CHIPPEWA FALLS — The Chippewa County Board approved adding five new social worker positions on Tuesday to help in child protective services.
The county has been experiencing high case loads, as more children have been removed from their homes, largely because of drug-related problems.
Overall, the county is looking to add 10 new positions, said county Administrator Randy Scholz.
“I really look at this as the result of meth cases,” Scholz said. “That’s what is really driving it.”
Scholz added: “The numbers (of out-of-home placements) are staggering.”
In 2015, there were 15 children in foster care programs in the county. Today, it is about 150, with 80 percent directly tied to meth use, the resolution states. Technically, the county is not allowed to have a waiting list.
“The current waiting list for the (Comprehensive Community Services program) is 45 children and 23 adults,” a county resolution states. “The wait list for children with mental health care issues has grown steadily since the inception of CCS in 2015.”
The positions include three social workers in the “recovery and wellness consortium” in the Department of Human Services. The other two social workers will be assigned to the DHS division of children, youth and families — one added now and one in January. DHS will also add an account assistant.
The CCS program is fully funded by the Medicaid program, and requires no dollars from Chippewa County — those were approved unanimously. The other two social workers will be paid for with fund balance dollars and the levy.
The other new positions include another patrol deputy in the sheriff’s department. That position, costing $93,000, will be paid for through contracted services in the sheriff’s department, and won’t go on the levy. The Facilties and Parks Department and the Planning and Zoning Department will each receive another employee, and the Land Conservation Department will add a full-time agronomist.
Despite adding 10 new positions, the preliminary 2019 budget calls for just a 1.24 percent increase in the levy. Scholz said the county levy would increase from $18.72 million this year to $18.96 million in 2019. The board will vote on the final budget in November.
In other news, the board approved an $8.1 million borrowing package on a 14-1 vote. The money is primarily being used to pay for road and bridge improvements and an upgrade to the county’s radio system. About $2 million of the package is refinancing old debt. Board member Larry Willkom of the town of Lafayette cast the lone vote against it.
In one last note, the board voted unanimously to allow the public to park in the Chippewa County Courthouse parking lot during weekends and evenings. Dick Leinenkugel, president of Leinenkugel Brewing Company, spoke in favor of a proposal. He noted the Leinie Lodge is just a block away, and the county lot will be great for overflow parking for visitors. It also will make the neighborhoods around the Leinie Lodge safer, Leinenkugel said.