Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed 

Future of family school support worker program unsettled


"The Carlton County Board of Commissioners has budgeted a increase of their share for the needed Family School Support Worker Program in the Carlton County school systems from 5.5 positions to 7 positions," explained Commissioner Dick Brenner after a recent county board meeting. "This is a serious situation. We need to fund these services which we now cover in part by the Carlton County General Fund. This program makes a difference for many at risk children in our schools."

Brenner added, "Moose Lake and Cromwell have asked for services through this program which they do not have at this time. Some services will be available to each one of the county school systems. There is a danger of losing a lot of these services if an agreement is not reached with the school districts."

"Part of the cost for this program comes from Special Education funding," added Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Health and Human Services. "Area school superintendents do not want to spend additional funds for this service saying that it looks like the state Legislature is only going to give a small increase for Special Education."

He continued, "To answer their concerns, we said we would ask for $3,616 in additional school monies for .5 time service. For example, Barnum has a half-time FSS worker. These people fill mandated services for our school population in such areas as crisis intervention, Children's Mental Health case management, assistance to get access to Amberwing, day treatment, or possible hospitalization, and planning a transition to adult mental health initiatives."

Contacted by phone, Superintendent Dave Bottem of the Barnum Schools responded, "I feel as school district administrators we were not given a heads up months ago about increasing costs and thus would have time to meet and hammer out each school district's share. In Barnum we have funded a half time position for many years. Money is an issue. I don't want to keep increasing the district's cost for that position without seriously looking at hiring a half-time person to do the same service for our children. This way we have more local control."

"The county can only do so much," commented Commissioner Brenner. "Director Dave Lee will come to speak to the local concerned school boards. We just want the people to know and be informed."

In other county business, County Coordinator Dennis Genereau asked the Carlton County Board for a budgeted line item in his department's cost of operation for hiring an investigator or get legal advice on a county issue. The county attorney is first contacted, he explained, but doesn't always have the expertise in certain areas.

"Some issues come up and because of confidentiality of a sensitive case," Genereau explained, "I am unable to openly discuss them with anyone­—even the board. This would provide approved funding to get the needed information."

"How often does this occur?" asked Commissioner Brenner.

"Once or twice a year," Genereau answered.

"I would like to hear about them up front," countered Brenner. "Any outside attorney or investigator costs us money and we need to know and approve." Commissioner Gary Peterson backed Brenner's position.

County Auditor Paul Gassert suggested, "A compromise would be that the county coordinator can go to the board chairman for approval on something that can't wait for a board meeting."

No special line item funding was approved and Genereau said he would notify each commissioner by email of an urgent instance that comes up before a County Board meeting.

Land Commissioner Greg Bernu asked for a $25 increase to $300 for hunting cabin leases on County administered land holdings. Historically, the increase has occurred every three years. The motion passed with Commissioner Tom Proulx voting no. After the meeting he explained that he had been in on a St. Louis County hunting cabin lease on the Whiteface watershed and the fees had climbed so high that his hunting group was forced to not renew their lease.

Auditor/Treasurer Paul Gassert was given a 30-year recognition award, presented by the commissioners. Gassert had first served as an assistant in the Auditor's office during the tenure of Auditor Al Naslund.

Gassert thanked them for the commendation but added the comment as he returned to his seat, "Sometimes you guys just don't listen."


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