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Advocates pack Rock County budget hearing

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ANN MARIE AMES
November 5, 2009
— Year after year, advocates pack the annual public hearing on the Rock County budget.

Behind the scenes are the 200 developmentally disabled residents on waiting lists for services. The wait might be eight to 10 years long, said Gary Bersell, executive director of Janesville’s Kandu Industries.


Kandu is an organization that gets some of its funding from the county to provide vocational rehabilitation and other support services for Rock County residents with developmental disabilities.


The waiting list has held steady in the four years Bersell has worked at Kandu, he told the Gazette before Wednesday night’s hearing. And it’s not going to change before Rock County starts participating in Family Care, a state-mandated, managed care program for many who depend on public money for support, he said.


“Until that comes, we will not meet the needs of those people waiting for services,” Bersell said.


The county itself is working to be smarter and more efficient with its programming, said LuAnn Kane, director of the Rock County Developmental Disabilities Board.


“I’m not in favor of equating health, safety and quality of care, but at this time, in this county, we can’t avoid it,” Kane told the Gazette.


Here’s what some Rock County residents had to say to the county board during the hearing:


-- Julie Creek-Hessler, Evansville, talked about the need to move a family member into assisted living. “How do we ensure Sue’s care is being put into the budget?” Creek-Hessler said. “How do we know when to start preparing her for the change? … She may be a number to you, but she is a loving, caring person in our family.”


-- Sheila JaDoul, Janesville, vice president of Local 2489, was concerned about the slowly declining number of county employees. Next year’s budget calls for 10.5 fewer through attrition. “I would like us to keep a very close eye on the jobs being eliminated,” JaDoul said. “We need to keep looking at the integrity of our county.”


-- Gary Keller, Evansville, asked the board to consider the necessity of an $8.46 million upgrade at the Rock County Jail. The upgrade is just one phase of a possible project, but the only one planned at this time.


“I understand we have sales tax (money) put away, but maybe we should use that tax money to retire the budget and get that on a level playing field and just do what we have to do at the jail.”



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