Iroquois wants to split health agency along county lines

WATSEKA — Frustrated by Ford County officials' reluctance over the past year to address the many issues surrounding the Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department, most Iroquois County Board members agreed Tuesday that the bi-county agency needs to be split up to help streamline decisions.

The Iroquois County Board took a straw poll showing all but five of the 18 members present favored dissolving the health department.

"We can't make the other side do what they should do ... and if they don't want to work with us, then we need to dissolve it," said Kevin Hansen of Clifton. "We've got to either come together or get apart, and I don't know how you bring us together."

Disagreement over decisions affecting the health department has persisted since early this year between the Ford and Iroquois county boards, as well as each county board's appointed representatives on the board of health. Some proposals, including the Iroquois County Board's recommendation to remove Public Health Administrator Doug Corbett, were met with resistance due to the apparent division that is based on county lines, according to Iroquois County Board members.

Tuesday's discussion was prompted by a recent recommendation by a panel of members of both county boards to have each government body discuss the advantages and drawbacks of dissolving the health department. The board of health also discussed the issues Monday night, without reaching a consensus on how to proceed, while the Ford County Board will do so next Monday and possibly vote on how to move forward.

If action is taken by the Iroquois County Board, it is expected to take place in November, giving both counties enough time to complete the dissolution process by the statutory deadline of June 2014.

Iroquois County Board member Russell Bills of Watseka stressed there would be no interruption in public health services.

"We're not talking about destroying services or stopping services that the folks depend on, but just changing the structure of the entity," Bills said.

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