Steubenville – Jefferson County commissioners will share the wealth with employees in November and December, covering health insurance premiums for the last two months of 2022 with some money they were able to save through prudent management of the beleaguered fund.
The commissioners said the waiver of the payment is only possible because the county’s self-insurance plan runs a surplus — currently about $6 million, but most are holding it as a reserve against ‘Unfortunate catastrophic diseases’ among insured employees. Commissioner Tom Graham said.
For nearly two decades, the county had no financial backing and ended up with $10 million.
“The reason we have (the surplus) is catastrophic diseases,” Graham, who chairs the county health insurance commission, said. “We haven’t done that before, that’s why we had to borrow money and get into debt. We changed the plan, so we have money left over for catastrophic illnesses, unfortunate catastrophic illnesses, but we don’t want it to get to such a point where it’s a huge (excess),” That’s why we can give back.”
He said they need to maintain a balance of at least $5 million to cover the costs of big tickets.
“I give a lot of credit to Commissioner Graham,” Commissioner Dave Maple said. “I actually started reforming before I took office, but (the deficit) was big news. One of the worst things was how it hurt the county — at one point it hurt our credit rating, it hurt our ability to borrow, so let’s see in a situation like this. Health, and I appreciate Commissioner Graham’s continued engagement and involvement, it’s a long way to go. It’s also employee behavior, and we appreciate them doing their best to stay healthy and when they’re not doing their best to stay healthy.”
Graham said his Health Insurance Committee meets every two months to monitor the plan’s validity “And make adjustments as necessary.” He said they haven’t had to increase employee premium rates in three years, and he said this is the first time in three years that the county has been in a position to award premiums.
“I think it’s cool,” Commissioner Tony Morelli said. “It shows the good management of our health plan which, each year, is of greater importance to each family. It (the waiver) shows that we are well managed and well managed,” Commissioner Graham said.I’d like to see who else wave their premiums for two months, there can’t be many of them.”
Graham said the waiver would be a welcome break for employees.
“With inflation the way it is, just in time for Christmas, that would be a good break for our employees who have made sacrifices through healthcare.”
The commissioners also discussed the success of the 2022 county fair and the need to add a new small animal display barn on the fairgrounds, and authorized McKinley & Company to design and advertise the structure. “And go ahead from there to get it done.”
The proposed 7,200-square-foot structure currently costs about $250,000, though Debbie Hawkel of the Fair Board said she hopes, somehow, that bids will come under McKinley & Associates’ estimate.
Debbie Hawkel of the Gallery Council said she imagines a metal building, one side used primarily for rabbits and the other with chickens. The suite divides the spaces.
“I’ve done some research, and we’ve got 863 projects going through that fold,” Hokel told the commissioners. “Right now, we’re jamming them down there. It’s really not safe for the animals, it’s an ongoing battle to keep them cool.”
Hawkel said when 4-H’ers show their rabbits and chicks, “Literally, we have people everywhere. The area is too small for what we need to do.”
She said the pavilion area will allow year-round use, “It’s not just a fair week.” The space will be used for dog training and meetings.
“It will be used all summer long, and the building in it will now open for storage,” She added.
Hockel said the exhibition board was so “Lucky enough to receive a $45,000 grant from the state that we plan to give to make that happen,” But that money doesn’t have to be spent until 2023.
Maple rejected the idea of charging $25,000 in design fees.
“I’m not against the $250,000 estimate,” He said. “That’s fine. It’s only $25,000 in total.”
But Graham noted that they should have the design to bid on the project, and Morelli said he wouldn’t mind trying to find an architect to see if that’s a lot of money to pay for the design services, “But (the costs) will go up again.”
“$250,000 is not real yet, it’s an estimate” Morelli said. “I’d like to see what the cost is.”
Mabel said he’d rather pay off “10 percent of appreciation, not a lump sum. But I think we can handle that when they present the contract (to us).”
Meanwhile, Hawkel told the commissioners that they had a “A wonderful exhibition.”
“Last year, we built a new haul horse barn with our state and our money, and added 50 stalls,” She said. “We have 75 stalls for young horses – this was the first time in history that these stalls were full except for two. We had a horse show open in the last semester (12 hours), and it was the biggest show there.”
Hockel said the exhibition’s reach is increasing, “But every year it depends on the weather.”
They found out that at least 30,000 people had passed through the gates.
Also during last week’s meeting:
*At the request of the Director of Work and Family Services, Michelle Santin, she signed her plan to spend a $91,000 government award dedicated to hiring and retaining employees of the Children’s Services Department.
Santin told the commissioners that she would like to set aside $40,000 in retention bonuses for the 30 employees now serving; Offer a signing bonus of $2,000 to 10 new potential employees; spending $10,000 on hiring employees, $7,300 on “agency culture and climate initiatives,” and offering $500 bonuses for first-time employee referrals. It also wants to buy three virtual reality headsets.
Plans must be submitted to the state by September 30. Santin said the money should be spent by June 30.
*Delegated by Jefferson District Administrator Mike Iroshevich Put the contract together So Empire officials would be able to turn off the water service for families who don’t pay their sewage bills.
Mabel said the Empire residents had sewage service through the village but not water, “So when people don’t pay their bills, there’s no way without the county getting involved.”
“We do it at Mingo Junction,” he added. “It will really help the empire control its losses due to people not paying their bills.”
*I learned the county broadband task force has selected a consultant. The task force, led by the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Urban Planning Commission, selected Reed Consulting for the position.
Morelli said the company “He’s very well known in the state for mapping, and he’s got knowledge of broadband in the state.”
“Part of his job is to go out and secure funding and secure grants,” Morelli said, adding that they had scheduled an emergency meeting to discuss the grant opportunity the company had already identified.
Previously, the cost of getting broadband to every household that wanted, Morelli said, was estimated at more than $50 million. “So we would be at the mercy of getting some of these grants.”
“It’s a big number, but it’s possible,” He said. “These days there is a lot of money for that.”
He noted that broadband has become a higher priority for many people, including Ohio, since the pandemic, when school children had to work at home, “So we’re making progress.”
He said the task force and Reed would list the project and track funding accordingly.
“Part of their job is to find out how many of these projects there are, and what they think is the best and most economical way” to accomplish.
#County #cut #premium #News #sports #jobs