City work ses­sion fo­cuses on in­sur­ance, garbage cans and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion

Starkville Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - news@starkvilledai­lynews.com By FAITH LIFER

In Fri­day's work ses­sion, the Starkville Board of Al­der­men dis­cussed ways the city could po­ten­tially save money by chang­ing health in­sur­ance plans, garbage dis­posal meth­ods and mow­ing poli­cies.

Ward 1 Al­der­man Ben Carver, Ward 4 Al­der­man Ja­son Walker, Ward 6 Al­der­man and Vice Mayor Roy A'. Perkins, and Ward 7 Al­der­man Henry Vaughn were ab­sent from Fri­day's work ses­sion. Health in­sur­ance poli­cies

Ward 2 Al­der­man San­dra Sistrunk opened the dis­cus­sion of cur­rent and po­ten­tial health in­sur­ance plans for city em­ploy­ees with mem­bers of McGrif­fin In­sur­ance present.

“We want to be able to pro­vide our em­ploy­ees the best ben­e­fit pos­si­ble,” Sistrunk said. “But we also rec­og­nize that what­ever we do is go­ing to have to be sus­tain­able.”

In the last three years, the cost of the city's health in­sur­ance has in­creased by 25 per­cent. One po­ten­tial change the city con­sid­ered is chang­ing the health plan's de­ductible.

Ac­cord­ing to Mickey Watkins, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of McGrif­fin In­sur­ance, the city in­creased its health plan de­ductibles to $750 last year, but only 60 out of roughly 500 city em­ploy­ees met that de­ductible. Watkins told al­der­men that most em­ploy­ers over-in­sure their em­ploy­ees, ex­plain­ing that the city was wast­ing pre­mium dol­lars with 85 per­cent of em­ploy­ees not meet­ing their de­ductibles.

Ward 3 Al­der­man David Lit­tle ex­pressed con­cern that a pol­icy change might af­fect city em­ploy­ees who make less money.

“You're im­pact­ing a small amount of peo­ple but you're spend­ing a lot of money that could po­ten­tially be spent some­where else,” Watkins re­sponded.

Sistrunk ex­plained that the board could change as­pects of the health plans that would save the city money with­out im­pact­ing the ma­jor­ity of its em­ploy­ees.

“We want to have as lit­tle dis­tur­bance as pos­si­ble for our em­ploy­ees,” Sistrunk said.

Watkins rec­om­mends the al­der­men con­sider of­fer­ing more than one health plan to em­ploy­ees, rais­ing the de­ductible base plan. This dual op­tion plan would en­tail the city pay­ing for a base plan to meet the needs of the ma­jor­ity of em­ploy­ees, ask­ing em­ploy­ees who wish for more com­pre­hen­sive ben­e­fits at a higher price to con­trib­ute to the cost.

Peggy Yates, ac­count­ing executive for McGrif­fin In­sur­ance, said if the city made no changes to the plan, the next plan year would cost the city a $75,000 in­crease for the year.

“Hope­fully we can get you into a plan de­sign that can be sus­tained and not have to dis­cuss ma­jor changes,” Yates said.

The board also dis­cussed changes in den­tal plans.

Yates said few em­ploy­ers cur­rently pro­vide den­tal cov­er­age. Even pro­vid­ing par­tial den­tal cov­er­age would keep the city's den­tal in­sur­ance com­pet­i­tive.

“So the ques­tion comes, does the city want to con­tinue pro­vid­ing that ben­e­fit or do you want to start shift­ing some of that cost to the em­ploy­ees?” Yates prompted.

Mayor Lynn Spruill voiced fa­vor in pro­vid­ing den­tal cov­er­age to city em­ploy­ees.

“Peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mate the value of den­tal health, which can lead to all kinds of other phys­i­cal ail­ments,” Spruill said.

Sistrunk em­pha­sized the in­ter­de­pen­dence of ac­knowl­edg­ing the city's bud­get and the city's em­ploy­ees.

“It gets back to of­fer­ing a ben­e­fit that is sus­tain­able to the city and to mak­ing in­cre­men­tal changes as op­posed to large changes all at once,” Sistrunk said.

Yates said the board might also con­sider chang­ing its cur­rent life in­sur­ance pol­icy to save the city money. Any changes in city health in­sur­ance would need to be made by late Au­gust.

Garbage dis­posal

The board also dis­cussed cur­rent and po­ten­tial garbage dis­posal meth­ods with Calvin Ware, de­part­ment head of Starkville san­i­ta­tion. One pos­si­ble change dis­cussed was dis­pens­ing of trash bag costs by chang­ing to tip carts for garbage dis­posal. The city will spend some­where from $145,000 to $180,000 on bags this year.

Due to the size of tip carts, the al­der­men also dis­cussed chang­ing the pick-up sched­ule from twice a week to once a week. Ware said chang­ing the pick-up sched­ule to once a week would save the city fuel costs, while al­low­ing the san­i­ta­tion and land­scap­ing crew more time to fo­cus on other ne­ces­si­ties of their job.

“It al­lows us to pick-up more lit­ter, and we would be work­ing with land­scape to make sure we can clean up the in­ter­sec­tion,” Ware said.

San­i­ta­tion is cur­rently behind on these other ac­tiv­i­ties due to lack of man­power and time.

Dur­ing the dis­cus­sion, Lit­tle ac­knowl­edged garbage dis­posal to be a “taboo” topic.

“I think Al­der­man Lit­tle is cor­rect in that it will be a con­tentious item be­cause peo­ple get worked up about their trash,” Miller echoed.

How­ever, both Lit­tle and Miller agreed that con­sid­er­a­tion for new meth­ods is worth­while. Spruill gave Ware the go-ahead to con­tinue his re­search so he would be pre­pared to pro­vide the board with more in­for­ma­tion at a later date.

Mow­ing pol­icy

The board briefly dis­cussed adopt­ing a new mow­ing pol­icy. If the mow­ing pol­icy is adopted, Wild­flower Trails of Mis­sis­sippi would help beau­tify Starkville through wild­flow­ers, while less­en­ing mow­ing and cost to the city.

“I thought it would be an op­por­tu­nity to fo­cus on beau­ti­fi­ca­tion,” Spruill said.

The board will con­vene again on July 17 at 5:30 p.m.

(Photo by Faith Lifer, SDN)

Calvin Ware of Starkville san­i­ta­tion presents in­for­ma­tion to the board about the ben­e­fits of po­ten­tial changes in garbage dis­posal meth­ods.

(Top) Peggy Yates and Mickey Watkins of McGrif­fin In­sur­ance dis­cuss chang­ing the health in­sur­ance plans pro­vided to Starkville em­ploy­ees.

(Pho­tos by Faith Lifer, SDN)

(Bot­tom) Ward 3 Al­der­man David Lit­tle ex­presses con­cern over chang­ing garbage dis­posal meth­ods in Fri­day's work ses­sion.

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