Rec. dept., here we come!
Written by Karen Ortner
It was unanimously voted by Holyoke City Council at the Tuesday, May 17, meeting to move forward with the idea of a full-time recreation department, pending voter approval of a 2.5 percent lodging tax in the November election.
“We will never know if the program can succeed without trying it,” said councilmember Kevin Scott.
Councilmember J.C. Peckham also pointed out the timeliness of pursuing the program while there is already a group of active citizens supporting it.
One of those active citizens, Tom Bennett, acknowledged that the idea is probably more challenging to the council as it is a fairly new proposal, whereas the group of citizens has been working on the idea for a year and a half.
“We’ve found extra revenue sources,” he said. “It’s not overly costly to the city.”
The 2.5 percent lodging tax must pass voter approval first in order for the recreation department to become real, as it would provide critical funding for such a project.
Councilmembers were very positive about the idea of a five-year sunset provision for the tax, discussed at a Monday, May 16, work session with community committee members. The provision would require the tax to be renewed by voter approval within five years to continue, allowing for ongoing evaluation and assessment of the recreation department program.
Scott said that he felt a lot better about it all after the Monday meeting, where several questions were discussed and answered pertaining to the creation of such a department. School representatives were present at the Monday meeting in support of the program and confirmed that the city would only have to pay fees for facility use if custodians were needed for a given event.
It was also reiterated at the work session that the department would serve not only kids but adults as well and could involve as diverse of programs as quilting and woodworking in addition to sports leagues.
In Tuesday’s full-time recreation department discussion, Bennett also explained that their committee’s vision in no way involved trying to take over any existing successful programs, such as the wrestling club or swim league. The department could offer assistance for the programs’ continuance but is not intended to change anything in such successful, well-organized programs.
City Attorney Al Wall informed the council that a resolution will need to be passed in order to move forward with putting the tax measure on the ballot. Now that the council has approved moving forward with the idea, a resolution will be drafted for approval as the next step.
Donation requests approved for summer projects
Community members also asked for summer project donations at the May 17 meeting.
Bennett requested $800 for up-front costs for the Regional Babe Ruth Tournament, with the caveat that any profits would be going back to the city. Historically, similar tournaments have brought in $2,000 profits.
Adam Einspahr was present on behalf of the Holyoke Golf Club to request $15,000 for repairs and maintenance, specifically to replace sprinkler heads as needed.
Both requests were approved by the council.
Holyoke School District donates $10,000 to ballpark restroom construction
Tillie Fisbeck, filling in for City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Olofson, informed the council at the Tuesday meeting that the Holyoke School District will donate $10,000 to the city for ballpark restroom construction. The donation will come through in July as part of the school’s 2016-17 budget.
City Superintendent Mark Brown updated the council on the ballpark progress at the Tuesday meeting as well, stating that while awning painting is at a standstill due to weather, the restrooms are coming along nicely. The exterior brick has been sealed, and the ceiling and electric work inside is finished.
At the time of the meeting, plans were in place to clean and paint this week, weather permitting.
Summer recreation coaches hired, wages set
Coaching staff for summer baseball and softball leagues was also set at the Tuesday meeting.
Kendra Schlachter had already been approved at a previous meeting as the recreation director, receiving a total of $4,500 for the months of April-July.
Matt Zilla, Casey Krening, Taylor Mayden and Marques Harvey were hired as baseball coaches, receiving $8.35 hourly in May and $800 for the month of June.
Sherman Kage and Roni Beavers were hired as softball coaches. Both receive $8.35 hourly for the month of May, while Kage earns $1,000 for June and Beavers earns $700.
Schlachter will serve as T-ball and pitching machine coach, receiving $8.35 hourly in May and $1,000 for June.
Other assistants who will fill in where needed for $8.35 hourly are Kaitlyn Lenhart, Gabi Gordon, Madicyn Krajewski, Gunnar Kroeger and Chandler Gerk.
Brown, Fisbeck and Police Chief Doug Bergstrom all reported for their respective departments at the May 17 meeting.
Brown reported no outages since the last meeting, but the electric department did have to repair a struck power pole at the corner of Johnson Street and Interocean Avenue. Highline assisted to lift the downed wires.
Citywide cleanup resulted in lighter loads than normal, with a total of 15 loads of processed wood hauled at the cost of $449.60 to the city. Home-owners paid to haul away $24 worth of tires and $264 worth of electronics, and a total of 18,940 pounds of trash was picked up, including couches and mattresses.
Fisbeck reported that Scott Szabo of Lauer, Szabo & Associates, PC, will present the audit report at the Tuesday, June 7, council meeting.
Bergstrom reported 135 total calls for service since the previous meeting.
In other business at the Tuesday meeting, the council:
—approved and adopted on final reading Ordinance No. 3-2016, exempting lots over three acres and more than 200 feet from existing utilities from having to connect to city sewer or water sources or needing paved streets with curb and gutter.
—waived the building permit fee for St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.
—allowed for councilmembers to have access to the recently added medical transport insurance benefit for city workers, provided that participating councilmembers reimburse the city for the cost.
—approved a travel request for Fisbeck and Olofson to attend the CMCA Liquor Licensing training in Sterling.
—set summer help wages for John Zilla ($10.50 per hour), and Vern Adams and Trevor Dalton ($10.25 per hour).
—appointed Jerry Beavers to serve another three-year term on the Board of Variance Adjustment and Jerry Banaka to another six-year term on the Holyoke Planning Commission.
—held a 24-minute executive session for the purpose of receiving legal advice on specific legal questions.
Holyoke Enterprise May 26, 2016
Report ranks MMH No. 3 in Colorado
Written by Karen Ortner
Reports are in, and Melissa Memorial Hospital ranked No. 3 in the state among all hospitals for patient satisfaction from March 2014-March 2015, as announced at the Monday, May 23, East Phillips County Hospital District Board meeting.
An extensive standardized summary, issued by Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, compared MMH’s patient survey results to those of all hospitals nationally, those in the “mountain region” of the country, those in the state, and rural hospitals overall, as well as to critical access hospitals nationwide and to hospitals similar in size.
“We are the third best in Colorado, including the big hospitals,” CEO Trampas Hutches informed the board. “We’re also the top-ranked in the area of northeast Colorado, northwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska.”
Additionally, MMH is ranked No. 2 in the same regional area plus the Nebraska panhandle, with only the Benkelman, Neb., hospital topping MMH’s ratings.
MMH’s top areas include responsiveness of staff (100 percent), pain management (98 percent) and discharge information (93 percent). Transition of care was also highly ranked.
Much of the survey result findings were consistent with CNO Deanna Stryker’s quarterly quality report. Stryker described the hospital’s transition to a more proactive system for following up with discharged patients.
Besides receiving discharge information when leaving the hospital and receiving a check-in call shortly after arriving home, patients with chronic problems or past due for check-ups are also contacted. The proactive approach is meant to help keep discharged patients at home rather than being constantly in and out of the hospital.
Stryker’s report also showed that MMH experienced no medication errors and no clinical harm the entire last quarter (January-March 2016). Clinical harm includes falls with injury, adverse drug events, infections, pressure ulcers and worker harm.
Hutches told the board that potential government reimbursements exist for hospitals with high quality care and high patient satisfaction like MMH.
Health needs assessment results reviewed
The Community Health Needs Assessment survey results were also reviewed at the Monday night meeting.
While results showed an 88 percent market capture, it was found that only 10 percent of the local Hispanic population comes to MMH for care.
Board members speculated if this might be partially tied to another finding, that 62 percent of respondents felt services needed to be provided before or after normal work hours or on weekends. Some confirmed from personal conversations that it is difficult to get time off for an appointment from Seaboard, for example, a major employer in the area.
As for reasons reported for “outmigration,” or receiving medical care elsewhere, the top reasons (based on number of reported visits) were cancer/oncology, followed by orthopedics, ophthalmology (eye surgery), dermatology and gynecology-obstetrics.
Assessment findings showed a desire for cancer/oncology services, followed by oral health services, orthopedics, substance abuse services, mental health services, daycare and vision services.
Recruitment is ongoing for some of these top areas of concern. A dentist, Dr. Arnold Cullum, has been hired to provide services at MMH. He will do pediatrics, dentures and implants, according to Hutches, and the goal is to build up enough volume for the position to become full-time. Cullum will begin at MMH Monday, June 27.
Other recruitments in the works include ongoing discussions with an ophthalmologist and MMH searching for an optometrist.
Hutches addressed the lack of an obstetrician as well, along with the cost-benefit analysis.
“OB services were discontinued in 2012 due to costs and difficulty staffing,” said Hutches. He explained that the highest number of patients in one year was 38. The total number of OB visits lost to Yuma and Logan counties since 2012 totals 328.
Admitting that it could be true that mothers would take their families out of the MMH system after delivering elsewhere, Hutches also pointed out that MMH averages 38 new patients per month. The facility has had 190 new patients in the last five months.
Conversely, 31 local babies were delivered outside of MMH in 2015, a costly undertaking in which insurance paid for only $561 per birth on average. For these reasons, Hutches concluded that looking for an obstetrician would not be at the top of the priority list.
Pharmacist hired, physician recruitment ongoing
In addition to the hiring of a dentist, a pharmacist has also been hired at MMH. Amy Kleve will start Monday, June 20.
MMH is still trying to recruit two more physicians for the facility.
‘Robust plan’ in place for revenue cycle
While accounts receivable continues to be out of compliance with hospital policy, at the Monday meeting CFO Jason McCormick discussed the “robust plan” in place to help remedy the problem and better capture hospital revenue.
Samantha Kuhlmann has been appointed director of revenue cycle, leading a restructured team to help correct and improve the billing process.
“We believe that with the restructuring, we will be able to focus people more effectively,” said McCormick. “The team can hold each other accountable in all areas.”
Construction project nears end
Hutches also gave a brief construction update at the May 23 meeting. Many areas are receiving finishing touches, and while the addition of a pharmacy set back the timeline from the original mid-June estimate, the project should be complete by the beginning of July.
Including all contingency funds, the project is currently $250,000 under budget, and MMH is also in the final stages of receiving a $500,000 grant for the clinic capital improvement project from the Colorado Health Foundation.
Fair treatment of staff discussed
Hutches also reviewed the policy on treatment of staff Monday evening, addressing a couple of key discrepancies.
He noted that there was a wide variance in educational reimbursement among different contracts, promising different amounts to different individuals to earn degrees. The policy was amended to offer up to $2,500 per year in exchange for a one-year commitment, and the portion allowing for administrative discretion was removed to keep it consistently enforced.
All regular employees will also receive $3 per hour for on-call pager time regardless of department to even out the previous $1-5 per hour range.
Foundation receives new member
Board chair Steve Young also reported on behalf of the MMH Foundation at the May 23 meeting.
Julianne Kramer is a new member of the Foundation, teams are signing up for the annual fitness challenge, and MMHF is offering scholarships to existing MMH employees to further their education.
Gift and Rahe sworn in
As the hospital board election was canceled due to a lack of competing petitions, incumbent board members Sheila Gift and Gary Rahe were both re-elected for four-year terms. They took their oath of office at Monday’s meeting.
Officers were also nominated and voted in by the board. Young will serve as chairman, Rahe vice-chairman and Angela Powell secretary/treasurer.
In other business at the May 23 meeting, the board:
—approved one new appointment, Adam Asarch, M.D., to dermatology, and six reappointments, Russell Bartt, M.D., and Judd Jensen, M.D., to teleneurology, David Board, M.D. ,and Courtney Carter, M.D., to radiology, Harold Chapel, M.D. ,to cardiology and James Meyer, M.D., to sleep studies.
Holyoke Enterprise May 26, 2016
Grant to help more students bike, walk to school
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt
Education and encouragement for getting more Holyoke students in grades K-8 biking and walking to school safely will be a primary focus as a result of receiving a Safe Routes to School grant.
Activities director Sandra Rahe gave details of the grant at the May 17 meeting of Holyoke School District Re-1J Board of Education.
Covering a two-year period, from this fall through the spring of 2018, the $20,000 grant administered through the Colorado Department of Transportation includes a $4,000 match from the district.
For the first year of the grant, education and encouragement for elementary and middle school students will be highlighted.
Rahe pointed out that P.E. teacher Scott Dille is very committed to learning from Bicycle Colorado and incorporating bicycle and pedestrian safety units into his regular programming.
He will also work with other Wellness Committee members to establish programs such as walk and bike to school days, walking groups, etc., to encourage students to participate.
Rahe said the district is excited to provide a bicycle library program and will incorporate bicycle recyclery in the district. She added that the grant funding will also provide for the purchase of some new bikes, as well.
Year No. 2 of the grant will focus on engaging some of the older students in collecting used bicycles and fixing them up for the community.
She said that the Individual Career and Academic Plan program is a perfect place to engage students and get them involved and helping with the library program.
They will also learn from a bike mechanic how to use basic tools (provided by the Fixstation permanent repair stand) to work on younger kids’ bikes.
Parent surveys and student travel tallies will be conducted throughout the two-year grant program.
CDOT promotes that Safe Routes to School programs can improve safety, not just for children but for the entire community. SRTS provides opportunities for people to increase their physical activity and improve their health. It reduces congestion and pollution around schools and encourages partnerships.
Base salary increased 1%; new health insurance package approved
Base salaries for certified staff members will increase 1 percent for 2016-17, as approved at last week’s board meeting.
By way of example, this will mark a $335 increase on the first-year salary for one with a bachelor’s degree. The 2016-17 base salary at this level will be $33,835, up from the current $33,500.
As a result of being dropped by the BEST PPO health insurance plan, the district was forced to look elsewhere. Two options were approved through Advanced Benefit Advisors to be available to staff members.
One is an Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield $6,000 gap plan. It involves a $500 deductible. The second is a $1,300 gap plan at a higher deductible of $1,300.
This change in health insurance will actually result in close to a $67,000 savings to Holyoke School District. It will involve approximately $222 less per month, per employee, compared to what the district is currently paying.
Currently, the district contribution per employee is $845.58 per month, including dental and vision add-ons. The newly-adopted plan will involve $623.36 contributed by the district per employee.
It was noted that deductibles already incurred this year will be applied to these plans, starting July 1.
2016-17 extra-duty assignments made
Following a 25-minute executive session last week with the board, superintendent, JR/SR high principal and activities director, the board approved extra-duty assignments for 2016-17.
The head HS football coach will receive a $3,102 stipend, with four assistants designated at $1,706 each.
Head HS volleyball, boys basketball, girls basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball coaches will also receive $3,102. Assistant coaches in those programs will be paid $1,861, as will the HS spiritleader sponsor.
A $1,861 stipend has been set for each of three seasons for an athletic trainer.
For HS and JH boys and girls track, the adopted extra-duty assignments list includes a head and assistant HS coach at $2,235 each, head JH coach at $2,155, assistant JH at $1,825, and one assistant JH and one assistant HS at $1,340 each.
A stipend of $1,825 will go to head HS boys golf and girls swimming coaches, with assistants receiving $1,241. In the girls golf program, two coaches will each receive $1,533.
Head JH volleyball, boys basketball, girls basketball and wrestling coaches will receive a $1,825 stipend, while $1,241 was allotted for assistant coaches in those sports, as well as the JH spiritleader sponsor.
There is no stipend for the head JH football coach, with two assistants receiving $1,533 each.
A $10 hourly wage was set for weightroom supervision.
Extra-duty assignments were made as follows:
John Zilla, head HS football; Vanessa Tharp, head HS volleyball; Theresa Tharp, assistant HS volleyball; Scott Dille, head HS boys basketball; John Baumgartner, head HS girls basketball.
Sherman Kage, head HS girls softball; Kendra Schlachter, assistant HS girls softball; Stefan Betley, head HS boys golf; Adria Colver, head HS girls swimming; Aly Brinkema, assistant HS girls swimming; McKenna Heldenbrand, head HS and head JH spiritleader.
Dusty Sprague, head JH football; John Baumgartner, assistant JH football; Russ Sprague and Sam Distefano, volunteer assistant JH football; Michelle Vieselmeyer, head JH volleyball; Greg Wakeman, assistant JH boys basketball; Nick Flaa, head JH girls basketball; Maddie Eurich, assistant JH girls basketball.
Kendra Schlachter, fall, winter and spring athletic trainer; John Zilla, Wyatt Jiru, Cody Jiru and Scott Dille, weightroom supervision; and Dusty McConnell, volunteer wrestling open mat.
In other business May 17, the school board:
—reviewed the proposal request for the school transportation vehicle maintenance and inspection services program, noting that proposals are due by 4 p.m. Friday, May 27.
—heard from Superintendent John McCleary during the retreat prior to the meeting that a budget rough draft will be ready for the June 7 board meeting.
—noted non-school-year board meetings will begin at 8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., starting in June.
—canceled both the July 5 and 19 regular meetings and scheduled a Monday, July 25, meeting at 5 p.m., followed by a board retreat.
—approved Lauer, Szabo & Associates to conduct the district’s 2015-16 audit.
—approved a five-year contract with Chartwells Food Service at an annual $11,000 administrative fee.
—adopted revised Policy IKF on graduation requirements, after its second reading.
Holyoke Enterprise May 26, 2016