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Goodhue County looking to proceed with EDS for health department

RED WING - The Goodhue County Health and Human Services Department is hoping to move forward with plans to utilize an electronic document management system, but with a couple of viable routes to take, the Health and Human Services Board doesn't know the best way to proceed.

At their meeting Tuesday, board members discussed the possibilities of purchasing the system independently or working with another entity.

The system has been implemented in 17 counties throughout Minnesota, with Winona County being the nearest.

HHS Deputy Director Mike Zorn was instructed at a board meeting back in June to develop final cost options for the electronic system. Earlier this week, he presented board members with the various possibilities they requested.

To use the electronic document management system for the Health and Human Services income maintenance unit over the course of five years, Goodhue County would pay nearly $486,000 independently or almost $468,000 by collaborating with Winona County.

Zorn also presented numbers for if the county added its child support cases into the electronic system during the second year of use. In that scenario, the five-year cost would total $625,462 independently or $644,270 with Winona County.

"Once we started adding child support we found it was going to cost more money to go with Winona than to host it on our own," Zorn said in an interview Wednesday.

Eventually, Zorn pointed out at the meeting, the intent is to have all Health and Human Services divisions utilizing the electronic document management system.

Although joining Winona County would be more expensive, some HHS Board members favored that option.

"It's time to bite the bullet and begin cooperating regionally," board member Ted Seifert said.

Others were more hesitant to make a decision without being able to look at a contract from Winona County.

"How can we enter into an agreement when we don't know what the agreement is going to say?" board member Gary Iocco questioned.

HHS Director Nina Arneson said it would benefit the county to work independently if finances are the main concern.

"But there are other benefits that we would be able to gain by joining," she added about working with Winona. Those could include sharing staff members or having each county specialize in certain areas.

"There are pros and cons both ways," Arneson said.

Several other counties in the southeastern region -- Wabasha, Houston and Fillmore -- are considering use of the electronic document management system as well. They are in various stages of research, planning and implementation, and could possibly team up with Winona County in the future.

This led board members to question whether it would be less expensive for them to work with Winona if other counties were involved as well.

"Hopefully, but (there's) no guarantee," Zorn told them.

Without a solid contract to look over, the board unanimously voted to table its decision until its Jan. 15 meeting.