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Grand Forks County outsources home service

The Grand Forks County social services office will not be replacing former employee Deb Gehrke, who provided homemaker services to elderly and disabled citizens living in private residences.

In a presentation to the Grand Forks County Commission on Tuesday, Scot Hoeper, director of social services, said Gehrke's decision to leave gave the county an opportunity to contract out her services to local providers. Hoeper estimates this will save the county $11,000 annually.

"There wouldn't be any impact to the clients," Hoeper said.

Hoeper also presented updated social service statistics. Chair of the commission, Tom Falck, raised concerns that Grand Forks County has nearly double the number of children in foster care than Burleigh County even though Burleigh County has roughly 14,000 more residents.

"We have a strong belief in protecting kids here in Grand Forks County," Hoeper said.

Hoeper pointed to a "major concern with drugs in the Grand Forks area" as being a large factor. Sheriff Robert Rost confirmed that his department has seen an increase in children being taken out of homes as a consequence of drug enforcement.

Falck asked Hoeper to do research in this area to determine if Burleigh County is allocating resources differently in order to keep children out of the foster system.

"Can we learn anything from other counties?" Falck said in an interview after the meeting.

The commission also discussed the possibility of replacing the lights in the dome of the County Office Building with color-changing LEDs that would tie into a downtown LED project spearheaded by the Public Arts Commission.

The majority of the commission had a positive response to the idea, but Commissioner Gary Malm called the project "ridiculous."

"What they put on the bridge is a waste of money," Malm said in reference to the LED lights installed on the Sorlie Memorial Bridge in 2015. "People are not happy with the colors they use."

The commission will resume discussion of the LED lights at a later date once they have received a cost estimate for the project.