Saline County Commissioners unanimously agreed to create a new county department for the Saline County Commission on Aging. According to Chairman Monte Shadwick, the COA’s Board of Directors will remain intact and can focus on providing services to their members.
Commissioner Jim Weese, who attends the monthly COA meetings, said that in recent months, County Administrator Rita Deister, Human Resources Director Marilyn Leamer, and County Counselor Mike Montoya had also met with the COA Board. Weese said they discovered “repetitive practices” in the areas of finance, payroll, information technology, human resources, legal and audits.
When asked whether county staff are ready to tackle this change, Deister said, “We can do it”. She noted that when the County assumed sole responsibility for operating what had been the Salina-Saline County Health Department in 2013, it had been “a bigger department” to absorb.
Last week, Deister shared communications with commissioners outlining at least 16 steps to be taken as part of any transition. There is hope that the process can be completed in 90 days, which would coincide with the start of the 2018 budget.
The transition document referenced a need to determine the amount of any debts and/or unpaid bills. At today’s meeting, Deister declined to elaborate on the amount of money involved, saying county staff are still in the process of determining the COA’s current finances.
The County Commission approved a 2018 budget appropriation of $328,480 for the Commission on Aging. This is the same amount appropriated in 2017. COA Executive Director Leslie Eikleberry had asked for a larger county contribution for 2018, but this was not approved.
Eikleberry appeared by herself; last week, the Commission received a letter signed by Eikleberry saying that the COA’s Board had met on September 20th, and in a 10-0 decision agreed to petition the Commission to have the COA become a county department. Eikleberry said she had only received one comment from a senior citizen about the proposed change.
Commissioner Robert Vidricksen sees the move as a “win-win” situation that won’t disrupt vital services, like Meals on Wheels.
Commissioner Mike White thanked Weese for broaching the topic. Weese, in turn, thanked Deister, Leamer and the staff who worked on the issue.
Deister and Leamer will meet with COA staff this afternoon to answer questions they have, as they will need to complete applications to work for the County.
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