WASECA — The Waseca County Board has opted to move forward with three other counties on a human services merger plan even as other counties continue to drop out.
The plan, in the works for three years, initially involved 12 southern Minnesota counties, most of which have ceased participation as the massive redesign particulars of the effort have become apparent.
Waseca County Administrator Laura Elvebak said the county is staying on board because a merger would save money for all participating government entities, and money-savings are paramount today for those bodies.
“If (the merger) only ends up with two counties that could still work to save money, just not as much money as it would with 12.”
The multi-county plan was designed to combine much of the counties’ human services work into a single regional unit. Human services programs represent one-third of county budgets and involve a complex blend of areas such as health care, income supports, child support, adult protection and adoptions.
The 12-county proposal as originally constructed would reduce staff members from about 850 to 700 through attrition, would conduct more program activities online and would establish smaller service centers offering personalized help to certain clients.
Waseca County Human Services serves more than 3,600 clients.
The project’s impetus came from a Minnesota Legislature mandate to develop a shared human services delivery system in southeastern Minnesota.
Elvebak said six counties remained in the program up until a few weeks ago before Houston and Freeborn counties bowed out.
The four counties left are Waseca, Steele, Dodge and Mower.
“Those counties will meet at least twice more and the boards will be asked, ‘Do you want to continue?’ So there is a potential we could be reduced even more,” Elvebak said. “But we’ll keep going until we hit a stop sign.”