Commissioners weigh possibility of absorbing victim witness costs

LEXINGTON — The Dawson County commissioners listened to the benefits and drawbacks of grant funding for the county’s victim witness program, and considered the possibility of the county funding the program.

Julie Gilg, victim witness for the county appeared before the commissioners during their meeting on Friday, May 31. Her office is funded by Victims of Crimes Act grant, not by county funding.

Gilg recently submitted for two years of funding for the grant and Dawson County has been approved through June 30, 2020.

From October to December 2018, Gilg said she served 229 new victims, from January to March, a further 222 victims and from April to the present, 91 new victims, all while still serving 180 prior victims.

“We are fortunate to be funded in this way,” Gilg said about the grant funding, “but we may need to hire someone to do bookkeeping or to help with victims.”

Gilg said the current number of victims and reporting she must do in order to maintain grant funding could lessen the office’s efficiency. She noted Buffalo County victim witness office employs extra staff to handle bookkeeping, so others can specifically help victims.

“People don’t stop needing help, people don’t stop asking questions, trails don’t stop,” Gilg said of victims’ needs.

Gilg also told the commissioners about the importance of keeping statistics about crimes and victims. “Even if it’s not required by the grant, they are still important to reflect upon.”

During the report, the commissioners were told in the long run the victim witness program may be better off without the grant due to the amount of time taken up by grant reporting. The victim witness program was started back in 1994, Gilg said.

Commissioner Dennis Rickertsen told Gilg if she had any ideas or changes which should be made in the office, she could freely share them with the commissioners. “You are the one in the trenches,” he said.

Two bids were received by the county regarding improvements to the jail roof. One bid was rejected as it was received after the deadline stated in the bid request.

The remaining bid was from Weathercraft Company of Lexington for $298,840, a determination of the bid will be made at the June 20, 2019 meeting. The improvements to the roof include a new membrane, to help prevent leaks.

During committee reports Dawson County Emergency Manager Brian Woldt said Dawson County has not yet been assigned a FEMA Program Delivery Manager, but this appointment should be coming soon.

Commissioner Butch Hagan apologized for missing the last meeting, but had to attend a Lexington landfill meeting to make a quorum. Hagan also said a new Dawson County Raceway manager, Chad Dolan, was appointed. The first race of the season featured over 100 cars and attendance was over 1,000 people.

Dan Schwartzkopf with Krull Agency presented an employee health insurance update. Schwartzkopf said, “The year has run quite well so far,” and said loss ratios were “running positively.”

Schwartzkopf spoke about the importance of, “educating people about prudent use of the healthcare system. We tell people to take care of themselves to avoid these high claims, that is prudent management on our part.”

A change has been occurring in how people access health professionals, Schwartzkopf said, people are starting to treat health care like any other service and are looking around for the best one.

He advised people to “shop around,” for their health care to find the most affordable option rather than sticking with the “status quo,” of only receiving one opinion on a condition.

“Too many medical services cost too much,” Schwartzkopf said about the reason for the shift, “Far too much is being spent on healthcare when it could be spent on other things like education, etc.”

Schwartzkopf spoke about, “medical tourism,” a recent phenomenon where United States citizens will travel abroad to seek medical care at much more affordable rates than here in the U.S.

In one testimony, Schwartzkopf said he knew of a case where woman traveled outside the U.S. for a medical procedure, after she determined the international travel costs, lodging costs and cost of the procedure aboard was cheaper than having the procedure done in the Unite States.

Krull Agency offers a wellness advocacy app which is a tool people can access to help them find the most affordable medical care, Schwartzkopf said.

The commissioners approved a motion to renew the employee health insurance plan, increasing the specific attachment to $60,000.

Changes to the Nebraska Board of Public Roads Classifications and Standards were made for 2019.

Deputy County Attorney Jared Dean said the board changed standards and certifications which had to be done by county highway officials due to the amount of paperwork it generated.

“They are trying to relax the standards so there isn’t so much back and forth, and less federal paperwork,” Dean said.

During the board of equalization meeting, the commissioners approved board value change notices from May 16 to May 30, 2019. Assessor John Moore said this was an action the state auditors wanted the Dawson County Assessor’s office to do.

Tax corrections were approved for property and parcels owned by Mark Ostergard, Kearney Federal Credit Union, GB & G Properties Inc., German Ramirez, Gary Gruber, Derreck Gengenbach, Donna Kendrick and Frank Mladek to Donna Kendrick.

Clerical errors for parcels owned by Timothy Maline were also approved by Chairman Bill Stewart.

Two tax sale corrections were looked at by the board. County Attorney Dean said in both cases a sale split a property, but this was not recorded on the books and parcels were double taxed. Interests will be refunded to the property owners.

The tax sale corrections included properties between Maline and Sylvan and Mladek, City of Cozad and Kendrick.

Commissioner P.J. Jacobson asked Moore if a program could be put in place to check out these tax sale situations beforehand to make sure all the details were correct. Moore said he thought implementing a program was possible.

In other news the board:

- Approved a special liquor license for OK Bottle Inc. for their Rotary After Dark Meeting

- Certified Dawson County had been acting with a Highway Superintendent.

- Approved a motion which stated while an employee is on unpaid leave, the employee shall pay their share of premiums due on their cash-in-lieu coverage on a date agreed upon and deduct the amount from their paycheck.

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