A split Saline County Commission wants the Salina-Saline County Health Department to become a county agency.
In executive session County Commissioners conferred with County Counselor Mike Montoya early Tuesday afternoon. Afterwards, they again discussed the issue, and a possible counter-proposal to the city.
Commissioners accepted several things that the city offered including the city paying $500,000 to fix the roof of the current building. They also agreed to allow $500,000 of health department reserve funds to be used to remodel the building.
In the counter-proposal the health department will become a county department, with the city helping to fund it. Employees would fall under the county umbrella. Commissioners envision it working much like the agreement that funds Emergency Medical Services in Salina. EMS is jointly funded, but is solely a city department.
County Commissioners Randy Duncan and Jim Gile voted in favor of the counter-proposal. Commissioner John Price voted against it.
City Commissioner Jon Blanchard was at the meeting, and had words with Duncan afterwards. Blanchard was perplexed about the insistence that the health department become a county agency. He challenged Duncan to explain how the county can better operate the agency than it could be jointly run. Duncan said that he believes the county does business better than the city.
Blanchard then sat and spoke at length with Commissioner Jim Gile. He told Gile that he is disappointed in him as well, saying that he had a chance to make a difference.
The events Tuesday come after an emotional special Salina City Commission meeting Monday evening where the city had drafted a new proposal to send to the county. Highlights of the proposal include:
1. $500,000 city funding for the building
2. $500,000 in health department reserve funds to be used for renovation only
3. The concept of an interlocal agreement be agreed upon and details then worked out
The proposal was contingent upon the health department staying intact.
Prior to the Tuesday afternoon meeting, county commissioners began the morning discussed the issue at an early study session, and later heard multiple people speak about it at their formal meeting. At each meeting numerous people urged the county to accept Monday evening’s proposal from the city, and to enter into a new joint agreement.
If the health department does become a county department as proposed, employee insurance for the agency staff will greatly increase. The agency currently is under the city plan. The cost of health insurance for the county plan would cost over $139,000 more a year for the employer. It would also cost employees more than double what they currently pay, or a little over $3,400 more a year.
There are also concerns about program cuts. In other counties in the state, where joint city-county health departments have split, over time programs have been lost.