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Behavioral Health Unit at CCMH to remain open, but will be downsized


December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

(Updated 11:30-a.m. w/additional details and comments)

The Cass County Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees voted this (Wednesday) morning, to proceed with construction documents and bid letting to remodel the current Special Care Unit (SCU) to house a four-bed inpatient Behavioral Health Unit (BHU).  If the bids are within budget projections, remodeling would begin in late 2012 after the Special Care Unit relocates to the new hospital addition scheduled to open in August 2012.  The current BHU is located in an older part of the hospital scheduled for demolition during the final stage of the current construction and remodeling project. The motion to keep the facility open came from Board member John Molgaard, and was seconded by Leann Pellett.  He said he wanted to have a contract with the architects for the ICU to provide documents and bid letting to accommodate the BHU. The final drawings and bidding documents will have to be ready three-weeks prior to the bid-letting, on April 12th. The cost for the engineering changes and documents would not exceed $24,000. 

According to CCMH, the hospital’s Trustees have been examining the financial feasibility of maintaining an inpatient BHU, due to the poor reimbursement and consistent losses incurred for the service.  Losses include actual shortages in payment due to contractual adjustments with private insurances, and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement below cost since BHU is not considered a core service for a Critical Access Hospital.  The cost of the remodeling the SCU will likely run about $300,000, the funds for which are available according to Molgaard.  He says there are always funds for expansion, that will not require additional taxes or monies from the public. 

If the costs of remodeling exceed that estimate however, plans for the BHU would have to be re-evaluated. The Cass County Board of Supervisors were on-hand for this morning’s meeting. After the Trustee’s decision was made, Supervisors Chair Duane McFadden said he was pleased the BHU is still alive, for now.  He says at least now it’ll have some direct costs associated with the plan, and the Board will remain steadfast in its support of keeping the BHU open. Prior to discussion and a vote on the matter, Hal Gronewold, spoke on behalf of the Cass Atlantic Development Corporation (CADCO). Gronewold said if the facility were to close, many jobs would be lost. If it were to remain open, the hospital could become a regional leader in Mental Health Care, since many other, similar facilities have closed or are planning to close. 

CCMH says with an average census of 3.5 patients per day, the propose four-bed unit is expected to meet most, if not all, of the inpatient needs.  By decreasing the size and overhead of the BHU, officials say the total effect on the CCMH bottom line is expected to be approximately $250,000 in losses per year.  CCMH Trustees President Steve Sisler said in a Press Release that “It is always difficult to balance our desire to provide a broad spectrum of healthcare for the people of southwest Iowa with the ever challenging financial realities we face.” He said “While we never like to plan for a loss, the board feels this is an important service for our community, and is willing to try to make it work on this smaller scale.”

7AM Newscast 12-14-2011

News, Podcasts

December 14th, 2011 by Chris Parks

w/ Ric Hanson


Santorum to visit Atlantic, Sunday, Dec. 18th


December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Republican Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, from Pennsylvannia, will be in Atlantic Sunday evening (Dec. 18th),  on a campaign stop. Santorum will hold a “Cup of Coffee and Questions and Answers” session with area residents at the Farmer’s Kitchen Restaurant (319 Walnut Street), from 5:30- to 6:30-p.m.  Light refreshments will be served. The event is free, and open to the public.

Santorum is making the stop in Atlantic as part of his tour across the State this month. For more information on the Santorum and his position on the issues, visit www.ricksantorum.com.

Council Bluffs man arrested in Red Oak on drug-related charge


December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Police in Red Oak report one person was arrested Tuesday on a drug-related charge. 21-year old Mykal Jesi Keith, of Council Bluffs, was taken into custody in the 1100 block of East Coolbaugh Street, on a Simple Misdemeanor charge of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Keith was cited for the offense and released on $300 bond.

Homeland Security Representative to provide risk assessment for Atlantic Schools


December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

Atlantic School District Superintendent Mike Amstein said Tuesday, Atlantic Police Chief Steve Green has arranged for an official with the U-S Department of Homeland Security to tour the district’s schools and conduct a risk assessment for the various buildings. He says they are fortunate to have the representative come to the district, as it will give school officials a better idea of what’s working and what needs to be improved, with regard to security. The official will tour the district’s main buildings, along with those that are off-campus, like the Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), and Atlantic Head Start. It’s not clear when the assessments will take place.

On the same topic of security, the Atlantic School Board Tuesday, approved the first reading of a policy pertaining to the use of video cameras on school premises. Amstein said the idea for the policy came about after he spoke with the Board’s attorney, and based upon an article he read in a recent School Administrators of Iowa (SAI) newsletter. The school board currently has in-place a policy for video-taping on board the district’s buses, but there was no policy in-place for video surveillance in the schools, even though the cameras have been in use for some time.

Amstein says the article provided some specific guidelines the district can use when it comes to the handling of video evidence if an incident occurs in one of the school buildings or on school property.
He provided an example of how effective video surveillance can be to a district legally, by referring to an “incident” earlier this year, between a student and a faculty member. A surveillance camera caught the incident and recorded it. The video was requested by the police department as evidence in the case.

Atlantic School Board faces tough budget decisions


December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Atlantic School District’s Board of Education will have some tough decisions to make early next year when it comes to the 2012-2013 budget. Superintendent Mike Amstein said during Tuesday night’s Board meeting, the two-percent allowable growth tentatively approved by the Iowa Legislature may be eaten up by cuts in Federal Funding. A two-percent allowable growth for the Atlantic District amounts to about $140,000. But because the Congressional Super Committee failed to do its work at the federal level, the district could stand to lose up to $120,000 in funding due to automatic spending cuts. Some of the cuts he says, will affect Special Education, and Title Program, which is essentially a literacy program for at-risk children, such as free-and reduced lunch.

He says they could be looking at an 8-percent cut in entitlement programs, based on funding. Title One would lose about $20,000 in federal funding. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – IDEA – Part B, would stand to lose $6,000, and, Special Education funding would lose about $95,000, for a total of about $121,000. In addition to the federal cuts, Amstein says there will be an increase in the cost of IPERS of .07-percent, which will become effective July 1st, 2012, and an increase in the amount the district pays for insurance, but how much that will be isn’t yet known.

Amstein says when the Board takes a look at their upcoming budget, they need to look at ways to watch their spending. The good news he says, is that the District has done some things this year to try and recover funds they have missed out on in previous years, which will help to buffer the costs. The Iowa Legislature may also end up passing additional funding for schools, but it’s too early to know for sure. Amstein says also, talks are progressing with the teacher’s association for a reasonable salary and benefits settlement.

He says the district is still in pretty good shape, but the Board needs to give some direction on what areas of the budget they want to protect, and areas where they can save, by the time their January meeting rolls around. He says they should also have a better idea of what the teacher’s union proposal will look like at that time.

Iowa post office closures delayed after Gov. Branstad calls for moratorium


December 13th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

(DES MOINES)- Gov. Branstad today (Tuesday) released a statement praising the United States Postal Service for heeding his advice and delaying the closure of Iowa post offices. “I am pleased to learn that the United States Postal Service has reconsidered their consolidation and closures of Iowa post offices,” said Branstad. “I would like to thank Postmaster General Donahoe for his attention and thought. I look forward to continuing our discussion and coming up with a solution that will reduce the Postal Service’s costs while continuing to serve Iowans.”

Gov. Branstad had been an early opponent to the post office closures because they were disproportionate and put too much of the burden on rural Iowans. In September, Gov. Branstad co-authored a letter with Lohrville Mayor Donny Hobbs and a letter with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn calling for the Postal Services’ reconsideration. Branstad continued, “This is about the economic vitality of rural Iowa, and I am glad the United States Postal Service has moved forward with this decision.”

The Postal Service announced that the closures and consolidations would be delayed until May 15, 2012. Under the Postal Service’s previous plan, Iowa would have seen 17.9 percent of the state’s post offices closed, compared to 11 percent nationally.

Iowa Transportation Commission approves additional highway work


December 13th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Transportation Commission today (Tuesday) approved an amendment to the 2012-2016 Iowa Transportation Improvement Program (Program) that will advance the letting of some highway projects into fiscal year (FY) 2012 and add others to the Program. One of the projects being added is in Cass County, another is in Adair County, while four others are in Pottawattamie County.

In Cass County, in addition to a project already in the works for Highway 148 from Highway 92 to Anita, the DOT plans to rehabilitate and widen Highway 83, from Wiota to Highway 148 in Anita. The project will cost about $2.1-million. In Adair County, a new project involves the rehabilitating of pavement on Interstate 80 eastbound, from the Cass County line to just west of Highway 25, at a cost of $500,000. And, in Pottawattamie County, in addition to an already planned for project to rehabilitate and widen Highway 59 from Highway Six to County Road G-30, there are three pavement rehab- and one guardrail- projects, in the works for Interstate 29 in 2012. The latest projects come with a pricetag of more than $5.4 million.

The DOT says the program amendment was possible because of additional funding becoming available after the Program was approved in June. The additional funding is the result of favorable construction project lettings (bid prices were lower than programmed amounts for some projects), Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) budget savings and receipt of federal funding that exceeded forecast amounts. It is projected that the amendment will result in FY 2012 being the largest program year in the Iowa DOT’s history.

Due to the timing of the additional funding, projects were selected that can be developed and scheduled for bidding this fiscal year, and begin construction in 2012. The DOT cautions that, while the amendment provides much needed funding to improve the state roadway system, there remains significant uncertainty in future funding. In particular, federal funding could be significantly reduced in federal FY 2013 because federal revenue flowing into the Highway Trust Fund is not sufficient to sustain existing funding levels.

The Iowa Transportation Commission continues to closely monitor funding and will make any necessary changes during the development of the 2013-2017 Iowa Transportation Improvement Program next spring.

Hamlin woman arrested for domestic assault


December 13th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Audubon County Sheriff’s Department says a Hamlin woman was arrested Monday night. 32-year old Brooke Marie Hines was charged with Domestic Abuse/Assault, following an investigation into an incident which allegedly occured at her home. Hines was brought to the Audubon County Jail and released after appearing before the magistrate.

Cass County Compensation Board to meet Thursday


December 13th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The seven-member Cass County Compensation Board is set to gather Thursday evening in the basement meeting room at the Cass County Courthouse. After electing their officers, the Board will discuss and act on Fiscal Year 2013 compensation recommendations for the ten, elected County officials. The Board’s meeting begins at 7-p.m.

Last year, the Cass County Compensation Board approved a 2-percent in increase for the Auditor, Treasurer, Attorney, Sheriff, Recorder, and the County Supervisor’s.