Commissioner Dan Green

Commissioner Jai Nelson

Commissioner Todd Tondee

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Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
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Kootenai County Commissioner Jai Nelson
Welcome 2014 Update Role of Commissioner Profile Property Taxes Board of Equilization Board of Ambulance

2014 Update

Fiscally Responsible

During the 2010 campaign, Jai proposed no increases in property-tax-based budget allocations for a two year period, and this goal was achieved-for both years. In fact, without the increases, for the first time in several years the percentage of funding coming from property taxes actually decreased.

In 2011, contracts were renegotiated for an annual savings of $64,000, the rural hauling contract was rebid for a savings of $85,000 (equating to $425,000 over the 5-year contract) there were reorganization savings of $845,000 and healthcare insurance modifications which provided a savings of $420,000. The total budget reduction achieved was $1.4 million annually.

In 2009, the number of full time employees at the county was 827. In 2011, 20 positions were eliminated. In 2014, the full time staff is 776--that number is 51 employees fewer in contrast to 2009. This downsizing of government was achieved because of the conviction that government should be lean and efficient.

Increased Transparency

As part of her 2010 campaign, Jai proposed to increase transparency by placing the county checkbook online in order for citizens to be able to follow the expenditures pathway and know where their tax dollars are heading. The checkbook went 'live' on the county's website in the Spring of 2011 and can be viewed on the Clerks web page.

Fund Balance Policy

Jai instigated and wrote the county's first Fund Balance Policy. The policy is a proactive approach to responsibly plan for current and anticipated needs, minimizing the out-of-pocket from taxpayers. This policy and a 2013 addendum are available by submitting a public records request.

Strategic Plan

In 2011, Jai instigated and wrote the 2012-2018 Strategic Plan--the first policy of its kind at the county. The Strategic Plan was the end result of several months of meetings to identify our purpose, core values, and vision for the future. These key indicators were then transformed into a feasible set of five priority goals and corresponding work plans.

We envision the Strategic Plan goals as a pathway to a clear direction for county government, positioning us as an innovative leader with a vision for our future and a corresponding plan to get there. The Strategic Plan is available by submitting a public records request.

Fleet Management

In the fall of 2013, a Fleet Management Task Force was formed to evaluate a comprehensive fleet management system, because what the county has today is no system - each elected officer is responsible for purchasing, maintaining and operating their own fleet independently.

What we'd like to see is a holistic approach, including a rotating vehicle plan. For example - after a Sheriff's deputy puts 75,000 miles on a patrol vehicle it might be able to be rotated to the Assessor's office for the appraisers to use.

In early 2014, the Task Force made its first recommendation to consolidate fuel purchasing, projected to save the county at least $250,000 annually.

The final recommendations of the Task Force will include findings on any gaps and opportunities in our current fleet operations including: establishing a strategy for overall fleet management and the feasibility of a county-owned and operated fueling station.

Medical Indigent Appeal Hearings

Soon after taking office, Jai revised the appeal process for indigent medical claims and appeals with new forms creating significant savings and efficiencies. The decision process was revised to consideration of the qualifying elements of statute and objective data rather than a subjective narrative.

In 2012 and 2013, the hospital negotiated rebate savings totaled $384,855 in cost reductions in indigent and involuntary hold care. Indigent medical care and involuntary hold care are an obligation of the county per Idaho law.

Involuntary Holds

Jai has been instrumental in addressing the increasing costs of involuntary holds. She formed a Steering Committee for a regional involuntary hold facility in order to find a more cost-effective and appropriate level of care solution for this challenging issue.

What are involuntary holds? These are individuals taken into police custody because they are either a danger to themselves or others. Typically, they are under the influence of drugs and alcohol-most commonly, both.

Similar to indigent medical care, involuntary hold medical care is an obligation of the county per Idaho law. Currently, we are paying these costs on the back end, at an exorbitant rate-at well over half-a-million dollars annually and the cost is rising. In order to find a more cost-effective and appropriate solution, we are looking at a regional facility and we've made tremendous progress.

There are numerous benefits this facility could provide to our region. Some of these include:

  • A more appropriate level of care
  • Predicable, lower costs of operations
  • The capacity to meet the need locally, rather than having to transport these individuals hundreds of miles when the hospital is full-at times these transports are all the way to Boise.
  • Increased time for law enforcement to be “on the street” rather than guarding these individuals in the emergency department as they wait for a bed.
  • Reduced transport costs to distant facilities as well as overtime costs.

After a meeting on this Involuntary Hold facility, Jai received a handwritten letter from then Sheriff Rocky Watson who had this to say:

"Dear Jai; I have been dealing with the problem of mental holds for 18 years. Every 3 years or so county government decides to fix the problem. After two or three meetings everything goes back to status quo. Nothing changes.

This time I'm sure it will be different. I think a solution is on the horizon. That is because of you. Your thinking outside the box with new eyes looking at an old problem has been one of the many things you bring to the table…Some of the people at that [last] meeting should have had neck braces, as they changed direction so fast. Job well done." Rocky

Facilities Master Plan

In 2011, we commenced a Facilities Master Plan effort because for too long, the county had been in a reactive mode in maintaining facilities and paying exorbitant costs without appropriate planning and budgeting. The Facilities Master Plan goals are to increase efficiencies and cost savings by consolidation and by strategically planning ahead for facility appropriations. The downtown consolidated campus strategy is projected to save over $425,000 annually.

The plan depicts a goal of consolidating the downtown campus by moving the departments and courtrooms located at the Juvenile Justice Center (Old Federal Building) to the downtown campus.

With this consolidation we have a need for additional parking. Therefore, a parking structure is also proposed to handle the increase in number of vehicles.

Our main area of need for additional square footage is with our justice departments and court rooms. For the past several years the judges have been asking the state to fund two additional judges. With another judge comes the need for office space, another courtroom, more prosecutors, more public defenders and more support staff.

The central purpose of the Master Plan is to chart the future for facility growth and development based on a comprehensive assessment of present facilities, functional and operational needs, as well as anticipated growth. The Facilities Master Plan is located on the Commissioners' webpage.

Less Paper Initiative

In 2012, the countywide "paperless, paper-lite and wireless" effort began eliminating nearly 90% of paper in the Board's office alone with a projected savings of nearly $32,000 annually in direct costs and more than $41,000 in labor costs.

The plan included an allocation for legal case management software for the Prosecutor's office, Adult Misdemeanor Probation and the Public Defender--as phase 1 of a two-phase implementation plan. Phase 2 will include the juvenile justice departments. In the end, there will be an extensive wireless system and all county departments will have some form of software to manage and organize their workflow and documents.

For the Prosecutor's office, the projected cost savings are $7,000 a year in direct costs and over $100,000 in labor costs--once the conversion to a case management system and paperless case filing is fully implemented in the next few months.

The Less Paper Initiative and effort is much more than reducing the cost factors of paper, copiers, printers, printer ink and the corresponding costs for staff resources.

It's about increasing effective communication and gaining efficiencies. Less time in paper management means more time being productive in providing county services.

Overall, the projected total Phase 1 savings for the taxpayers is nearly $138,000 annually, equating to a savings of close to $1.4 million over the next decade.

Once Phase II is implemented in 2015 the savings and productivity will increase even further.

User Fees

In order to continue to reduce the county's overall reliance on taxpayers, there has been a focus on increasing revenues with user fees. An example of this effort can be found in one of our justice related departments, Adult Misdemeanor Probation.

In 2012, the probationer user fees were modified to a sliding scale from a minimum of $35.00 to the maximum allowed by statue of $75.00 per month--and we do have probationers paying the $75.00 maximum.

Additionally, the fees for drug testing were increased and new fees were initiated for SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring). The SCRAM program is designed for probationers convicted of a DUI and are court-ordered to wear a monitoring bracelet. The bracelet monitors alcohol use, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

We originally started the SCRAM program with a target range of 120 days in which the DUI probationer wore the bracelet, but found that we were having problems with our long-term drinkers relapsing. So, we extended the length of time for the habitual offenders and found that we had a much higher success rate with fewer relapses.

The national average for compliance for the SCRAM Program is 80 percent and yet, Kootenai County been able to increase that to an 87 percent compliance rate.

As an case in point, in 2012, the county had 22 individuals wearing a SCRAM bracelet for a combined total of over 1,700 days--with NO alcohol violations and NO probation violations-this program works and it's keeping our streets much safer. For this high success rate, Kootenai County's Misdemeanor department achieved national recognition.

After taking office in 2011, Jai took over the directorship of Adult Misdemeanor Probation as she found the department to have numerous issues. At that time she received many phone calls about numerous problems-all of which had been occurring for years. Jai received a call from a physician who is one of the service providers for probationers. A long conversation ensued and he relayed several ongoing and increasing concerns. Over the course of over a year, Jai implemented numerous improvements. After these improvements were made she received another call from this same physician with this message:

"Commissioner Nelson--Approximately a year ago I contacted you regarding my concerns with the operations of Adult Misdemeanor Probation.

I thought I would call and give you an update. First of all, I want to compliment you on making some excellent changes and choices. I feel you're the first Commissioner that I have worked with or even talked with that seems to have a sense on the pulse of our community.

Misdemeanor Probation, is now probably the finest operation I have seen in 17 years here in Kootenai County and perhaps even in comparison to where I've been in other states.

The team is professional. Every member of the team is consummately involved in making sure that their clients, the county and the treatment providers in the community are all well communicated with.

So, I think it's only fair that if I'm going to call and complain a year ago that I should also put forth the same effort to call and commend you, and your staff for doing an exceptionally fine change-around; and turn-around. It's very impressive - this community should be very proud of what the folks in Misdemeanor Probation are doing for their community and for their clients.

So compliments to you Commissioner, and compliments to your staff--and I am a very, very pleased mental health care provider here in the community and I very much enjoy now working with the staff and with you.

Once again, you're the first in 17 years of my association with the county that I've ever had anything really that great to say so - thank you so very much for caring, I appreciate your good work."

Wellness Program

As an RN with cardiac experience, Jai was instrumental in developing the county's Wellness Program, "Wellness Your Way" which promotes healthy lifestyles for Kootenai County workers, promotes overall health in order to reduce sick time and cut the county's insurance costs. Jai has written numerous health related articles for the countywide newsletter providing education for key health indicators and evidence based treatments for positive outcomes.

Public Safety

As a Commissioner, a primary focus is public safety. Since 2011, the sheriff's division has been increased by 14 patrol deputy positions over a three year period.

Solid Waste

The prior Board's policy was to reduce 14 rural dumpsites to five attended sites with restricted hours of access. This strategy would have had significant exponential consequences costing all taxpayers, urban and rural, considerably more funds to clean up and restore clandestine sites rather than merely servicing the existing dumpsites. In 2011, the Solid Waste Department reviewed this strategy and developed a more effective plan.

At the May 21, 2011 Public Meeting the Board signed the 2011 Solid Waste Rural Systems Strategy Resolution. The Resolution is designed to meet the future need of the rural residents of Kootenai County while providing an appropriate, efficient and cost effective waste handling system.

"I feel this Resolution is the best strategy for the rural citizens and our rural waste system. I'm committed to leadership which support the taxpayer's position in this economic climate, while maintaining an appropriate level of service for the county. It's simple: greater convenience = greater compliance and this Resolution provides the convenience to ensure compliance."

The new strategy includes the consolidation of only four sites to two sites for an overall goal of 12 rural sites. These sites are the two collection sites at Garwood and Twin Lakes as well as consolidating the Rose lake Junction and Rose Lake sites into one facility. With this consolidation of sites the Solid Waste Department would be in a position to provide more services such as recycling and clothing reuse bins at these consolidated locations.

Increasing Communication

Since taking office, one goal is to increase communication, to both the public as well as internally with employees. Consequently, in 2012, a countywide quarterly newsletter; "Kootenai County Communications" was implemented with very positive feedback coming from employees.

Additionally, in the past several years numerous Press Releases have been released in order to communicate more effectively and frequently with the public. Between 2008 and 2010, the Commissioners sent only five Press Releases over that three year period. In contrast, during the three years of 2011 to 2013, almost 30 Press Releases have been disseminated.

Sesquicentennial Celebration

An important milestone takes place in 2014, it's Kootenai County's sesquicentennial or 150th anniversary. Our county was established in 1864 by the Second Territorial Legislature--26 years before Idaho became a state.

In conducting research for our sesquicentennial, it was discovered that there are numerous county logos and emblems but no officially adopted seal.

Consequently, in 2013, a contest was held to design an official seal. This design by North Idaho College, Graphic Design major; Jamie Kay Marble was selected and adopted in January, 2014.

Jamie's design was inspired by the notable aspects of Kootenai County. From the famous landmark and oldest building in our state, the Cataldo Mission, to one of America's most beautiful lakes--Lake Coeur d'Alene. The pickaxe and saw are evocative of our historical industries. The central tree climbs into the sky representing a county that is continually developing. The eagle is the embodiment of the freedom Kootenai County provides to its citizens.

The adoption of an official seal is an integral part of our 150th anniversary milestone and will address the need for cohesion in the county's identity. The seal captures our history, our vision and who we are as a county.

The primary event to commemorate our anniversary will be the dedication of a monument to be located at a new Heritage Tribute Plaza at the county fairgrounds. The dedication will take place on August 20th, 2014, at 10 AM. The keynote speaker is tentatively set to be Governor Otter. You are invited to attend this exciting event.

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Physical Address: 451 Government Way, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814 Mailing Address: PO Box 9000, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83816-9000
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