The Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities (UCBDD) passed a resolution Aug. 20 to privatize its adult day array services.

The Union County Board of Developmental Disabilities (UCBDD) passed a resolution Aug. 20 to privatize its adult day array services.

The agency expects the controversial move -- which will eliminate 18 to 20 county jobs -- to save an estimated $10 million between now and 2020, the end date for its Challenge 2020 campaign.

"This took a lot of soul-searching and a lot of research, but at the end of the day, the board realized this action was in the best interests of all the individuals we serve," said Pamela Klaus, president of the UCBDD.

"Our mission is to ensure that services and support are available for eligible individuals," she said. "Well, that means all individuals with developmental disabilities. No one will be denied services. This enables us to keep that sacred trust with those we serve."

The board voted 5-0 in favor of pursuing privatization over the next year.

Klaus said privatization was necessary because DD's revenues have decreased while its client-base in on the rise.

Over the next 17 years, the board estimates that a minimum of 221 additional adults will require services from DD -- an average increase of 13 new clients per year.

Charli Crawford is chair of an ad hoc financial committee put together by the board last January to explore privatizaion. She doesn't believe the dire predictions of the board or superindendent Kim Miller when it comes to DD funding.

"They keep saying they don't have any money, but I went to the (county) auditor's office and got a date-stamped copy of DD's account balance," Crawford said. "They have $14 million in the bank. So I'm tired of that lie."

Crawford has a daughter who uses DD's adult array day services and is in DD's WorkNet program.

"We are the voice of the DD community and we will be heard," Crawford said.

Her ad hoc group has refused a request by the board to disband and will provide evidence to the county commissioners, she said, about alleged "mis-, non- or malfeasance of board members and the superindendent.

"I'm told our document will then be turned over to the county prosecutor," she said.

Union County commissioner Steve Stolte said he understood the board's need to address agency finances and trusted that "they looked at all the issues, gathered all the pertinent information available and made the best decision possible."

"DD, like all other government entities, is dealing with the loss of the tangible personal property tax money," Stolte said. "The county has had to lay off between 30 and 40 employees since we lost our TPP money. And DD lost nearly half a million dollars a year, from what I understand."

Klaus said her board is working to be fiscally responsible.

"We cannot continue to go back to the community for tax levies," she said. "It's not realistic to ask voters to continue paying for increasing costs. The way we can achieve these savings is through privatization. Under the plan, we will strive to not seek an increase from the voters until 2020."

The employees who will be laid off are those who work with 90 adults each day at U-Co. Industries, the county's sheltered workshop. Many have worked with individual clients for years.

The DD board has not chosen a company to assume those duties but plans to create "timelines that will enable the board to achieve its objective at the earliest possible date."

"If we don't control our destiny, it will be controlled for us," Klaus said. "We don't want the state dictating how we do things. By taking charge, we can continue to determine how services are structured in Union County."

"Change is never easy, but it's very necessary for the future well-being of this agency," DD executive director Kim Miller said. "We have individuals with developmental disabilities who rely on this agency for basic needs and we must put ourselves in the best possible position to meet those needs."