Insurance increase for county employees

LISBON – The 450 Columbiana County government workers will see a 5.5 percent increase in their health insurance premiums in 2014, which is better than many are faring as employers grapple with rising insurance costs.

County commissioners approved the rate increase at this week’s meeting, which is expected to raise the overall cost of the county’s self-funded insurance plan by $260,000, to $5.19 million in 2014.

Commission Clerk Scherry Desarro, who oversees the insurance program, said they were pleased considering other government agencies are facing rate increases ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent.

County employees are required to pay 10 percent of their monthly insurance premium, and an employee with no dependents will see their premium share increase to $51.70 under the base plan. The monthly cost for an employee with a spouse and children will be $177.80. The policy is with Anthem.

Wilson said insurance officials have attributed much of the increase to changes brought on by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it is more commonly known.

Commissioners said one additional expense directly related to Obamacare is a new federal “reassurance fee,” which requires the federal government be paid $63 a year per person covered by the employer’s health insurance plan, which will cost the county general fund an additional $20,000 to the $25,000 starting late next year.

In other action, Commissioner Tim Weigle reported the Multi-County Juvenile Attention System (MCJAS) officially voted to connect its facility on County Home Road in Center Township to a nearby county waterline.

Commissioners undertook the $786,000 waterline project in 2012 with the understanding the county juvenile detention facility, more commonly known as the Tobin Center and operated by MCJAS, would hook on, thereby sharing in the costs.

After agreeing to do so, MCJAS balked because of the cost, but Weigle convinced the board it was cheaper in the long run to connect with the county as originally planned than to continue to maintain and operate its private water system. He thanked the county engineer’s office for its assistance in helping him perform the financial analysis.

If the MCJAS had reneged on its pledge, commissioners would be left paying $7,743 per year out of its own pocket. This represents what the MCJAS will be billed annually in user fees to help cover its share of the project costs, which is based on estimated usage.

Commissioners also agreed to provide the dog pound with a $25,000 advance, which must be paid back by the end of the year. The dog pound needs the advance to purchase 2014 dog tags/licenses and related paperwork, with the money repaid as licenses are sold starting in December.

Finally, commissioners approved closing unused alleys and streets that exist only on paper to the south and east of Pinky’s Lounge in New Garden. This was after a public hearing was held and no one showed up in opposition.

Pinky’s owner Eric Guappone requested the paper streets be closed, with the property divided between the abutting property owners, because his business needed the extra room to install a sewage treatment system to meet an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency mandate.