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County to merge public health, social service departments

St. Louis County is moving ahead with plans to merge the departments of public health and social services. Faced with job openings for both the social services director and the director of public health, county administrator David Twa proposed hi...

St. Louis County is moving ahead with plans to merge the departments of public health and social services.
Faced with job openings for both the social services director and the director of public health, county administrator David Twa proposed hiring one person to run both departments. The new position will be director of health and social services.
Early this year, Carol Thibault retired as director of public health. Social services is currently headed by interim director Ann Busche, normally an assistant county administrator.
"My ultimate goal is to create an organization that eliminates duplication, avoids fragmented responsibility, increases coordination of services and emphasizes the delivery of services to the population of St. Louis County," Twa said in a letter to the county board. "One director overseeing both departments could also improve coordination between health services, planning and zoning and solid waste."
He said the change was an opportunity to look at the structure and develop a system that will deliver services in a more efficient manner.
The proposed salary range for the director of the combined departments is $81,468 to $104,028.
Twa said once that position is filled, he will have that person work with the administration and the board on proposals for a single health and social service department.
His proposal was debated at Tuesday's Committee of the Whole meeting, with several commissioners voicing reservations.
"I believe whoever comes in to do the job will last through the transition and be gone," Commissioner Peg Sweeney said. She proposed hiring a consultant to come up with a plan for the process getting more input from staff.
Commissioner Paul Plesha said he was concerned about pushing the work of two directors onto one person. Commissioner Dennis Fink questioned how that person would have time to plan the merger and manage the departments as well.
Twa said a number of counties in the state have combined the two departments. He said the plan would not have a negative impact on the smaller health department and a senior manager would be over each side.
He does not think there will be any immediate impact on employment, though there could be some changes in the long term. "With openings in both departments this is an ideal time to do this," Twa said.
By a 4-3 vote, commissioners approved the new director of health and social services position and elimination of the separate directors. Commissioners Mike Forsman, Steve Raukar, Joanne Fay and Bill Kron voted "yes," while Sweeney, Fink and Plesha cast the "no" votes.
Commissioners also heard a request from the South St. Louis County Fairgrounds board for help with renovating the race track. The track bleachers have been condemned. With the race season only several months away, the track is seeking county help to pay for rental bleachers and funding for long-term improvements.
Board president Pete Benson said rebuilding the track will cost an estimated $370,000.
The administration will report back with financing options at the next commission meeting.
Commissioners also heard from several speakers asking the board to reconsider closing Nopeming nursing home.

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