Commissioners Approve Child Welfare Hotline After New Contract Negotiation

County Commissioners Meeting at Granada High School

County Commissioners Meeting at Granada High School

Prowers County will be the host site for a proposed child abuse hotline after all. Last week the commissioners had voted two to one, not to accept a contract with the State of Colorado to develop a Child Welfare Hotline in Prowers County.   Today’s vote, held Thursday, September 25 at the Granada School, was three to zero in favor.  Commissioners Joe Marble and Henry Schnabel initially voted against the contract citing concerns over the deadlines needed to establish the program and what they believed was a lack of county oversight for the operation.

Jack Hilbert (l) next to Incoming County Commissioner, Ron Cook

Jack Hilbert (l) next to Incoming County Commissioner, Ron Cook (r)

Following weekend discussions between County Commissioner, Joe Marble and Jack Hilbert, a former Douglas County Commissioner who joined the State Department of Human Services to oversee the creation of the hotline program, an accord was discussed to alter several key contract points. Those points dealt with the degree of oversight the County would have with the administration of the hotline staff, equipment responsibilities and ownership, and general operations at the center.  Several calendar checkpoints will have to be met while offices in the Prowers County Annex are prepared to headquarter the hotline for operation.  A state resolution passed in May, 2013, calls for the center to be operational and taking calls by January 1, 2015.  Hilbert was present in Granada for the commissioner’s vote on the amended contract on Thursday.

County Commission Chairman, Joe Marble, explained some of the contract changes that have been allowed including: all hot line employees will be trained in Lamar; Bi-lingual employees will not be needed on every shift.  Marble said, “The state is willing to pay for what is known as a language line which will take care of translation problems.”  He added that all equipment that is purchased for the center will become county property for insurance coverage issues.  The county will be self-insured regarding employment issues.  He explained, “The state will pay the county the dollar value as if we were paying the unemployment,” he told the audience, adding, “The state will pay the $20,000 needed to insure the unemployment for the full center staff.”  The county will act as the pass-through body for those finances.  Marble added that the state will oversee the center’s equipment set up at the Annex so it complies with state standards.

Marble explained one additional feature on the agreement, “So everybody is aware, and I’ve already gotten some calls on this, Jo Dorenkamp (County Administrator) will not be in charge of this. She will be the contact person who is listed on the contract.  If the state has questions, they will contact her; she then in turn will contact John Lefferdink or who else may be needed.”

Just prior to the vote, Commissioner Henry Schnabel made a statement to address some situations that arose over the contract votes. “My intention was to see this done properly if we were going to do it and I think Jack Hilbert worked with us very well.  One of my concerns not specifically addressed here is the time frame, and Jack has assured me we can work with that time frame to make it work, he said.

The commissioner added, “My vote today was not influenced by any flash-mob nor the specter of a recall. I am greatly offended by both of those things, and I do not allow it to influence my decision on what’s best for the county.  I think that there are some situations that may need to be dealt with because of that incident, and I really am disappointed.”  Following the initial vote on the hot line center, several facebook sites had discussed a recall election for Commissioner Schnabel.

After the vote, Commissioner Buxton-Andrade stated, “This has been about protecting our children all along, and the hot line I sat on for the last 18 months, has been focused on giving state residents a chance to call in and report child abuse. And that was the focus of this whole thing.”

Marble listed, with no objections from the other two commissioners, some points of finance needed to implement the center: a resolution is needed by next week to transfer $100,000 from the County Sales Tax Fund to the new board’s account, no money will be taken from the new fund until a goal of $200,000 has been reached and $100,000 of that will be paid back to the County Sales Tax Fund, leaving $100,00 in the new fund and the new board will administer the contract between the state and the Prowers County Commissioners.   The commissioners will hire the new director/manager and the remaining staff will be hired by the director/manager and commissioners Schnabel and Buxton-Andrade will be on the center’s board.  Bookkeeping safeguards will be taken to prevent co-mingling of state and federal funds.  The payroll will be administered by the county.  Marble said he didn’t want other counties in the state to perceive that the Department of Human Services was running the call center.

Ron Cook, who was elected this past November to take over Marble’s seat on the commission was present at today’s meeting and according to Joe Marble, was kept in the loop for developments. He told the commissioners and those in the audience, “I’m not a commissioner yet, but moving on in any contract negotiations we have, there has to be more communication…there has to be more respect between that side of the table for the direction of Prowers County.  There’s a lot of hard feelings, there’s a lot of outcomes developing out of this that is very negative for our community, and this is presented to us as a very positive thing.”

Buxton-Andrade expressed her displeasure that she was not included in the new contract negotiations with Hilbert. Marble stated that she was out of town when they were held, but she replied that she was available by phone, but was left out of the discussions.  “I have prepped for 18 months.  I helped with the RFP, Lainie Mirales (Director of County Human Services) helped with the RFP.  We were the ones who formulated this and we were just cut out of it.”

Hilbert expressed his thanks to the commissioners for allowing the county to address its concerns to the state. He added that it was fitting that the final contract was agreed upon at Granada High School as the center’s main purpose is to protect children.  Marble said the next immediate step now, was to put up all the job announcements for the center on the county’s website.

By Russ Baldwin

Brought to you by: Colorado East Bank & Trust

Brought to you by: Colorado East Bank & Trust

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