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Minutes from Dec. 2, 2017 meeting

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      Iowa Commission for the Blind

      December 2, 2017


      Call to order and determination of quorum. A meeting of the Iowa Commission for the Blind was called to order at 9:59 a.m., by Sandi Ryan, with the following members present: Sandi Ryan, chair, Joe Van Lent, member, and Ryan Brems, member, which was a quorum. Others in attendance: Emily Wharton, Jerad Nylin, Michael Barber, Scott Van Gorp, Keri Osterhaus, Shawn Mayo, Enrique Mejia, Alan Bickell, Sarah Willeford, Kim Barber, Helen Stevens, Andrew Pulford, Tiffany Bickell, Lora Van Lent, Rebecca Barloon, Chuck Gilaspie via teleconference, Ann Gilaspie via teleconference, Peggy Elliott via teleconference, and Gloria Graves via teleconference.




      Public Comment. Ms. Ryan asked for public comment. Mr. Nylin said that he wanted to applaud Ms. Wharton for eliminating work with 14C organizations and recommended the commissioners support this manual policy change..


      Action Item. Approval of Minutes from September 19, 2017 Meeting. Mr. Van Lent moved approval of the minutes as submitted. Mr. Brems seconded and the motion passed unanimously.


      Action Item. Approval of Proposed IDB Manual Updates. Ms. Wharton gave a brief background on the two updates. She stated that a 14C is an organization that holds a certificate from the Department of Labor that allows them to pay those with disabilities less than minimum wage. Mr. Brems moved approval of the updates as submitted. Mr. Van Lent seconded the motion. There was a roll call vote: Ms. Ryan, yes; Mr. Van Lent, yes; Mr. Brems, yes. The vote was unanimous. Ms. Osterhaus asked when the 14C policy would go into effect. Ms. Wharton said that it would be for all clients moving forward, that there is not much that can be done about those clients already working with 14Cs. There was discussion on this item.


      Action Item. Approval of Draft Building Guidelines. Ms. Ryan said that under number 11 of the policy, she would recommend taking out the word “smokeless,” in reference to tobacco items. Mr. Brems moved approval of the guidelines. Mr. Van Lent seconded the motion. There was a roll call vote: Ms. Ryan, yes; Mr. Van Lent, yes; and Mr. Brems, yes. The vote was unanimous.


      Director’s Report. Ms. Wharton asked Mr. Bickell to talk about BEP and the orientation center. Mr. Bickell said that he is working on getting the set aside in place for BEP. It is still at RSA going through their administrative rules process. He said that National Vending is a company that is contracted to handle some sites that the Department has that there are no vendors for. National Vending writes a check to the Department, and the Department divides that between the vendors. The vendors recently voted to remit that money back to the Department. Mr. Bickell talked about the number of students in the center and the number of students set to start training in upcoming weeks. He went through the events that students had been participating in and talked about the holiday meal that orientation staff will be serving students. He stated that the meal is on December 19, and that Commissioners are welcome to attend. Mr. Brems asked what capacity is for the center. Mr. Bickell discussed the number of dorm rooms and how many students could be taught in the center. Mr. Brems asked how long the current students will be in the center. Mr. Bickell said that he can’t give a definitive answer on that because there are some students who can complete training in six months and other students who can take up to 13 months to complete their training. Mr. Brems asked how many students have elected to go to training facilities out of the state. Mr. Bickell said he didn’t know that answer. Ms. Wharton said it was one or two clients. Mr. Bickell moved on to the subject of senior orientation, which will now be called IL integration. He said that the one held in 3 September went well, even though there were a couple of bumps through the week, but he was pleased with the progress made by the students. He said that as the numbers in the center increase, he’ll be partnering a center student with a senior student at future integrations. Ms. Wharton asked Ms. Stevens discuss her department. Ms. Stevens said that in October, Matt Nemmers and Zach Ellingson started as vocational rehabilitation teachers. Their focus initially will be working with the Pre-ETS clients. She is in the process of hiring a secretary, VR teacher and technology specialist. She discussed the upcoming weekend retreat and the events that the students would be participating in. She said that during the LEAP program this coming summer, students would be staying on the Grandview campus. She said that the application for the students will be going out soon, and she wants to serve 20 students. Ms. Stevens said that the guest Wi-Fi is now up and running. She said that the new phone system is still in the works, but that there are still accessibility issues that she is working on. Mr. Brems asked what the ages are of transition students served. Ms. Stevens said that the ages served are 14-21. He asked how the program is advertised. Ms. Stevens said that there are fliers that go out, counselors talk to their clients and there is some partnering with the Braille School to promote the program. Ms. Wharton had Ms. Barber talk about the IL program. Ms. Barber said that she will be going to an upcoming American Foundation for the Blind conference that she will be attending in Oakland, California and gave background on this conference. Ms. Barber said that there is current evidence over the last three years showing that the pilot cluster model of service is working well getting the numbers up for the older blind program. Ms. Barber said that Ms. Graves has been hired as an IL teacher. She said that she is in the process to hire for the position vacated when Marcia Bauer retired. Ms. Barber said that the grant she received last year was granted an extension. She stated that there is an advisory committee meeting on December 13 at the Department and extended an invitation to the Commissioners to attend. Ms. 4 Wharton had Ms. Willeford give a report on the library. Ms. Willeford gave an update on the continued moving of the library stacks saying that it was moving along well. She stated that the digital books are all packed up, thanking the maintenance staff and volunteers, especially Jim Rechkemmer, whom by himself, packed up 27,000 books. Ms. Willeford said that she has posted the youth librarian position and it closes tomorrow. She talked about the upcoming Braille Challenge. This event will be held at the Department on January 27, 2018 and the registration packets are going out next week. Ms. Willeford said that she is working with members from Drake, the Science Center and the Braille School to develop an astronomy program at the Science Center with the first one happening possibly in April. She has a goal of pushing it statewide into the communities in 2019 since the summer reading program is on space that year. Mr. Brems asked if the library would be allowed to go out and provide continuing education hours to schools. Ms. Willeford said that she could look in to that. Ms. Wharton said that she has had preliminary discussions with the Department of Education on this and what the Department would need to do to provide this service. Ms. Ryan thanked Ms. Willeford for her work with volunteers and said that other staff should use her example and work with volunteers. Ms. Willeford said that there are a lot of things that volunteers have helped with in the library. Ms. Wharton asked Ms. Osterhaus to talk about the VR program. Ms. Osterhaus said that there was an event held on October 24 that discussed the hiring of people with disabilities. She went over some plans for trainings with partners throughout the state who work with transition aged clients. She discussed the work that she and her staff are doing to provide training to businesses to get better employment outcomes for clients. Ms. Osterhaus said that she will be working with Jeff Hughes on a career plus system. This will better help clients make informed choices about employment. Ms. Osterhaus discussed her work with WINTAC. She also discussed the different statistics in the VR area. Ms. Osterhaus talked about the 5 reverse job fairs that were recently held. She stated that there will be two job seeking seminars that will take place in the state and will go over different job seeking skills with clients. She said that she is working on different policies for her area and will get them to the Commissioners for approval. She stated that she is almost fully staffed, adding that Lynnette Biermann accepted the Secretary 2 position and she will be working on getting a replacement for the position that Ms. Biermann has vacated. Ms. Osterhaus said that Victoria Kollmann has announced her retirement and Ms. Osterhaus will looking to fill that position. Ms. Wharton discussed the DARE to Be Remarkable Conference in November and what was talked about at that conference. Ms. Wharton said that Ms. Stevens will be presenting at a conference in New Orleans next week. She said that Mr. Pulford and Mr. Bickell will be attending the National Rehabilitation Leadership Institute seminar next week. Ms. Wharton thanked those who came to the budget hearing last week and said that the Governor was pleased with the work that the Department has been doing. Ms. Wharton discussed her first meeting since being put on the State Workforce Board and said that she will be on the subcommittee that will work on reducing the number of regions in the state. She talked about the skits that were performed at the Opening Doors to Employment training will be recorded for use at trainings nation-wide. Ms. Wharton said that she is looking into hiring an accessible media person in the library land another IL teacher.


      CFO’s Report. Mr. Pulford said that he and one of his staff have recently worked to get clearance and training on making Social Security Ticket-to- Work Cost Reimbursement claims. Since that time, the process continues to take longer than anyone in this agency would like as they get through the red tape of the ticket processing system as well as with IWD to receive accurate wage data. He has had one mini-training session at IVRS and they have promised to help answer questions and have already been a 6 great help. This will add to the discretionary spending pool for the current and future fiscal years, so he is trying to push as much as possible to get this in place soon. Mr. Pulford said that looking at the budget comparison that was distributed with the packet, there were a few items that he wanted to draw attention to before any questions were discussed. He stated that the personnel services line item is trending lower than budget as the Department is still working to fill positions. The other supplies line item was high because the Department needed to have some maintenance to the boiler completed that should have fallen under the maintenance category and he has fixed this. For both utilities and reimbursement to other agencies, due to state budgeting rules, he couldn’t reduce personnel services as the Department has to fully fund every position it is authorized for; so he went down the line items and took some from each of these two knowing the money would be there. He said that in looking at the budget, he can safely forecast the Department won’t spend all of the funds budgeted for personnel nor for aid to individuals. This will bring those categories to fall more into line with the percentage of budget spent in relation to the percentage of fiscal year completed. Mr. Brems asked that everyone keep what they did with Newsline funding in their minds and look at other agencies that use Newsline to help pay for this program. There was discussion on this item. Mr. Nylin said that the NFB of Iowa would not be coming to the Commission Board for funding of Newsline. Mr. Pulford said that the current balance in the Gifts & Bequests fund is $2,565,802.31, with revenue in FY18 to date of $15,380.60 and expenditures in FY18 to date of $33,677.67. Mr. Pulford said that federal reports have been getting filed and he is working on gathering data for a couple more. He said that his team is working to make their process more efficient while maintaining the integrity and accuracy of categorizing expenditures. He also discussed the elevator project and bringing the elevators up to code with the appropriations that were made for this purpose.

      Time and Place of Next Meeting. Mr. Brems moved that the next meeting be held on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at 10:00 am at the Department. Mr. Van Lent seconded and the motion passed unanimously.. 


      Consideration of Closed Session. Ms. Ryan had Ms. Bickell read the paragraphs from the Code of Iowa, Section 21.5. Mr. Brems moved to adjourn to closed session. Mr. Van Lent seconded the motion. There was a roll call vote: Ms. Ryan, yes; Mr. Van Lent, yes; and Mr. Brems, yes. The motion passed unanimously. The meeting entered closed session at 11:38 am. The meeting entered open session at 1:06 pm. 10) Mr. Brems moved rejection of the Gifts and Bequests application. Mr. Van Lent seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. 11) Mr. Brems moved retention of Ms. Wharton. Mr. Van Lent seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

      Adjournment. Mr. Brems moved adjournment. Mr. Van Lent seconded and the motion passed unanimously. The meeting concluded at 1:08 pm..


      Respectfully Submitted,



      Sandi Ryan, Chairperson                        

      Commission for the Blind   


      Tiffany Bickell

      Secretary to the Board/Administrative Assistant

      Department for the Blind