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County health plan may qualify under Affordable Care Act

MORRIS -- Members of the Stevens County Board of Commissioners expressed excitement when they found out at their meeting Tuesday that the county's current health care plan may be sufficient under the Affordable Care Act.

However, if county employees still chose to purchase different insurance through a state-wide health insurance exchange, the county could be penalized, said Human Resources Director Janet Raguse.

In February, Raguse told the board that the county could face an annual penalty of $170,000 or more if the county's current practice of providing employees with $750 per month to buy their own health insurance did not qualify as a health insurance plan under the national health care legislation.

After consulting with an attorney familiar with these issues, Raguse told the board that it appears the current plan qualifies. A county committee will begin meeting next week to discuss future insurance options.

Board authorizes wheel loader purchase, highway department hires

The board authorized County Engineer Brian Giese to move forward with the purchase of a wheel loader, a capital expense that has been on the Highway Department schedule for several years.

As of Tuesday's meeting, Giese had not picked out which loader he wanted to purchase or a final price, so the board authorized him to make the purchase provided it doesn't exceed the budgeted price of $225,000.

The board also authorized Giese to hire two seasonal workers to help with construction project inspection, roadside mowing, yard maintenance and culvert repairs.

Giese told the board he wants to hire one more person than in the past so there is more help monitoring the summer construction project on CSAH 13.

“That project will take three people for the duration, so if we get one seasonal worker it will be at that project during construction,” said Giese.

Giese told the board he also hopes to hire an intern from Morris Area High School through a competitive workforce grant.

Other business

• The board authorized IT Director Scott Busche to purchase a wide-format scanner and printer for about $7,900 using funds from the Shared Technology Fund in the County Recorder's Office.

The new scanner will be used to scan and digitize many of the county's old ditch records and other large maps, as well as print physical copies of new GIS data layers in a large format for meetings, Busche said.

• County Engineer Brian Giese reported that the the county has spent approximately $145,000 for snow and ice removal on the county highway system, and an additional $60,000 for snow removal in townships and small cities.

Although the department doesn't specifically budget for snow and ice control – the cost is included in estimates for fuel and repairs – Giese said this figure is about on track for an average year of snowfall.

• Stevens County Emergency Management will be holding a full-scale emergency response exercise on Saturday, June 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exercise will be for all emergency responders in the county and take place in Donnelly and the Emergency Operations Center at the Stevens County Courthouse.

• The board approved a proposal for bids for a $125,000 summer gravel crushing project. The project will include aggregate crushing in the county's Fischer Pit and recycled aggregate base and bituminous crushing at the highway department.