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The possibility of having a county-wide health department took a small step forward as Caledonia voted to support the concept at a meeting held Monday. A newly created Racine County-run health department might serve members of the Central Racine County Health Department and the Western Racine County Health Department. At this point, no final decisions have been made. However, in a 5 to 2 vote the village board voted in favor of exploring the issue. Village trustees Kevin Wanggaard and Ed Willing voting against the resolution. Village administrator Mark Janiuk presented two possible motions: supporting the concept of Racine County operating a public health department provided that a final contract addressed certain issues or Caledonia declines joining the Racine County public health department. Trustee Jim Dobbs outlined the provisions for joining a Racine County-run department which included: requiring that there are protections in place for the jobs and benefits of the employees with the Central Racine County Health Department, maintaining the Central Racine County level 2 services, an orderly transfer of services from the two health departments to Racine County, eventual transfer of costs to the County levy, adequate cost control measures and adequate funding, adequate governance protection and oversight, adequate policy making oversight, and adequate fiscal oversight by the board of health. The board approved the first resolution, but Wanggaard said he didn’t feel comfortable approving it as written because the conditions were too vague. “I want clarification on what adequate is…I want those addressed before I support this,” Wanggaard said. “We’ve got to have a large role in making sure that this is run the way it should be run. This is something where we are paying in $178,000 a year… so we’re the big kings here and we’re the big piece of the pie.” The reason for considering the move is because the Western Racine County Health Department is closing and will shut its doors by Jan. 1. Those communities can either find a way to sustain their own health department, join another existing health department, or have Racine County take over the health department. But since Racine County currently doesn’t have a health department, Racine County executive Jim Ladwig has asked for the communities in the Central Racine County Health Department to consider forming one. Ladwig told the communities that he is looking for a decision on the matter before June 1 because the county is expected to take up the issue. Currently the village is a member of the Central Racine County Health Department, which includes Caledonia, Mt. Pleasant, North Bay, Sturtevant, Union Grove and the Town of Waterford. The Western Racine County Health Department includes the city of Burlington, the towns of Burlington, Norway, Raymond, Dover, and Yorkville, and the villages of Rochester and Waterford. The city of Racine has its own health department.  

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In addition to our education features, we’ll be kicking off a series of stories highlighting how parents, students, and educators are adapting to the impact of COVID-19 on education. If this is important to you, please consider donating to our education reporting fund. https://business.facebook.com/donate/1846323118855149/3262802717172659/

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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