GALENA, Ill. — After the Jo Daviess County Board of Health lost more than half of its members, those left are working to get back on track.
However, substantial roadblocks remain.
The most recent scheduled board meeting had to be canceled after the board was unable to reach a quorum as only four of five members were present. Since the board is intended to have nine members, that fell short of the five-member threshold to hold a public meeting.
Last month, the board lost six of its members after the Jo Daviess County Board, a separate county commission tasked with administrative oversight, chose to not reappoint former health board President Ronald Lubcke.
In a 9-4 vote, Lubcke was removed by county board members after many members expressed frustration over the health board’s handling of the development of a new office building and dental clinic in Elizabeth.
In 2017, Jo Daviess County Health Department officials announced plans to purchase property in Elizabeth where the office and clinic would be housed. The property was purchased, and $300,000 was diverted from an emergency fund to finance the project.
However, a study later revealed that the dental clinic likely would not be financially feasible and could put the department more than $400,000 in debt.
Shortly after county board members voted against reappointing Lubcke, five members of the health board resigned in protest.
In order to keep the health board running, two new members were appointed. Brandon Behlke, county board member and member of the health board, said another person has volunteered for a health board seat and will be appointed June 11, bringing the total member count up to six.
Merri Berlage was appointed to the health board in May. As a former county board member, she said she wanted to help ensure that the health board would continue meeting.
“Its services are important to the county,” Berlage said. “I guess I just want to be a part of the board and look at what projects they are working on.”
However, three positions will remain unfilled. Those are challenging vacancies to fill, as the board must include two physicians and a dentist.
Whether the positions can be filled quickly, Behlke said the board will need to begin planning what it intends to do with the Elizabeth property.
“The budget will be due at the end of the month, so we are going to have a lot of decisions to make,” Behlke said.
Behlke said he wants the health board to pursue establishing an office in Elizabeth. He added that the board also will explore new ways of generating revenue.
In time, he hopes to get the health board back on its feet.
“We’re going to see what direction we want to go,” Behlke said. “I’d like to get the groundwork laid for what we are doing.”