County Commission frustrated with Social Service redesign

The first item on the agenda for the June 18 meeting of the Cavalier County Commission posed the greatest headache of the day. The commission members, along with Cavalier County Auditor Lisa Gellner, Cavalier County Social Services Director Jill Denault, and Cavalier County States Attorney Scott Stewart, discussed what had been learned at the recent social services redesign meeting held in Bismarck. The consensus was not much.

Posted 6/20/19

By Melissa Anderson

“It was portrayed that everything would be taken care of – everything is not taken care of,” Commission Chair Dave Zeis said.

Much of the frustration stemmed from the fact that there were still many questions and little to no answers coming from the state and the North Dakota Association of Counties. In addition to this is the state’s promise of funding with little to nothing backing up the statements.

The largest concern for the Commission was the state and other counties in the zone, Pembina and Walsh, pushing for Cavalier County to be the host county for the zone. Of the three, Cavalier County is at the best advantage monetarily and also provides the closest benefits and pay to the state. The Commission is resistant to this as this will cause an additional workload to the Cavalier County auditor’s office and create additional expenses that will be footed by taxpayers of Cavalier County.

The timeline for completing the implementation is also causing havoc as the counties need to reach agreement by December 2019, the zonal funding will be released in January of 2020, and the zonal director position does not need to be filled until March of 2020, raising questions on how the zone will use the funding with no director to create a plan.

“This is just a mess,” Stewart said.

The Commission, along with Denault and Gellner, will be seeking a meeting with representatives. The suggestion was also made to include the District 10 legislative delegation in the meeting.

In Other Business

• Veterans Service Officer Leon Hiltner updated the Commission stating that he will no longer be needing an assistant at this time. The commissioners postponed hiring until March 2020.

• NDSU Extension Agent Anitha Chirumamilla met with the Commission to continue discussion on filling the vacant position within her office. After extensive discussion, a possible solution was found in sharing Chirumamilla with another county as the ag agent and having the other agent, who focuses on family and community wellness, split time here. The 4-H program would need an administrative assistant, which Chirumamilla suggested be taken on by current Extension assistant Jane Hayen. The idea will be pursued and reviewed at a later meeting.

•The North Central Planning Commission requested that the Commission acknowledge the conflict of interest with Commissioner Austin Lafrenz for a project they are funding at the Cavalier County Senior Center.  They also requested an extension for the grant. The conflict  was acknowledged with roll call votes be taken for the two actions with Lafrenz abstaining from both.

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