WALKER -- Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Kevin Goodno, Rep. Larry Howes and Cass County Board Chair Bob Kangas signed a memorandum of agreement Tuesday to keep Ah-Gwah-Ching Center open until Jan. 1, 2007.
This extends the closing one year from the DHS' most recent Jan. 1, 2006, target to close the facility.
The agreement "still allows the continued transition of the non-forensic (client) population into community-based settings prior to (that) date."
It calls for the state to transfer the Ah-Gwah-Ching shoreline to Minnesota DNR and the rest of the real and surplus personal property to Cass County or an entity designated by Cass County, with $4 million in state bonding money allocated to DHS for site development and preparation purposes, including demolition.
The DHS and the state administration shall include in the 2006 governor's bonding proposal money needed to complete site preparation, hazardous material abatement, city of Walker sewer bonds and demolition at Ah-Gwah-Ching, the agreement states.
The DHS shall develop and operate 20 adult foster care beds in the Walker community to serve the non-forensic Ah-Gwah-Ching population, which likely will involve five four-bed group homes, according to the agreement, and provide work for 35 to 45 employees.
Last week, a state Senate-House conference committee approved an agreement on an $826 million bonding bill draft. That bill goes before the full House and Senate this week for votes.
According to a report issued at Tuesday's Cass County Board meeting following conferences the board held last week in St. Paul with Reps. Frank Moe and Howes and Sen. Carrie Ruud, the compromise bill calls for the $12.6 million new state forensic nursing home to be built at St. Peter rather than Walker, but does include the $4 million to carry out the DHS-Cass County agreement for site preparation and demolition at Ah-Gwah-Ching if the county assumes ownership of the property.
Cass County would be required to lease through Jan. 1, 2007, to the state space necessary to operate its existing programs for the cost of utilities for the leased space, while the state would be responsible for any and all maintenance and repairs on buildings while in use.
The bill requires DHS to develop foster care services for 20 individuals in the Walker area.
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