Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Board divided on Wellness Center plan

by Rob Ireland

November 22, 2012

ELKHORN — During the November County Board meeting, supervisors didn’t invest a lot of time debating building an employee wellness center, but the rarely divided board did find itself split on the issue.

The supervisors didn’t argue about construction costs or the scope of the project. The validity of the plan and its possible benefits were barely discussed. Supervisors also didn’t endorse the idea or desert the plan.

What divided the county board was finding a way to not green light the project or close the door on it.

An employee wellness center would provide a place for the county’s more than 800 employees to receive basic medical care. One of the possibilities is to have a nurse practitioner or a doctor on-site.

The project details are scarce and the board would need to determine whether it would construct a new building or modify an existing one.

Supervisor Daniel Kilkenny proposed an amendment that placed multiple contingencies on the construction of the wellness center (see side bar). Kilkenny’s motion kept the full $1.17 million in the budget.

The other motion, which was championed by supervisors Rick Stacey and Richard Brandl, moved the estimated $1.17 million for the project into the county’s unassigned fund balance. Under this proposal, two-thirds of the supervisors must support the wellness center for it to move forward.

Kilkenny said his proposal kept the wellness center as a clear line item in the budget, which allows the public to know the board is considering it. County Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell agreed.

“I think it is disingenuous to take it out of the budget when we think we might do it anyway,” Russell said. “I think it smacks of misleading the public, which I know wasn’t the intention of either of you.”

Brandl’s motion, which was voted on first, was denied on a 5-6 vote. Supervisors Joe Schaefer, Jerry Grant, Nancy Russell, David Weber, Tim Schiefelbein and Kilkenny voted against it. Supervisors Stacy, Brandl, Carl Redenius, Tim Brellenthin and Ken Monroe voted in favor of it.

Kilkenny’s motion was approved 8-3, with supervisors Stacey, Brandl and Monroe voting against it.

About the wellness center

Private businesses have created wellness centers and have reportedly reduced health care claims and insurance costs because of them. County officials estimate that the board would save $800,000 in health care costs within the first three years of having a wellness center.

County Administrator David Bertl said Quad Graphics has saved money on health insurance costs by providing direct care to its employees. Kilkenny said the county is already spending $18 million a year on health care.

“We do spend millions now, the question is how do we spend it,” Kilkenny said.

Brandl said his constituents have told him ‘no’ to a new building, but they are OK with having on-site health professionals for employees.

Supervisor David Weber said his constituents have expressed a “high-level of concern” about the proposal.

“Can’t you find an existing place you can use to accommodate this,” Weber said he has been asked.

Supervisors also raised concerns about including a fitness center.

“If workers are using the gym we built, is that going to put gyms in our area out of business,” Brandl said. Supervisor Tim Schiefelbein pointed out that the sheriff’s department and Lakeland School both already have workout facilities for employees.