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County Commission OKs mental health facility project, 1.5% employee wage hike in 2022

Pennington County Board of Commissioners

The 2021 Pennington County Board of Commissioners: Lloyd LaCroix, Ron Rossknecht, Gary Drewes, Deb Hadcock and Travis Lasseter.

The county will move forward with the construction of a regional mental health facility following a contract approval from the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

The Pennington County Commissioners unanimously approved the $5,308,000 contract to RCS Construction for the Crisis Stabilization Project.

The project will include 16 beds to serve patients with acute behavioral health needs and house eight existing beds for the Crisis Care Unit. The 16 beds would allow for up to a five-day stay while the Crisis Care beds are used for up to 24 hours.

State Legislators approved $4.6 million for the project in March. It will be located next to the Care Campus on a 1.77-acre lot.

The Rapid City Council approved $500,000 in a match to the county for the project during its Monday night meeting. Commission Chair Gary Drewes said Tuesday he feels with the land and the $300,000 contingency, the county has fulfilled its $500,000.

Sheriff Kevin Thom said the projected cost for the facility was $4.6 million last year, but with increasing material costs, the project is now estimated at $6,240,010.

The remaining $1.6 million will come from the city, county and foundation donations.

“You can look at this project for one, the foundations were on the ground running before we even talked about actually building a facility,” Drewes said. “They have much more than just filled in the gap. They’ve been a complete part of all of this project.”

The commission voted to use $300,000 of the county’s unassigned funds for one-time expenditures for the contingency funds. The rest of the unassigned funds were allocated to the county’s accumulated building fund.

Commissioner Lloyd LaCroix said he didn’t think all of the money needed to be allocated just yet. Commissioner Deb Hadcock said moving the money would allow for a better vetting process rather than deciding on what projects to focus on at the meeting.

The county originally had about $6 million in unassigned funds to allocate. The board allocated $2 million to the Pennington County Housing Authority; $1,837,000 for the Fire Service Board for the Creighton Radio project and fire stations for Wasta, Quinn and Scenic; $400,000 for the Health Care Trust Fund replenishment;  $371,167 for law enforcement radio upgrades; and $661,900 to the Wall Industrial Park during the Aug. 17 meeting.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a 1.5% wage increase for county employees effective Jan. 2, 2022. The wage adjustment would use stored CPI and reduce the accumulated building budget by $600,000. This will change the county consolidated levy to 4.688 and the total to 6.006, a 0.1222 reduction. This means, when applied to property taxes, property owners would pay $12.20 per $100,000 less.

The commission also voted to deny extending some COVID-19 paid sick leave benefits. Human Resources Director Jon Morrill said under the extensions for the benefits, through last Wednesday they had 64 employees that qualified for the leave. He said that totals $64,107 that the county has paid in additional COVID sick leave benefits.

The last two weeks in August, they had 27 employees who tested positive for the virus and applied for benefits. Through the first two weeks and a day of September, they have 30 employees who applied for the benefits.

Morrill said the benefit expires Sept. 30. He said county employees receive 96 hours of paid leave each year.

Hadcock said because employees do get the 96 hours and other benefits, she doesn’t think the additional leave and benefits are necessary.

— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at siandhara.bonnet@rapidcityjournal.com

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