Larry Winter, director of the Chippewa County Department of Human Services, has found changing state law is a tough thing to do.
Winter on Tuesday told the County Board about efforts to change state law to allow human services departments to ask for help from departments in other counties. That change in state law has been sponsored by state Rep. Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie) and state Sen. Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls). Winter said the Assembly has approved a bill to make the change, and the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee voted 5-0 to approve it. The bill still needs to be taken up by the full state Senate.
A change in the law would be helpful, Winter said.
Winter said one of the driving areas for the department in 2016 has been in child protective services area. Last year the agency had a total of 127 children in care, with 95 of them involved in cases related to methamphetamine abuse. That’s compared to 13 cases in 2014, when there were children in 10 meth-related cases.
Since January, the department has helped 182 children, with 130 being helped because of meth-related cases. “Right now we have 72 children who were working with. The numbers show 55 are related to meth,” Winter said. “This was not something our system was ready to address. It really took us by surprise, quite frankly.”
The report given to the board Tuesday said the Human Services Department served 30,977 people in 2016, which is a drop from 31,834 in 2015. The largest portion of people services, 11,570, was for the medical assistance program in the economic support division. Another 9,989 were helped through the food share program.
The agency’s total budget was $12.1 million in 2016, compared to $9.7 million in 2015 and $10.1 million in 2014.
Winter pointed to the United Way of Wisconsin’s report in 2016 called Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, or ALICE.
“Forty-two percent of households in the county art at or below the ALICE threshold for a survival budget of $24,504 or less for a single adult, and a budget of $54,348 or less for a family of four,” Winter said in a report to the board.
An upbeat outlook for job development in Chippewa County thanks to landing the $65 million Mills Fleet Farm Distribution Center for Lake Wissota Business Park was part of a presentation by the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation.
“We’ve had a great, successful year,” said Charlie Walker, president/CEO of the CCEDC. Walker updated the Chippewa County Board on Tuesday on the 38 projects the agency has worked on during 2016-17. The agency said those projects are creating 422 jobs, including up to 350 for the Fleet Farm center, which will be completed in November, Walker said.
Of the 38 projects, 15 remain ongoing. They include possible businesses in Cadott, Chippewa Falls, New Auburn, the county, Lake Hallie and the Lake Wissota Business Park. Six of the possible projects would expand current businesses in the county.
One of the biggest things that we’re facing is a labor shortage and housing issue, Walker said. He said his agency will try measures to stop the immigration of students to other states.
He said his agency is starting a process to allow Chippewa County businesses to take advantage when Foxconn builds its proposed plant in southeast Wisconsin. “We already have Foxconn suppliers in Chippewa County,” he said.
Walker said his agency helped Mulehide Manufacturing in Cornell to start an internship over the past year.
The board voted 10-2 to sell 320 acres of county land in the town of Cleveland that the county took over through delinquent real estate taxes. The property would be sold through a bidding process. The minimum bid for the county to sell the land would be $531,000. Voting against the sale were Supervisor Matthew Hartman and board Chairman Anson Albarado.
Absent from Tuesday’s meeting were Supervisors Kari Ives, Leigh Darrow and Steve Gerrish. The meeting was adjourned at 7:12 p.m.