The Jefferson County Health Department is one step closer to being able to bill private health insurance companies for immunizations.

Health Administrator Tammy Monroe told the County Council on Tuesday the change is imminent and will open the door for the department to increase its vaccination rates, especially at the schools.

"We're hoping to have it done by the time we go to the schools this spring to do the immunizations," Monroe said.

The department used federal grants to gain access to training and necessary software programs for the switch.

Since 2011, the health department has been unable to vaccinate anyone with health coverage because of state budget constraints. Free vaccines are only permitted for those with no insurance, those on Medicaid or anyone with insurance that does not cover immunizations.

The narrower market has caused a drop in immunization rates of almost 50 percent, Monroe said.

Under the plan, the county will buy vaccines out of its budget and then bill private insurance companies for the vaccine and cost of administering the vaccine.

In other business:

• The Council said it needs to re-advertise a proposed spending item in order to contribute $20,000 toward Southwestern and Madison Consolidated Schools' resource officer programs.

Earlier this year, the council agreed to give $10,000 to both school districts to support the resource officer program, partly funded by a matching state grant. However, the spending request was incorrectly advertised to come out of the rainy day fund, when in fact, the Council had agreed to take the funds from the riverboat fund.

Because of the error, the spending item must be re-advertised before it can be voted on and appropriated.

• Sheriff John Wallace asked the Council to approve a $450 invoice for the removal of dead animals found on a Dupont property. The sheriff's department disposed of several dead horses found on the rental property of Jeff Hayes, who is facing criminal charges of animal cruelty and improper disposal of dead animals.

The Council advised Wallace to speak with Jefferson County Animal Shelter Director Jenny Slover to see if money in any of her funds could be used to pay the bill.