January 25, 2021

Future location, budget concerns discussed with board with health

Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma joined the Jasper County Board of Health meeting Thursday to give an update on the department’s future home and future budget concerns.

The health department is one of many county entities set to move from its currently, temporary location, after previously being located in the basement of the Jasper County Annex Building.

In October, the supervisors approved the purchase of the former NewCare building, 315 W. Third St. N., to be used to house staff from the Annex Building and the health department. While progress has been made to ready the building for occupancy, it has hit a snag.

“With the new building, it has obviously been kind of stalled out a little bit because of everything going on,” Talsma said. “We were looking at, instead of doing it in two phases, we were going to try to pass a bond issue and get it all done in one swoop. Because of some legislation that has been passed in the last couple of years, we can no longer do that in a general election, we cannot attach those on a general election.”

Originally, the board hoped to have a special election in June, then it was pushed to September and now the supervisors anticipate having the election in March, at the earliest. Funds in the amount of $700,000 to $750,000 were budgeted to get the project started and blue prints with options for the design are set to be ready at the start of July.

“Adam (Sparks) and his crew are going ahead and going over there and gutting certain parts of the building we know are going to be getting gutted. Come July 1, we will be starting with finalizing the blue prints, the final floor plan and everything else and moving ahead with that phase of it,” Talsma said. “We are still optimistic we can have that new building ready and everybody in it toward the end of 2020, the beginning of 2021.”

Talsma also discussed upcoming budgeting measures the supervisors are looking to implement for the coming 2021-2020 fiscal year.

“There were relatively minor cuts this year but going forward into next year, all of the department heads, even before we started the conversation before we started the budget review process this year, most of the department heads new we were going to be looking for cuts and some took good initiative upon themselves and most of them made cuts were they thought they could,” Talsma said.

Road conditions, infrastructure and fully staffing the sheriff’s department were cited as the reasons to reallocate funds in the budget. The areas the board is narrowing in on for cuts were also shared by Talsma.

“One of the main two areas we are looking at is certain areas of elderly nutrition and possibly the home care program. We’re just mainly looking at areas we might consider might be a little bit of fluff going forward,” Talsma said. “We’re not looking at huge, drastic cuts but we are urging all departments to go ahead and start looking, planning for this coming January when the budget reviews for fiscal year 2021-2022 hit.”

Economic ramifications of the pandemic on the county budget were also discussed. Due to budget reserves sitting much lower than what Talsma is comfortable with, the board is looking to build back up the funds in case the situation take a turn for the worse.

“If our reserves were sitting in a spot where we have 35, 40, 45 percent reserves, I really wouldn’t be too worried at it,” Talsma said. “Because our reserves are down to about 19 percent, we are looking to save as much money as we can over the next 18 years to two years to role over into reserves so if that economic downtown does come and it is as bad as a lot of us are fearing it will be, we have enough money in our reserves to dip into and maintain our serves to the public without having to pass the financial burden on.”

Board of health chair Margot Voshell thanked Talsma for addressing the board, especially in the early stages of budgeting plans.

“I appreciate you joining us and giving us time to take a look at everything, look at budgets, look at where we can look at programs or services,” Voshell said.

Along with the county business, he wanted recognize the work the health department has done during the current pandemic.

“I want to thank Becky and all of her staff for all of the work they have been doing the last couple of months with the coronavirus and everything else,” Talsma said.

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com