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How does 'Lakecook County Human Services' sound?

In the future, Lake and Cook counties could have a combined human services organization.

That's a possible result following legislation passed in St. Paul in the spring calling for counties to look at different ways to work together on improving client services. A steering committee is mulling the performance of human service agencies, including setting statewide standards, and determining what essential services they should provide.

The Lake and Cook connection? They're two of the counties that could be affected.

"Cook County is struggling to provide all the assurances that they are asked to provide," Lake County Human Services Director Dennis Henkel said of discussions he's had with his counterparts to the east.

But Lake County Commissioner Rick Goutermont expressed reservations about a possible merger of services.

"It could make people wait longer for our services," he said at the County Board meeting Tuesday.

Another example that could help Cook County if the two were combined is in licensing. In Cook County they have a part-time employee working on licensing out to day care and foster care, while Lake County has a full-time position.

It would not be the first time Lake County has worked with other counties. In the past, it shared health care personnel with St. Louis County. And numerous counties, especially in rural areas, have combined mental health and other services.

Nothing will happen soon. Counties have five years to complete an application evaluating their services. They may turn in an application themselves or combine with another one for the process.

In other County Board news:

- The County Board passed a preliminary property tax levy proposed for 2010. There could be an increase of about 6.5 percent.

In November, notices will be sent out explaining how much residents might pay on their property taxes.

Goutermont said the county is not looking at layoffs, adding items are being cut based on need.

- The board approved purchasing a new mower for the Lake County Highway Department at a cost of about $9,000 using a state contract. The mower is slated to save the county man hours throughout the year. Currently, workers mow approximately 2.9 acres, plus around some of the perimeter of the county garage. Now that the grass has matured along the high school trail, they would be mowing a half-mile at that trail from the city limits to Cedar Road for an additional 1.5 acres.