Agreement: Merged health department nearly reality
Shorewood first to approve plans for larger department
Shorewood - The prospect of a joint health department serving the seven Milwaukee County North Shore communities is one step closer to reality, following passage of an intergovernmental agreement.
Elected officials in Shorewood, a community spearheading the initiative, approved the agreement Monday. The document will now be circulated to the other six participating communities for adoption. If plans move forward, the Shorewood/Whitefish Bay and North Shore health departments would be dissolved, and a seven-community health department would take its place.
Village Manager Chris Swartz said he has been meeting with managers in other communities throughout the planning stages of drafting the intergovernmental agreement.
As proposed, the agreement calls for representation from all member communities. A board of health, comprised of an appointed Village Board or Common Council member from each of the seven communities, would handle policy decisions that could be brought back to each full municipal body for action. An eighth member, a certified medical officer, would be appointed by the board of health for a two-year term.
While a consolidated health department is not yet in place, Swartz said cooperative efforts are already under way. Shorewood, which holds the contract for the Shorewood/Whitefish Bay Health Department, has been working with Brown Deer, holder of the contract for the North Shore Health Department, to share a health director. Jane Peterson, director of the North Shore Health Department, is retiring Friday.
"There are also discussions between the Brown Deer village manager, me and Jamie Berg (director of the Shorewood/Whitefish Bay Health Department) regarding a transition plan, should consolidation be approved," Swartz said.
More services, grants eyed
In December, the Shorewood Village Board approved a resolution to study consolidation. A report has since been drafted that examined the two departments, in their current state, and the possible composition of a joint department. Findings revealed a larger department could offer greater ability to apply for and receive grants, offer enhanced services to residents and offer each municipality savings in 2012.
As a precursor to the intergovernmental agreement passed by Shorewood this week, four of the seven communities - Brown Deer, Glendale, Shorewood and Whitefish Bay - had formally passed resolutions in support of a merged department.
While there has been support, none of the communities have formally passed a resolution to actually dissolve the two departments and form a new one.
"We don't want to do that now because we don't want to be in a situation of being in limbo," Shorewood Village President Guy Johnson said.
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