Flu vaccines stir debate during commission

The Marion County Commission approved flu shots for both full and part-time employees, received construction plans for the transfer station by Kaw Valley Engineering and heard about courthouse security at its meeting Sept. 9.

Diedre Serene, the county health department administrator, discussed a flu shot proposal for county employees that would be different than in previous years when the county would pay for flu shots.

In 2015, she said, the county paid $3,550 for the employees and families electing to take the vaccine. In that year, 94 people received the flu shot.

“Last year, we gave 54 flu shots and we paid only for employees and it cost $3,457,” Serene said. “There was an increase usually in the flu vaccine itself, which is some of the cost difference. Plus, we started giving flublok, which is about three times the strength of the flu vaccine and for those over 50 years old.”

In addition, the county has a number of employees over the age of 50, and so it was recommended they get the flublok, she said.

“My proposal would be that if we start billing those that have insurance, it may take a bit longer for getting insurance information to bill, but the county wouldn’t have to pay for that and then we could offer it to the employees’ families,” she said.

Commissioner Dianne Novak said that because the county pays a vast amount of the insurance for employees, it would be a no-brainer to have this filed to Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“If they have insurance we will bill,” Serene said, “but, in the past, we didn’t bill the insurance, we billed the county.”

Serene said: “I just think we should offer it to the (employee’s) family, as well as the employee. If an employee’s family is sick, then (the employee) takes off work to care for their child.”

Novak said she disagrees with that. If those without insurance refuse to get insurance whatever the reason is, to pay for them when others are struggling to pay their insurance, it’s unfair.

“When people choose not to take insurance, they understand the risks. Whether its flu, pneumonia or they fall down and break their neck, they are responsible, and I don’t think we should hold the taxpayer responsible for their shots,” Novak said.

“In the past, the county has always offered the flu shot to part-time people,” Serene said. “The EMTs, and I think there are still some EMTs who are on-call and not getting the county insurance. I think we should continue to get the shot.

The EMT volunteers are doing the county a service, too, by volunteering, she added. And, if they don’t have insurance, I would like to still bill the county.

“Volunteer people, and their families? Or where do we draw the line?” Novak asked.

Commission chairman Kent Becker said he sees flu shots as an investment.

“We could end up with an epidemic, we could cripple a department or have bunches of people gone,” Becker said.

Novak responded: “So when do people take responsibility of their own heath and their own bodies? I will let you decide on the flu shot issue.”

Commissioner Randy Dallke said it should be offered to employees only, but asked if he was correct.

County clerk Tina Spencer said that in the past, the history has been that the commission approved offering the flu shot to all employees and their families.

Last year, the commission approved offering only to employees and included part-time.

Dallke said he would agree to continue flu shots with employees and part-time employees only.

As part of the flu shot discussion, Diedre made available the dates, times and locations for the county’s flu clinics. The information on the flu shot schedule can be found on the Hillsboro Free Press website.

The commission also heard from Randy Purdue, engineer with Kaw Valley Engineering, asking them to review the construction plan, and before next week, compile a list of questions that need to be addressed.

In addition to reviewing the structural plans, the commission also needs to look at how the county will pay for the improvements.

The plan in Phase II and III, is what the new facility will offer, but what won’t change is that the old scale will stand where it is today, Purdue said.

The last cost estimate would not change the engineer’s proposed cost estimate, and the underground electrical line is a win-win for both the city and county, he said.

“At this point, I can look at past construction fees and come up with our estimates,” he said, “and see what the numbers come in at. But, first need to get underground electrical machine in and whatever changes are needed on the plan.

“We are very close,” Purdue said, “to bidding it out. We will have a general contractor bidding this.”

The sales tax, Dallke said, is not what we would like it to be, but it needs to be a combination of three things and the county was only looking at the transfer station.

“We can hold the project for a while,” Dallke said.

“Ultimately we are pushing to finish 100 percent documentation,” Purdue said. “And then we will be ready to set advertising date, and how we want contractual wording.”

Becker said the tax question is already off the table for the November election (if looking at sales tax option).

Purdue said the cost estimates have changed drastically since the transfer station discussion started two years ago. Across the board, he said, the cost is about 15 percent a year higher.

Dallke said the commission is going to need to look at the plans, along with how to pay for it.

Purdue explained that a fence closing off the area is something they may also want to look at.

“A lot of contractors want to put up fencing during construction,” he said. “On a site like that at the transfer station and incredibly complicated to me because of the mobility.

“There are trash trucks coming and going and one-half needs to be open, while other half under construction.”

Regarding the dangers associated with the transfer station, a structural engineer would have to inspect the facility again.

Novak said we already know the facility is in danger of being closed for safety reasons.

“It has made a difference not having the crane swinging back and forth,” Druse said. “I know the edge has broken off more.”

Becker said he would like to get it bid out as soon as possible, and it needs to be expedited.

“It does come back to the question of what the contract says,” Purdue said. “It will need to be determined how soon the project would get underway.”

Becker said the county also has to determine the financing before it can start.

Druse said his personnel will keep it as safe as possible until such time construction can begin.

In other business, Spencer asked the commission to consider dates that would work to speak with Diamond Vista personnel about roads on that wind turbine project, and also Expedition Wind regarding negotiations.