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Another piece of the GuideLink funding puzzle falls into place

NL City Council approves 28E agreement with Johnson County for the Access Center
The North Liberty City Council met online for their Tuesday, March 24, meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All North Liberty city buildings have been closed to the public, including City Hall. (screenshot)

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty City Council approved a 28E agreement with Johnson County for funding the GuideLink Center, also known as the Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center (BHUCC), or access center. The council, meeting online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, voted 5-0 in favor of the agreement, which provides a $500,000 contribution for construction of the facility. Payments by the city will be made at various points throughout the project, which was scheduled to resume construction the week of March 2, with a November completion and December opening anticipated.
In a memo to the council, City Administrator Ryan Heiar said the agreement included a clause which states the cities are not responsible for any operational costs, provides for reimbursement if the facility closes, and establishes a user group committee for making recommendations regarding operating procedures. The council previously discussed the 28E during a Tuesday, March 10, meeting but took no action due to concerns over a policy regarding drop-offs by law enforcement personnel.
GuideLink Center Project Manager Matt Miller explained the concern to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors during a Wednesday, March 4, work session.
“We have a stipulation in there that if you drop them off, and they need transferred (to another facility) within an hour, then you have to come back.” Miller speculated the distance from North Liberty and the small size of the police department were factors in the council’s concerns. Miller also noted Iowa City and Coralville approved the 28E, and Heiar was working with the council to resolve the issue.
North Liberty City Attorney Grant Lientz told the council, during the March 24 meeting, the agreement was essentially the same as they tabled previously but, “This is the deal the cities were interested in making. This is the deal the cities have put together, and nobody is interested in making changes.”
With the approval of the council, another piece of the funding puzzle dropped into place. Miller told the supervisors he was still reaching out for grants, and had mixed success with the Mental Health and Disability Services East Central Region (ECR) Governance Board.
“In January, both us and Linn County presented what we thought our budgets were going to be for Fiscal Year 21, and, at that meeting, the board took action and voted to raise the per capita, for what we thought to cover the Johnson and Linn County facilities,” Miller said.
However, in February, Miller found out ECR’s CEO proposed to take $1 million of the extra money and split it between the counties based on their populations. Miller said Linn County made up 60 percent, for $600,000, while Johnson County equaled 40 percent, for $400,000. Johnson County requested $450,000 for the access center Miller said, but the ECR also combined the GuideLink Center request with Johnson County’s Mobile Crisis team into one expenditure totaling $570,000. However, ECR capped the Johnson County amount at $400,000 for both entities. The ECR budget will be voted on later this month and the supervisors expressed their hopes toward receiving the full amount.