The Butler County WIC program’s funding issues were brought before the Butler County Commission Tuesday morning.
The program, which is federally funded, is being directly affected by the current government shut down and is projected to run out of funds by mid-October or early November.
“The program will be shut down by the state,” said Director of the Butler County Health Department Janice Powers. “We currently have $130,000 in our budget for this year and that funds seven employees’ salaries with the program. Because of the shut down, the money to sustain their salaries will not be available. The program is going to run out of money. We have to make some very hard decisions.”
“We really have two options,” commented County Administrator Will Johnson. “We can either utilize our reserves to keep the employees at work or furlough the employees that are tied to the WIC program. This is really the only thing that is drastically affecting us with the government shutdown, but we will be facing a decision.”
The commission then began to discuss which employees could move to another department if the shut down continues.
“What are we going to do with these employees?” asked Commissioner Peggy Palmer. “It’s not their fault, but they sometimes get caught up in these things.”
Currently employed in the office are a part-time dietician, three nurses, a program coordinator, a front-desk clerk, and a breast-feeding peer counselor. Some could move into another department, but once the money runs out, there will be no vouchers to distribute.
The dismantling of the program would not only effect the employees, but also the Butler County residents that partake in the program.
“This will directly affect 900 citizens in the county,” explained Powers. “These are people that use these vouchers to supplement the nutritional needs for their children.”
“In the past, we’ve talked about taking these programs,” commented Palmer. “But the program is federally funded and we took that funding because we felt the program was needed. These residents might have to go to the families and ask for help.”
“We will try to help refer the participants to some other services like the Salvation Army, the food pantry and others, but I’m sure they will be overwhelmed,” said Powers. “This is not a good place to be for our residents or our employees.”
Following a request to gather information on the options of the county, the issue was tabled until the next commission meeting.
Next on the agenda was an item that has caused some controversy over the last several months – the policy of the right of way in rural agricultural areas.
Page 2 of 3 - Earlier in the year, the commission approved a mortgage lot split for Dan and Nancy Bacon. Following the approval of their mortgage lot split, the couple’s plans to build a home were then halted because of an issue with the right-of-way easement on their property. The proposal to change the policy to abolish the need of a right-of-way easement on rural property was brought before the commission,
“If we’re not adding density we can take a fairly good case to not take easements,” commented Commissioner Dan Woydziak. “If we’re only doing a mortgage lot split for the purpose of building a home.”
“These are out there in an agricultural area,” commented Commissioner Ed Myers. “We consciously make decisions that we won’t be putting in bigger roads and occasionally it happens. I am sympathetic to the point of view that we are trying to cover ourselves both ways.”
“If we’re increasing density though, that is going to increase the need for more roads,” added Woydziak. “If we are increasing that density, then it would incur more costs for us, but in this instance, we’re not adding people. If you’re going to do a lot split so that you can finance your home and you’re not adding any density to the area, then why are we going to need a dedication?”
“A lot of these right of ways were created back in 1880s when we had horses,” said Public Works Director Darryl Lutz. “If you have just a few vehicles on it it is not a problem, but every house creates 10 trips per day on average. We now use that road differently than when it was opened. That right of way is still 40 feet, but what we need now is much wider than that. Keep in mind from a development standpoint, people are putting a bigger burden on the government with these requirements. Maybe the trade off could be giving those right of ways needed for those improvements to the roads.”
“I think the core issue is easements here,” commented Palmer. “An easement is due compensation. It is not a trade-off and you can’t hold that area hostage. Just compensation needs to be given. You can’t not let them build because they’re not willing to give that land to you. That’s my take on it. This isn’t a subdivision, it’s rural property. We are not going to build a road there.”
“We have to keep in mind that this has to be fair and equitable for the whole county,” commented Commissioner Jeff Masterson. “I want to make sure we’re not just looking at the Bacon situation.”
Page 3 of 3 - The commission then requested the Planning and Zoning director to take the issue to the Planning Commission and bring back a recommendation to be further discussed at a later date.
The commission also:
• swore in Ruth Fechter as Butler County treasurer
• approved the contract agreement for the 2009 Tax Foreclosure Sale with Kelly Law Office, LLP.
• completed a quarterly work session on investment of idle funds.
• approved the purchase of a tower top amplifier system.
• approved the agreement for the provision of inmate/detainee health services between Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Inc. and Butler County.
• approved the health insurance portability and accountability business associate agreement with Advanced Correctional Healthcare and Butler County.
• received and opened bids for the purchase of corrugated metal pipe culverts for the Highway Division of the Public Works Department.
• heart a report from County Clerk Don Engels in regards to the number of registered voters in Butler County who have failed to submit their documentation to prove their citizenship. A total of 321 citizens in the county are currently in limbo as far as their voting registration and they have been notified.