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Public Health grappling with staffing changes
Crawford County
Riniker resigns
CRAWFORD COUNTY Public Health Officer Cindy Riniker's last day in her job was October 1. Riniker resigned from her position, temporarily leaving the county without a health officer as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. The County Board of Supervisors is expected to confirm her replacement at their October 19 meeting. Riniker has accepted a position with Crossing Rivers Health in Prairie du Chien, working as a liaison to public health, so the community will still benefit from her passion and experience.

CRAWFORD COUNTY - The Crawford County Board of Supervisor’s Personnel Committee grappled with staffing changes in the Public Health Department and needed policies to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic at their Wednesday, Sept. 22 meeting.

Crawford County Health and Human Services Director Dan McWilliams was present to update the committee on staffing shifts in the department, and to propose four new job descriptions.

“Our Health Officer Cindy Riniker has resigned, and her last day will be October 1,” McWilliams said. “In addition, we have lost another member of the team, and are currently operating with only three of five positions in the department filled.”

McWilliams said that approval of a replacement for Riniker in the position of County Health Officer is currently “in progress.” He said that it would first require the approval by the State of Wisconsin, and then by the Crawford County Board of Supervisors.

To address staffing shortages in the department, McWilliams proposed and received approval for four new job descriptions. In addition, the committee approved special new pay grades for two of the positions to address the competitive nature of employment trends in the health care industry.

Four new positions

The first position approved was for a RN Staff Nurse, which would require a two-year nursing degree. He said that this would allow them to consider applicants for the position with either a two-year or four-year nursing degree. If an individual with a two-year degree were to be hired, that person would work under the supervision of a person with a four-year degree.

The second position is for a Public Health LPN. This position will be responsible for undertaking public health tasks, but would not have responsibility for programs. They would be assigned tasks by a supervisor.

The third position would be for a Lead Health Nurse. This position reflects that the Health Officer does not have to be a registered nurse. McWilliams said that the current candidate for the Health Officer position is not a registered nurse, so the Lead Health Nurse would take some of the load off of the Health Officer. 

McWilliams received approval for a new paygrade for the position, 1A, of $31-per-hour, which he pointed out is still lower than the rate being paid in surrounding counties. He was authorized to begin advertising immediately for this position.

The fourth position was for a limited-term employee Communicable Disease Nurse. He said that he might or might not actually hire for this position. The position was approved to start at $28.99 per hour.

COVID sick leave policy

County Emergency Management Director James Hackett was present to present a proposed ‘ARPA Paid Leave Policy,’ which had been developed by the ARPA sub-committee of the Finance Committee. Hackett chairs the sub-committee created to evaluate and recommend proposals for expenditure of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds.

“The county has been operating on a temporary policy, which our sub-committee has reviewed and updated to address some of the concerns with the temporary policy,” Hackett told the committee. “The Finance Committee asked that the policy be brought to this committee for approval.”

Hackett said that the Finance Committee had expressed concern with “a lot of holes” in the temporary policy. He said that the updated policy is revised to prevent abuse, not be open-ended, and allow supervisors to review requests on a case-by-case basis. He said that there would be lots of discretion left to department heads in order to prevent workforce shortages. The example used was the need to have snowplow drivers available during a snowstorm.

Hackett explained that, if properly administered, all of the paid time off under this policy would be paid for 100 percent out of ARPA funds, and would not come “out of the county pocket.”

County Treasurer Deanne Lutz pointed out that the policy can be “revoked at any time.” She said that the ARPA funds would cover the cost of COVID-19-related absences going back to March 3, 2020.

The committee voted unanimously to approve the new COVID-19 Sick Leave Policy.