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County public health assistant has an expiration date

Supervisors make position temporarily full-time and will review after 90 days

Dennis Simon, director of human resources at Jasper County, speaks to the board of supervisors during a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22, at the Jasper County Courthouse.
Dennis Simon, director of human resources at Jasper County, speaks to the board of supervisors during a meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22, at the Jasper County Courthouse.

The creation of a permanent, full-time public health assistant position — which was requested by the Jasper County Board of Health after it officially cut the Home Care Program, in an effort to reduce budget spending — is now only temporary and has the potential to be eliminated entirely after 90 days.

But that could change.

Last week, the board of health held a special meeting to review four different scenarios in the wake of public outcry surrounding the elimination of the Home Care Program. Board members decided on a proposal that would still eliminate the home care direct service and, instead, contract with outside agencies.

By going with this scenario, the board of health would set aside $50,000 to reimburse agencies provide home care services. Margot Voshell, chair of the board of health, said Home Care aides provided homemaker services, “such as light housekeeping, laundry, some essential shopping and a few baths.”

According to documents included in the Jasper County Board of Health packet from the Sept. 17 meeting, about $29,000 will be set aside for the 32-hour assistant position. Coupled with $5,000 for office expenses and the funds for reimbursement, this proposal by the board of health will cost about $84,000.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the Jasper County Board of Supervisors agreed to approve an amended resolution, which also granted the governing body authority to cut the new position if board of health takes no action or does not report back to the supervisors after the allotted time.

Dennis Simon, director of human resources for Jasper County, said the public health assistant will be an hourly position. Upon confirmation from unions, the position will be on the same pay scale as the former Home Care aide wages. The board of health, too, put a 90-day provision to reevaluate the position.

“Whether it needs to be full-time or it can be reduced to part-time position,” Simon said, noting the assistant would act as secretary to the board of health, and help with billing and office duties. “But this position we want to start it out as a full-time and evaluate the need and in 90 days take a look at it again.”

Theoretically, the public health assistant could be hired in as a permanent full-time employee after those 90 days, but Jasper County Board of Supervisors Chair Brandon Talsma wants to know for sure there is a justifiable workload for a full-time position of this sort. He also asked if it could start as a part-time gig.

“Can we start it off as a part-time and then reevaluate in 90 days and potentially make it a full-time?” Talsma said.

Simon said if the resolution is not approved in the way the board of health members intended, he’s going to have to go back to them. The board of health may then need to readjust and put the part-time request to a vote. Simon, too, is already working on severance packages and layoff notices.

“The way they approved it, I think we need to look at it as full-time and trust that they are being fiscally responsible. And in 90 days we’ll revisit it, and (if) we don’t need it, then they will do their due diligence and reduce it to part-time as well,” Simon said.

However, Talsma changed his mind and instead requested the resolution brought before the supervisors be amended to include a 90-day provision; at the end of which the supervisors can re-address it and change it to a part-time position. Simon added the position could also change to a temporary one.

Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott argued the best idea would be to hire someone part-time, knowing they may be moved to a full-time position. Denny Carpenter, vice-chair of the county board of supervisors, suggested it would not make sense to hire someone on full-time when it could transition part-time.

“To me, it’s simpler if you just start off as part-time, and if you need to you move ‘em to full-time,” Carpenter said. “I wouldn’t want to start a job assuming it was going to be full-time and then … (be moved to) part-time. I don’t think that’s right.”

Carpenter would later abstain from the vote.

Jasper County Attorney Scott Nicholson said if supervisors want the position to be part-time, Simon is going to have to return to the board of health and make his report. Nicholson also said it gets “tricky” starting a position at full-time, suggesting the county could “lose the person” if later transitioned to part-time.

Supervisors decided a temporary position was better suited. Simon said if the board of health feels it won’t need a permanent, full-time position, the members will be the first to recommend it be part-time instead. The director of human resources also agreed with the 90-day timeframe.

Despite Carpenter abstaining, the 2-0 vote was enough to pass the amended resolution.

Past coverage by Newton Daily News Weeklies Editor Jamee A. Pierson contributed to this report.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or

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