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SAC CITY, Iowa | With financial questions continuing to be a concern, the Rolling Hills Community Service Region Governance Board on Wednesday put off a decision on whether to add Woodbury County.

After four months of deliberations, the eight-member regional agency still hasn’t made a decision on Woodbury County's application. That's left the county in limbo about which regional agency will be delivering mental health services to low-income and disabled individuals beginning July 1. That’s the date Woodbury County is set to part ways with the three-county Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disability Services, after four years of growing pains with Sioux and Plymouth counties.

After a robust discussion at the December meeting, the Rolling Hills board postponed a vote. The key factor then and now remains pinpointing how much money Woodbury County could bring into the agency in the 2018-19 fiscal year.

Rolling Hills Board Chairman Rick Hecht and the group's CEO Dawn Mentzer said the next board meeting will take place on March 5, in Sac City. Hecht  believes enough discussions have been held, so an up-or-down vote on Woodbury County will happen then.

“The determination will be made,” said Hecht, a Sac County supervisor.

Hecht praised the “very thorough” look by board members at the pros and cons of adding Woodbury County to Rolling Hills, which contains the smaller, rural counties of Buena Vista, Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Crawford and Ida.

Woodbury County Supervisors Jeremy Taylor and Rocky De Witt and county Finance Director Dennis Butler attended Wednesday's meeting in Sac City.

After the meeting, De Witt, the board chairman, said while more questions need to be addressed, he is "very optimistic on a yes vote" at the March meeting.

Hecht said the Woodbury County officials and Rolling Hills members both understand that neither side could look to the other to provide a financial windfall for services. How much each side would provide in property taxes from a mental health levy remains a sticking point, he added.

“Basically, the entire discussion evolved around finances, and I need to provide an additional budget presentation (in March), so that they can make an informed decision,” Mentzer said.

Woodbury County has been a member of Sioux Rivers since 2014, following the state's decision to switch from a county-based to a regional approach for  delivering mental health services. The state calls such regions Mental Health and Disability Services systems, or MHDS regions.

Late last year, Sioux and Plymouth county representatives on the Sioux Rivers board voted against Woodbury's formal request to leave the region at the end of the current fiscal year.

At the Rolling Hills board meeting in November, members picked through issues about whether the move would be a positive step, in terms of services and finances for delivery of mental health services. Several Rolling Hills board members shared substantial concerns about adding Woodbury County, while one board member said it would be a positive step to accept the county.

Mentzer said Wednesday a positive point of adding Woodbury County is that "they double our size without changing the geographic footprint to a great extent."


County and education reporter

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