Village council debates employee health insurance

WELLSVILLE — Council debated employee health insurance at Tuesday’s meeting. Bill Taft, head of the finance committee, presented council with the committee’s recommendation of eliminating health, dental and eye insurance and providing employees with a $900 stipend.

“The costs went up 20 percent two years ago, 33 percent last year and 20 percent again this year. So that’s about 73 percent in three years. And frankly, we can’t afford to keep doing that,” said Taft.

Only full-time employees are eligible for coverage through the village. Out of the 15 eligible employees, seven use the insurance and the eight other employees receive a $700 stipend for insurance. The village pays $900 to cover an employee’s insurance, the increase will raise the cost to $1,060.

“I think we need to look into it a little bit more, I hate to think of, I’m sorry, but I hate to think of fire and police without insurance” said Christi Thirtyarce, council member. “I’m a nurse, so I know I’m going to push for health care.”

Currently employees only have to contribute to their coverage if they have family members on their plan. Mayor Nancy Murray did say they could keep insurance and ask employees to start contributing. Murray also said they looked into switching providers.

Council member, Karen Dash, asked what kind of insurance they could get with $900.

Taft said insurance is available at $900 but it appears to be limited. Thirtyarce added insurance in that price range typically doesn’t cover prescriptions and age factors into the cost and coverage.

The village has until the plan expires on March 31 to decide.

“To be fair, if we do go with this, I want to give employees proper time to find insurance. And I have a heavy heart with this, in my situation I can relate to what they’re going through, but it’s just not cost effective,” said Randy Allmon, council president.

Taft also briefed council on the finance committee’s recommendation to postpone the purchase of a new fire truck. Taft explained the committee would like to see three conditions met; release from fiscal emergency; having the department’s debt to the general fund paid off; and to review the vehicles specs. Taft said Podwel did submit the specs and the council members will receive copies.

In other action, the council:

— Fire Chief Barry Podwel announced he attended the Financial Planning Commission meeting to gather information, and to understand why he cannot order a ladder truck despite having levy money coming in. After learning he cannot order the truck because it opens the village up for a potential debt, which is not allowed under fiscal emergency and the commission would therefore need to approve the purchase. Taft said it would take the commission approximately as long to release them from fiscal emergency as it would for them to approve the purchase of the truck, so it was best to wait for release. Podwel then asked if they could at least put in a purchase order. Jarrod Grimm, village administrator, explained the reason Podwel is in a rush to put in a purchase order is because the truck is currently being built and there is another fire department interested in buying it. If the village waits too long they will have to wait another eight to 10 months for another truck to be built. Murray said they will ask the state auditor’s office about filing a purchase order and will get back to Podwel.

— Grimm, said so far the village has done well managing the snow that has fallen this season. He said they ordered 100 ton of limestone to put in alleys, and they have completed three alleys thus far. Grimm hopes to have the bucket truck repaired by the end of the week so they can remove the snowflakes from the light pools. He also hopes to have the roller fixed so they can do cold patching on nice days.

— Approved bills totaling $4,590; consisting of $297 to Carquest for maintenance supplies for street department vehicles; $120 to EOS Solution for fire incident report software fee; $2,300 to East Fairfield Coal for 100 tons of limestone; $723 to Hudson Communication for Motorola portable radio for fire department; $825 to Sayre Electric for service call for garage at street department; and $326 to Tri-State Lock for service call for video camera.

— Fiscal Officer Hoi Wah Black announced the village ended 2019 with $1.2 million and no deficit funds. The village is also in the process of being released from fiscal emergency.

— Murray announced First Christian Church has committed to tearing down one dilapidated house. They are accepting recommendations, and Karen Dash, head of the property committee, requests to keep the list short.

–Rick Williams, zoning officer, announced residents and contractors need to file proper permits with the village when renovating a property.

— Approved Williams to another four years on the Buckeye Water District board.

— Suspended council rules and passed an ordinance to make temporary appropriations for current expenses and other expenditures of the general fund for 2020.

— Dash announced she is working with the land bank to have 425 Tenth Street torn down, she expects it will be a more costly demolition because they cannot get inside to check if it has asbestos or not. She also said the house on the corner of Ninth and Commerce is on her watch list. The owner of the Commerce Street property has been appearing in court. Podwel added it is time the ordinance requiring nuisance property owners to pay $25 a day if the property is not torn down or fixed takes effect.

— Suspended council rules and passed a resolution allowing Murray to sign grant applications for the sewage project.

— Suspended council rules and passed a resolution to adopt the Columbiana County Hazard Mitigation Plan. Podwel explained this policy was is a mitigation plan designed to work with the state’s emergency management agency and it is time to renew the agreement.

The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Feb. 4.



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