it, it goes back into the budget and helps for next year. It keeps people employed and helps us keep services to citizens of Wapello County.

"So I'm just getting tired of hearing some department heads saying, 'Well, we're going to have extra money in the budget. Can we do this?' No. It's not budgeted," Morgan said. "We're broke, folks. I don't know how else to say it. Because of House File 718 and the raises we've given the last few years, all that affects everything."

Morgan noted how the county has "tried to do right by the employees" when it comes to pay increases. He has acknowledged the county still has a way to go in that area, but that department heads are trustees of their budgets.

"I've tried saying it nice, but it's not your money," he said. "If you're a department head, it's not your money. It's taxpayer money, and your goal is not to overspend. Your goal is to have extra to go back into the budget for the following year."

According to the request, the stipend was for "the director's extra time spent on applying for grants and the required reports to Iowa Health and Human Services during this fiscal year."

Supervisor Bryan Ziegler acknowledged Diers' ability to get grants, but also didn't disagree with Morgan's statement.

"I did attend the meeting that this was discussed, and you're right about what you said. I think it's appropriate," Ziegler said. "They do a really good job of bring additional money into the county from grants, but that doesn't take away from what you said."

Morgan said many department heads are responsible with their budgets and have been asked to do more with less.

"I think we have a lot of department heads and a lot of people in the county that have looked at every way possible to increase revenue and make things better and make sure they're able to provide the services for citizens on a daily basis," he said.

"But, the only thing we have control over is how much money the county contributes to the health board yearly. And if I'm in this seat next year, that's definitely something that I'll look at."

In other business:

— The supervisors approved the resignation agreement with county engineer Jeff Skalberg, who can stay with the county until June 30. He will be paid three months of regular salary reduced by taxes as part of a severance package.

— The supervisors approved a conflict waiver with the City of Ottumwa regarding the Ottumwa/Wapello Landfill, which is run by the solid waste commission that's made up of both supervisors and city council members. The waiver allows Ahlers & Cooney, who represent the county and city, to potentially revise the current 28E agreement for the landfill.

"They've had a 28E in place since I believe 1974 when the landfill started, and it's never been looked over or adjusted, and this just give them a chance to see if some things can be changed," Morgan said. "There's been some issues with tie votes, which become 'no' votes. Solid waste is not funded by tax dollars. It's run as a business through tipping fees and other things."

Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

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