B.H. County Health Dept. Keeps 2nd Epidemiologist Position-Eliminates Two Others
The on-going skirmish between the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors and the county's health department seems to be coming to an end. In what started with what seemed like, at least one particular supervisor over-stepping his boundaries, ended with health department officials finding a way to keep a second epidemiologist position.
As reported by the WCF Courier, despite having their budget cut by $99,000 (the exact amount that would have funded the position), the health department decided to eliminate two other positions, and keep the additional epidemiologist position. After a legal review, it was determined, that the Board of Supervisors can determine budgets but can not vote to eliminate specific positions. Only the health department holds that power.
That being said, it worked out that no one ended up being fired from the eliminated positions. Health department Director Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye stated that the person who held the Clerk Typist position retired in November and the person who held the Oral Health Program Manager position resigned. In a somewhat surprising move, with the recent budget constraints, the health board also added a position for a Communications Strategist, who will handle communication duties during the on-going pandemic.
Finally, officials from both sides said, a joint meeting is being planned in March to better define their roles.
*Originally published Feb. 3, 2021
Last Friday, we reported that Black Hawk county Assistant Attorney, Mike Trienen was conducting a review of the legality of the wording in a motion by one of the Board of Supervisors that inferred eliminating a second epidemiologist position.
According to Iowa law, it is the county health department's responsibility to decide what items or positions will be affected by funding cuts. During the meeting on Tuesday, (available online for public viewing) the supervisors rescinded last week’s motion and replaced it with one that solely cut funds to their budget, not specifically eliminating the epidemiologist position. Although, the budget cut is still $99,000, which is near the exact amount allocated for the position.
Several local leaders, including Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart, along with many residents expressed their concerns and made strong cases for the Board to reconsider the funding cuts, but to no avail. In what, essentially, was a formality, the Board members, by the same original margin, voted 3-2 to cut the funds.
The Rev. Mary Robinson, chair of the Black Hawk County Health Board, stated that the board "is still very supportive of the budget that we have submitted" and that she is "just amazed by the rationale when we talk about economics", and she reminded the board that they returned over 2-million dollars back to the county in fiscal years 2016 through 2020. "So it can not be because of a financial issue".
In last week's meeting, Supervisor Tom Little suggested the budget cut, pointing out that other Iowa counties, some larger than Black Hawk County, have no epidemiologists. On Tuesday, Craig White backed his "yes" vote, by saying: "I did my homework", "I studied this stuff". "Just because somebody makes a decision, doesn't mean they have less respect for anybody, anywhere."