Root Retiring from County Land Use Office

Court House Windmill-2

Mary Root is retiring as the Prowers County Land Use Manager, effective May 29 of this year.  Root submitted her resignation notice to the Prowers County Commissioners during their March 24 meeting.  Root, Keith Siemsen from County Environmental Health and Tammi Clark, County Public Health Director, discussed a possible restructuring of the two departments in light of Root’s departure.

Clark presented two options for restructuring the office, providing some historical content as well, “Both offices had been combined several years ago and we think returning to that system might be for the best,” she said.  One proposal would be for Siemsen to assume both roles, for Environment and for Land Use.  He would assume management of land use permits and zoning approvals and because the state is reducing funding for local hog farm operations in the state, he could devote more time to land management.  Siemsen added, “The state’s current contract will end in June for inspections and under the new set up, I could be called in for handling complaints or significant events for a quicker response.  The state is pulling us back from routine inspections.”

Clark said the other option would be to hire a replacement which would keep the departments up to four people, allowing some additional work time for Jerica Hainer to cover the retail food inspection program paperwork and conduct some calls and inspections on administrative areas, depending on what the commissioners decide.  Both Henry Schnabel and Wendy Buxton-Andrade said Clark, Root and the others directly involved with the process should make the decision on how it works best for all involved.  Root said, “This will be a place to start and we can make changes as needed once we see how it works out.”  Clark agreed, “If the land use department becomes too busy or if there are changes in the environmental health program we can go back to the board and see if we need to adjust our staffing and keep you posted on any changes.  The one thing I don’t want to do is hire someone only to have to fire them if the work load isn’t there.”

Clark also briefed the commissioners on the heath status of the county in her monthly report.  “We are aware of the norovirus outbreak at one of our long term care facilities, and they have contained it very well.  Visitation has been restricted and there are only a limited number of workers on hand to lessen chances of contact.”

Morgan Bennett

Morgan Bennett

She introduced Morgan Bennet, the new public health nurse for the county, saying the visit gives her a chance to see how the health department interacts with the county commissioners.  New health rankings for the county were distributed and Clark provided a general overview, saying the information hasn’t been released to the general public at this time.  “We did move up in rankings,” she explained, “We’re at 29 this year and last year at this time we were ranked 53 on the community health assessment project.  Smoking is holding the same numbers for adults, as well as adult obesity and we’ve stayed the same for physical inactivity and exercise.”  She said more detailed figures in the report will available later.

Clark and Suzette Hall, Nurse Family Partnership Supervisor, discussed plans to extend Prowers County services into Las Animas County.  Hall said the discussions took the better part of a year, but a budget has been approved to extend a Prowers County employee into Las Animas County, working from an office which will be supplied with the basic infrastructure such as desk, phones..etc.  A search for a nurse will begin, and they would remain a Prowers County employee, working in Las Animas County.  Hall said advertising for the position would probably begin next month.

By Russ Baldwin

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