Government, Health Care, and Technology

Health clinic consolidation decision coming soon

County isn’t buying iPads for commissioners right now.

June 7, 2013
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Kent County should know relatively soon whether it can merge the two health department clinics in Wyoming and Kentwood into a single one located in Kentwood, an endeavor the county has been working on since last September.

Kent County Assistant Administrator Wayman Britt has served as the point man on the project and told the county’s Executive Committee he should know by July if the Michigan Community Dental Clinics, a nonprofit based in Boyne City that serves low-income individuals, will set up shop in the former Kentwood library at 4700 Kalamazoo Ave. SE.

The county is interested in buying the site for its consolidated clinic. 

Kentwood is willing to sell the 16,000-square-foot building that sits on 6.5 acres of land to the county for $300,000. The city first asked $900,000 for the site and then listed the location for $600,000. “They want to be as fiscally responsible as they can with their property,” said Britt of Kentwood’s city commission.

The current Kentwood clinic is at 1620 44thSt. SE, while the one in Wyoming is at 852 47thSt. SW. The two are about four miles apart and both serve thousands of residents each year. Britt said the city’s old library is the one available property best located between the two clinics, but he added he is also looking at potential backup sites.

County Commissioner Harold Voorhees, who represents Wyoming on the board, is concerned that some of the city’s residents may having a difficult time getting to the proposed location and he asked whether there are other clinics that are closer. 

Britt said there are, including one Cherry Street Health Services has at 2929 Burlingame SW near 28thStreet. Britt also said he plans to ask The Rapid, the area’s bus service, to stop at the proposed location if the deal goes forward.

The Executive Committee has been tossing around the idea of going paperless for commission and committee meetings and was considering buying the third version of the iPad for commissioners. But County Executive Assistant Jamie Groom said there wasn’t that much money to be saved by switching from paper to the tablet.

“It’s not like we’re going to save a ton of money by going paperless,” she said.

Groom calculated the county spends $6,800 annually to copy agendas and send the packets to commissioners. She noted that purchasing 23 iPad 3s for commissioners and support staff would cost almost $11,500 and have a shelf life of two or three years. Groom added it would take the county about 19 months to recoup the cost of the tablets, based on the current cost for paper and postage.

Commissioner Nate Vriesman said he didn’t want to carry around another device and is able to access the agenda materials on his laptop. “For those of us that want to be paperless, we can do that now,” he said.

County Corporate Counsel Dan Ophoff said commissioners should know that official county documents on their personal devices would likely be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. “There is no absolute case law. But this is the trend where I see FOIA going,” he said.

Commissioner Michael Wawee felt the iPad was the right device for what the county was trying to accomplish because of its size and portability. “How about a pilot program with three commissioners?” he asked the committee.

But County Commission Chairman Dan Koorndyk suggested that commissioners use their personal devices for now and the committee would take another look at the matter in about six months.

County Administrator and Controller Daryl Delabbio said a renewal of the county’s senior millage will likely be on the ballot in August 2014. The millage, which provides nearly $7 million annually to agencies that serve the county’s seniors, expires at the end of this year. Revenue from this year’s millage would be allocated next year.

He also said the budgeting process for general operations and capital improvements is underway with the Finance Committee. He expects that more dollars will go toward making technology and capital improvements next year, and the county’s pension expense is also likely to be discussed at length.

“We do intend to present the board with a structurally balanced (operating) budget,” said Delabbio. “We expect that revenues will be flat next year.”

Commissioners will adopt a general operating budget in November. The county’s fiscal year begins Jan. 1.

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