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Barnesville council renews health coverage

For The Times Leader

BARNESVILLE — Village Council voted to renew village employees’ health coverage through The Health Plan for 2021 despite the concerns and objections of some members who believe that the costs are getting out of hand.

The renewal was on the agenda of a scheduled council meeting Monday, and Council President Scott Gallagher expressed his dismay at the increasing layout of money from village coffers and asked that a work session be scheduled to discuss the matter further ahead of the Sept. 1 signing date.

Councilman Jamie Betts, who proposed in 2018 that the village aggressively seek a new provider before taking up that same task to no avail in 2019, said there wasn’t time to even get started on the process of changing providers with less than a month before renewal.

“I don’t know if everybody remembers, but I put about 12 hours into this last year and had very little support and then the employees themselves didn’t even fill out the required paperwork and there was not really much backing as far as making it mandatory that they do so,” he said.

Councilman Terry McCort recounted other unsuccessful efforts in previous years to change providers.

When Gallagher expressed his frustration with the village’s practice of paying deductibles on the policies as well, Village Administrator Roger Deal explained that stemmed from a situation in which the village had switched to a plan with a higher deductible but with a significantly lower rate and, in exchange, agreed to take care of the deductibles. He said the village had actually come out ahead by doing so.

Betts pointed out that employees with their families on the plan would pay $510.79 out of pocket monthly for the proposed renewal plan and that he felt that was a high cost for them as well. Betts added that he felt the answer was finding a different plan, but that he believed it would be best to approve the renewal due to the lack of time to make a change. Betts insisted that it was necessary to get all of the employees to fill out the paperwork so that the village could shop for alternatives to the current plan.

“We can do that as an employer, is my understanding, correct?” he asked asking Village Solicitor Adam Myser, who affirmed his assertion.

The renewal eventually was approved with Councilmen Steve Hill, Tony Johnson, Les Tickhill, Betts and McCort voting in favor and Gallagher voting “no.”

A financial work session was scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Memorial Park Youth Center to discuss the insurance issue as well as other financial concerns.

Meanwhile, Deal informed council that the planned paving project funded in part by an Ohio Public Works Commission grant was in the bid process and would be awarded at the end of August.

Deal said that since South Broadway was among the 18 streets involved it would be best to get a collapsed storm culvert replaced along with related fixes before the paving got underway. Deal said that there would not be time to put that project through the bid process and recommended that an emergency resolution be drafted and passed to expedite the process.

Deal said he felt the problem constituted a public health hazard and that with that and the time constraints the emergency resolution was warranted.

Myser added that he normally would not recommend such action, but that he felt it was justified here and that the village should collect as many estimates on the project as if it were being bid on.

At the request of Deal and Police Chief Rocky Sirianni, council approved a starting wage pay increase of $1 per hour for newly hired employees in certain positions. Deal and Sirianni said they felt it would help the village when recruiting and hiring and that it only affected the pay of three current employees.

Mayor Dale Bunting gave the mayor’s court figures for July, saying that the state received $403.50, the county $10.50 and the village $836.00 for a total of $1,250.

Council also rejected a proposal from Councilman Steve Hill to allow a resident to put a concrete pad and a basketball hoop on an undeveloped village alleyway.

After a short executive session, council approved an agreement with the First Christian Church of Barnesville to allow it to make improvements to a village-owned property at the intersection of Mulberry Street and Watt Avenue and utilize it as a parking lot for activities held at the gymnasium near there it they recently purchased to use for community outreach.

Barnesville’s next regular council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 17 and will be held at the Albert S. George Youth Center at Barnesville Memorial Park.

to allow for social distancing.

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