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  • Charlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission discusses ways to spend health department funds

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

MOUND CITY – On Monday, Nov. 28, Linn County Health Department Administrator Missy Lancaster met with the county commissioners and the newly elected District No. 1 Commissioner, Jason Hightower, to brainstorm about ways to utilize COVID grant money to meet the needs of Linn County residents.


Lancaster explained to the commissioners that she had two COVID grants that needed to be spent, one by the beginning of next July. The remaining money from the one grant was $87,000 and the other was $132,560 for a total of $219,560.


The health department has already contracted and started a project to build an awning for cars to drive under so that patients and staff do not get wet when doing testing or vaccinations. The cost of this project is $55,000, leaving $164,560 uncommitted.


Lancaster gave the commissioners a list of things that the money could be spent on. She showed them a proposal for a $35,000 digital sign for the health department.


Other items that she suggested were, some salaries, testing supplies, diabetes educator training, other items that relate to COVID, a safe room, and equipment.


Three weeks ago, Lancaster brought in a proposal to remodel an area in the back of the health department to include a 10-by-25-foot safe room and 25-by-25-foot meeting area. The safe room would be constructed as a tornado shelter and an area where staff could go if there was an active shooter in the building. Computers also could be kept there.


Commissioner Rick James asked Lancaster where the ideas for expenditures on the list came from. She said that grant managers had recommended some of the ideas. In a later telephone conversation, she said that the grant managers were provided by the organizations that funded the grant to help with compliance and reporting.


Lancaster said that even though the grant money was targeted toward COVID, she thought it should be used toward something that was a lasting benefit, like the awning, safe room and meeting area.

She told the commissioners that the meeting room would be used for exercise classes, educational classes for diabetes and other health issues. Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) could also use the meeting room.


Commission Chair Jim Johnson asked how many people would come to Pleasanton from the other surrounding areas.


“If you went to the people, I don’t think the older population of Linn County is going to drive to Pleasanton for trainings,” said Johnson, “Personally, I don’t think they will drive 30 miles.”


Lancaster said that she did not think that offsite programs could be justified under the COVID grant. In the later telephone interview, Lancaster said she had run it by the grant managers and the money from these grants could not be used offsite.


Johnson encouraged Lancaster to run these ideas past the health department advisory board.


According to Lancaster, the health department board has not had good attendance except at the beginning, so they had decided to go quarterly and will meet in January.

James suggested that she send this information to them in December so they could be thinking about things the money could be used for.


County Clerk David Lamb suggested that if Lancaster could take things like this to the board members and get their opinion, they feel more involved in the decisions.


Johnson asked Hightower if he had an idea how to get people interested in attending meetings.


“I think continuing to try to find the people who are going to participate,” Hightower said. “I don’t think that, you know, that everybody that says they are going to come on and serve a term is cut out for it It takes time in establishing it and to get the right people on there to have an effective board.


“I like the three unexcused absences that you guys put in there on the other boards. if they are not having contact if they are not participating, they need to be doing something else.”


James asked Lancaster to contact Janet Reynolds at the La Cygne Library to see if they could use any monetary help with their programs.


Lancaster gave her weekly report that was from the short week before Thanksgiving. She reported two WIC contacts, six COVID tests and five vaccinations.


She said that it had been a very busy morning for testing and that there was lots of RSV and Influenza A. She said she expected this coming week to be a very busy week.


She also wanted to remind people that flu shots are given daily but that the COVID vaccinations are only given on Wednesdays.

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