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Stevens, Traverse, Grant counties seek agreement to combine with Douglas, Pope

Since September of last year, the Stevens Traverse Grant (STG) Public Health department has contracted with Douglas County for interim public health director services.

That contract will likely continue in a more permanent way.

At Tuesday's Douglas County Board meeting, commissioners from those three counties presented a request to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners to establish a shared public health administrative team.

The three commissioners, who are all on the STG Joint Powers Board, include Todd Schneeberger, Grant County; Paul Watzke, Stevens County; and David Naatz, Traverse County.

Also present was Douglas County Public Health Director Sandy Tubbs, who has filled in as the STG interim director for the past seven months.

In August 2008, the STG Public Health director resigned and shortly thereafter, Tubbs was assigned as the interim director.

Tubbs explained in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that efforts to recruit and hire a permanent Public Health director for STG were unsuccessful. During the first search, there were no qualified candidates and so another effort was made. At that point, two applicants were interviewed, one was offered the position, but later turned it down.

At Tuesday's meeting, the STG Joint Powers Board made a request to Douglas County to consider a shared administrative team that would lead the Public Health Departments of both STG and Douglas counties, along with the possibility of Pope County.

The STG Joint Powers Board make a similar proposal to the Pope County commissioners at their meeting next week.

For the past several months, Tubbs said that although she was the interim director for STG, her main focus and priority has been Douglas County.

"It has been pretty part-time at STG Public Health," Tubbs said, adding that, "I can't be a full-time director in two places."

The shared administrative team proposal assumes that, in addition to the current director position, additional administration assistance would be required and would be shared between the two separate public health departments.

In information provided to the Douglas County commissioners, the STG board, in the long term, remains open to continuing discussions with Douglas and/or Pope counties regarding the feasibility and desirability of creating a multi-county public health structure.

However, Tubbs stressed that it would take a lot of planning and discussions before that would happen. There would need to be input from all entities involved and a lot of research to make it work.

At Tuesday's meeting, the Douglas County commissioners approved and authorized three people to form a subcommittee for further discussions with the STG Joint Powers Board about the shared administrative team. The three people include Tubbs, Commissioner Dan Olson and County Coordinator Bill Schalow.

Until a decision has been made, Tubbs will continue to act as the interim director for STG Public Health.