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Paynesville Press - November 26, 2003

Stearns County Commissioners propose fee changes for human services

By Michael Jacobson

The Stearns County Board of Commissioners took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

*The board set a public hearing for Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 10:30 a.m. for anyone wishing to give comment on the proposed fee changes for human services.

Included in the proposal for 2004 are new licensing fees for home-based daycares. The plan calls for a $25 per person fee (with the maximum being $100) for background studies and a $150 fee for licensing. Although state law allows counties to charge daycares up to $250 per year, Stearns County will only charge for licensing every two years. All fees for the initial one-year license will be waived; the public expressed concern over start-up costs at an earlier public hearing.

Licensing and background investigations require quite a bit of work. Background studies must be done on anyone in the household older than 13 and require the county to search the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension database and also the juvenile court records and human services data that would substantiate cases of child endangerment. All records must be checked wherever people have lived within the past five years, which can sometimes result in a search of other counties and possibly even other states.

Licensing requires a home inspection, an orientation class, and a review of fire inspections and actual licensing paperwork.

In 2003, the Legislature passed a law allowing counties to charge fees to cover some of the costs of licensing a home childcare provider.

Some other items facing fee changes for 2004 are supervised children visits, detox services, custody studies, immunizations, senior health clinics, drug testing for criminal offenders, and supervision fees for offenders.

*The board was informed that the county's Public Health Division, in conjunction with the Emergency Management Department, are planning to hold a SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) disaster exercise. The exercise will last seven days, beginning on Friday, Dec. 12, and lasting until Thursday, Dec. 18, simulating a real public health disaster. The goal of the exercise is to test communication between public health, area hospitals, and the Minnesota Department of Health during a disaster; develop isolation and quarantine protocols and procedures; clarify the role of Emergency Operations Center in a public health disaster; and establish a plan for releasing information to the media and public.

*The county board accepted a DNR grant for $113,000 to help cover the cost of constructing the Lake Wobegon Trail from Holdingford to the Stearns/Morrison county line. Federal funds will pay an additional 80 percent of the $468,000 cost. That leaves the county with a $43,000 balance. This phase of the trail is planned for construction in 2005.

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