Bradley County commissioners, despite a fierce debate, approved a resolution Monday authorizing Mayor D. Gary Davis to execute a one-year contract for health benefits for county employees.Before the …
Bradley County commissioners, despite a fierce debate, approved a resolution Monday authorizing Mayor D. Gary Davis to execute a one-year contract for health benefits for county employees.
Before the approval vote, commissioners took a little sidestep to consider a substitute motion by Commissioner Tom Crye where the county would have picked up the tab for additional insurance costs.
Crye estimated the cost to the county, to fund the increase, would be around $200,000. Davis refuted this estimate, saying it would be closer to $400,000.
Where the funds would come from was also hotly debated.
Crye's substitute motion came within one vote of approval in a 7-to-5 countdown. Commissioner Bill Winters was unable to attend Monday's meeting.
Commissioners then returned to the original motion, which was to approve Option 2.
This option, favored by the mayor, is a one-year contract with Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company from Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2018.
This offer provides health insurance to employees at a county cost of $560.89 per employee.
Davis emphasizes this this is a free option, and is the same health insurance now in place for county employees — but with a smaller network.
This smaller network includes Tennova Healthcare Cleveland, Erlanger Hospital, Vanderbilt Medical Center, and the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
The major change, creating the bulk of opposition, is that this plan eliminates Memorial Medical Center in Chattanooga. Memorial is a favored destination for treatment for many in Cleveland for critical health concerns, especially for heart problems.
County employees wanting to include Memorial in their insurance package, can do so by paying an additional $15 per pay period fee.
Option 1 was on the list for employees who wanted Memorial Hospital and its physicians included in the plan, at an increased cost.
Option 3 was a Health Savings Account, where employees would have been provided $600 per month in their accounts. It received no discussion Monday.
Prior to the vote for the two proposals which found their way to the table, two of the county's elected officials were called to the podium to discuss why the (possible) increase of health insurance cost will be difficult for their respective employees.
Circuit Court Clerk Gayla Miller, and Road Superintendent Sandra Knight Collins, spoke briefly of substandard salaries in their departments.
Miller said her concern was whether or not it will stop with Monday's vote. "You all know my employees are underpaid," she said, adding that the salary for one of her clerk positions is only $18,500.
She said it is difficult to retain clerks. "I lost three people last year," she said. "One to a tree trimming company, for twice her salary, and another to Best Buy Metals."
"I can't bring them up to standard (salaries), without I file a lawsuit against the county, and I won't do that," Miller added. "But, I'm ashamed to tell them their job pays $18,500."
Collins agreed with Miller, saying, "Our paychecks (for employees) are not enough."
Commissioner Mark Hall pointed out that health insurance can be an incentive for county hires, but agreed salaries are low. "It's a shame, when an immigrant has to take a salary cut to come work for the county," he said.
Hall also said, "We have our problems, but we have a lot to be thankful for."
Commission Chairman Louie Alford, and Davis, chided the commissioners for discussing salaries, when the issue being considered was health insurance
"I'll take the blame for that," said Crye, after calling on Miller and Collins.
Commissioner Milan Blake also brought up another issue, when he was providing his colleagues with some statistics. "When we are paying our (health insurance) premiums, we are being taxed by the state at 5.28 percent," he said. "I'll be talking to our legislators. The state needs to cut the county some slack."
In other commission business:
• Commissioners approved a payment in lieu of taxes for Bayer HealthCare.
• They also authorized Davis to enter into a three-year lease agreement with Fillauer Family Partnership for the parking lot behind the Bradley County annex.
• Pulled from the agenda was a motion to approved a Finance Committee's recommendation to pay Mike Crittenden $33,894.15 for drainage, roadway and stormwater improvements required of the county in Stonebridge Subdivision.
• There was a motion to appoint John Coats to the Cleveland/Bradley County Public Library Board, replacing Richard "Tiger" Jones.
• Davis presented 30-year pins and certificates to three Bradley County employees.
The three recognized included Dina Swafford, Joan Owenby, and Gary Conners.
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