August 10, 2010

City Notes: Health Board to review animal services contract in September; Obamacare won't help Racine health department

The federal law that will overhaul the nation's health care system will bring aid into Wisconsin, but none of the money will reach local health departments.

That's the word from the state's health officer, Racine Public Health Administrator Dottie-Kay Bowersox told the Board of Health Tuesday. The money will be used to increase opportunities for Medicaid and health care options, educate public health graduates, and to expand Federally Qualified Health Care Providers.

Bowersox said the outcome was frustrating because the federal and state governments will cut aid to local health departments.

COUNTRYSIDE: The Health Board will consider requirements for the city's animal control services at its September meeting. The city is seeking more providers to compete with Countryside Humane Society for the contract, which is required by the state. Countryside is under fire for giving out expired vaccinations and for allegations of underserving animals brought to their care.

LAUREL CLARK FOUNTAIN: City officials will meet with architects and engineers in the near future to plan needed renovations to the Laurel Clark Fountain. Marcia Fernholz, environmental health director for the city, said they were reviewing options to stop the fountain's pipes from corroding. That may include coating the interior of the pipes to stop the corrosion, or digging up the pipes and replacing them, Fernholz said. The fountain should be ready next year.

HEALTH GUIDELINES: The city is re-writing its health guidelines for festivals and public events. The process started when concerns were raised about illegal vendors selling food at the city's Fourth of July parade. It's grown to include all vendors and will streamline the requirements for people who want to sell at local events. Fernholz said every year several people in the city sell food out of potentially unsafe, and illegal, locations. For example, one person was running a restaurant out of an apartment on Jacato Drive. The new guidelines, which will eventually be an ordinance, should help people understand the steps needed to safely, and legally, sell food.

SHARED SERVICES: Racine health officials are meeting with the Mount Pleasant/Caledonia Health Department to explore areas where they can share services. Discussions are ongoing. Bowersox said she supported efforts to work with neighboring health departments. "Anywhere we can conoslidate services, we're better off," she told the Health Board.

BEACH INSPECTIONS: The city has done wonders cleaning up North Beach. Now it's looking at what needs to be done at some of its other beaches. Julie Kinzelman and her laboratory staff are testing the water at Samuel Myers Beach, Carrie-Hoeg Park (located at the end of Main St. near 17th St.), and near the Michigan Boulevard storm water out fall. Once the results are in the city will have data to determine if the beaches are safe for swimming, and what can be done to improve the water quality.

FRESHWATER SCIENCES: The Racine Health Department already has a working relationship with the new Freshwater Sciences School in Milwaukee, Kinzelman said. An intern in the department will be part of the school's inaugural class, and the city is already partnering with the school on a grant. The School of Freshwater Sciences is part of UW-Milwaukee.

WINGSPREAD: Racine hosted an international conference at Winspread on July 26 on "rapid-detection methods" for testing water quality. Kinzelman, an expert in the development of tests that can quickly determine if water is unsafe for human use, and other city officials took part in the conference. Bowersox called the conference a "feather in the cap for the city."

INTERNS: The city is hosting 10 graduate and undergraduate interns in its lab this summer to work on various projects, Kinzelman said. Not only are the students testing water in the Root River and at Racine beaches, they're also collecting samples from Kenosha, Oak Creek, South Milwaukee and other Lake Michigan beaches in southeastern Wisconsin. The data may be used to make needed environmental improvements along the lake.

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