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Is a split in the future for the bi-county health department ? Huerfano County considers options

HUERFANO — When entities split up, everyone hopes for an amicable divorce, but the possibility of a split of the Las Animas / Huerfano County Health Department may mean separate bedrooms in the same ‘house’ for up to a year.
The Huerfano County Commissioners hosted a special work session Friday, November 1, which included public health board members, health department employees and others, in the wake of a possible move by the Las Animas County Commissioners to split the bi-county health department into two entities, one each in each individual county.
The Las Animas County Board of Commissioners had the issue on their meeting agenda for Tuesday, Nov. 5, but it appears as a discussion, not an action item. Bobian said the Huerfano County Commissioners would not be addressing the issue in their meeting this week.
Huerfano County Commission Chairman Art Bobian said he was contacted about two weeks ago by Las Animas Commissioner Mack Louden, after the resignations of Mary A. Garcia, executive director, and David Reineke, finance manager, about the possibility of the split.
Just this week however, Bobian told the Huerfano World Journal, in discussions he has had with Louden over the past several days, there are indications the two boards of commissioners could discuss the issue in the future in an attempt to prevent dissolving the bi-county department, and finding ways to make it operate in a more streamlined and cost efficient manner.
Bobian said he believed there will be additional sessions like the one held Friday so analysis of the issue may continue.
Statutes regulating combined, multiple-entity governmental services, such as the bi-county health department, allow for the elimination of the agreements, but provide for up to one year before such a move is formalized, if one entity does not immediately agree with the plan.
This could well be the case for any potential split of the bi-county health department, if efforts to save the status quo fail. It was made clear in the Friday meeting in Walsenburg, Huerfano County would not be prepared to set up a separate county health department in less than two months.
Both Las Animas and Huerfano County help fund the bi-county department, other funding comes from state and federal health programs administered locally, along with various grants.
Information presented at the Friday meeting show the bi-county board of health directors are continuing business as usual, working on the upcoming 2014 budget for the current bi-county entity.

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