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CIRSI to take over Tama County Career Development Center

May 21, 2013
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Central Iowa Residential Services Inc. - CIRSI - is taking over the operations of the Tama County Career Development Center in downtown Tama on July 1. Jeff Vance, CIRSI director, confirmed his organization's role in a meeting with Career Development consumers, parents, guardians and the center's staff on Wednesday night, May 8. He said the ARC of Tama County (the former Tama County Association for Retarded Children), which owns the Career Development Center Building, made the decision to choose his organization to continue providing services here.

"In house there will be very little change," Vance said. "We intend to stick with it."

Currently 16 consumers are served in Tama.

Article Photos

CIRSI?Director Jeff Vance answers questions about his organization at the Tama County Career Development Center on the evening of May 8. CIRSI?will take over responsibility for the center’s operation on July 1.
News-Herald/John Speer

Iowa Valley Community College District opted to end it's operation of the center June 30 because of coming changes in funding. When the college announced in mid-January it was pulling out, a press release said the college was not prepared to become a MedicaidProgram provider. The release also charged state funding for education which impacts this program "had been cut" over the years.

Since then, three other organizations have been considered by ARC for management of the Career Development Center. The decision has rested with the ARC Board because that organization owns the Career Development Center building, according to Todd Rickert, Tama County Central Point of Coordination administrator.

Offering to take over have been the three current staff members who planned to form their own organization; Genesis Development which operates the former Tama County Home - Pheasant Ridge - under contract; and REM-Iowa a private, for-profit company which oversees operation of similar programs across the state.

John Willett, long-time ARC board member, said the decision to choose CIRSI over the staff proposal "was a difficult, difficult decision."

He said factors weighing in CIRSI's favor included its successful operation of a similar program in Marshalltown and "experience with funding which is a big and difficult issue."

Willett said the board believed CIRSI offered the best assurance the Career Development program would continue to operate in Tama County and avoid transportation of consumers to other, out-of-county locations.

The ARC Board members include Jim Dinsdale, the president of Traer, Gary Mattson, rural Tama, and Willett.

Willett said the board" felt very fortunate to have two groups - CIRSI and the staff group - whom were willing to keep the program in Tama County."

A determination of arrangements for the lease agreement for the ARC-owned building at 231 W. 3rd St. in downtown Tama with CIRSI has yet to be made, Willett said Tuesday. He said whatever is decided it will assure the center remains in this location.

CIRSI also operates an ARC-owned group home in Tama for adults with disabilities.


Keeping shifts in the programs offered in Tama to a minimum is a goal Vance emphasized in his May 8 presentation. He said under CIRSI, "In house there will be very little change."

Programs which include volunteer work by consumers, the production of various art and home and yard decor items and piece work are expected to continue to be offered, he said.

A difference which may be seen due to Medicaid rules is the ability to sell items. Vance said Medicaid rules may prohibit this practice.

Hours will be expanded, Vance said from the current 220-day program as offered under the college leadership. He said the Career Development Center could be expected to be open 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Monday - Friday, except on holidays.

Staffing of the center could change, which has been a concern expressed by many of those attending the meetings. Berleen Wobeter, Missy Massengale and Teresa Vodochodsky have a combined 38 years experience working at Tama County Career Development.

They did receive employment applications from CIRSI on Friday, they said.

Vance said the funding level available for the center will not allow CIRSI to meet current salary and benefits provided by Iowa Valley.

Transportation of consumers from the center to volunteer work, on field trips and to other locations was also an issue voiced by those present at the CIRSI informational meeting. Iowa Valley has provided a mini-van for transportation.



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