Wednesday, November 29, 2006

28 November 2006 Dearborn County Council Meeting Notes

28 November 2006 Dearborn County Council Meeting Notes

Health Insurance and DCEDI Dominate Council Discussion

Present: Fehrman, Chairman, Kraus, Sr., Lansing, Cheek, Ullrich, Mitter, and Morris.
Stephanie Disbro was sitting in for Pickens, Auditor.

Ralph Thompson, Commissioner-elect was in the audience.
Judges Witte and Humphrey were each present for parts of the meeting.

Bonnie Shepherd spoke about health insurance issues for 110 employees who signed a petition- some of whom were in the audience. She reiterated her appeal made to commissioners last week and asked Council to carve money out of the budget somewhere to help lower employee out of pocket costs. She noted 8 new employee positions were created in the budget for $188,000 and that some people got more than a 3% raise that the rank and file received.
One commissioner told her that he got a $6,000 raise and didn’t need it so he was considering donating ½ to life squad or fire dept. She estimated Council members make about $130 per hour for the 60 hours they work a year.
She and Ullrich got into a tete a tete over him calling her a Chief Rapture Girl stirring up trouble at the courthouse.

Ullrich informed her that council sets the budget amount- but commissioners buy the insurance plan.

Shepherd said that Kramer told her to take the blood test and “play the game.” The blood tests are technically voluntary, but if the employee doesn’t do this they pay $200 per month premium vs. $77 if they do.

[Note: Later in discussion it was said that this insurance blood test is required to get the best insurance rates. And the test consists of routine screens as well as PSA (a test for prostate cancer), and other tests. They say they are doing it to get a baseline and to help them get care needed. And it’s “free.” Kramer also was said to have told the group the county pays ½ of these costs.
It is not reasonable to assume the county isn’t paying for these totally. The insurance companies are not giving out free health care. The costs are built into their plans. So taxpayers and employees are paying for these tests too.
Secondly, tests of this nature should be interpreted by the patient’s doctor- who knows their medications and health history. There is also the danger of false positives and test results causing undue anxiety in patients when not part of a total care program. Family doctors are the best source of individualized patient health advice for ongoing care and chronic conditions. This is like practicing medicine without a license.
Third, there is a danger to the employee in that these tests can also be used to build a history that will make them ineligible for insurance down the road. Insurance companies know your drugs because they pay the pharmacy bills. They know what tests have been run on you, because they pay those bills. Now they are seeking to actually know what your health future might be. This is a huge invasion of privacy. And it needs to stop.
If employees want to voluntarily participate in a wellness program, that is fine- but this is coercive- forcing them to divulge personal health histories essentially in order to be insured at a better personal rate with GROUP insurance. This is not private insurance.]

Fehrman informed the group that the county pays 74% of their $16 million budget on employees.
$3.4-3.6 million is spent on health insurance. (The plans cost about $12,700 apiece per Fehrman) The county is paying the bulk of those costs. Employees will be paying $75 a month.

[NOTE: As a point of reference- Health Alliance insurance thru Health Span is costing employees of the Cincinnati Alliance hospitals about $185 a month for family plan for the Alliance Select version of the plan where you pay more out of pocket and can see out of network doctors. The hospitals also self insure, similar to the county.]

Cheek gave some private sector costs to put this in perspective. Thompson asked council if they had checked into pooling employees with other entities to get better rates. Fehrman said they had, but our plan was “richer” than others so that would cut our benefits and force others to raise theirs.
[NOTE: These situations and costs are rapidly changing now- forcing the county into a plan similar to the mainstream.]

Other comments from council members concerning ways to cut fat from the budget:
Sheriff’s cars are left running at restaurants supposedly to enable them to have a quick start. [NOTE: That seems reasonable for a carry-out order perhaps, but not a meal inside. Besides the gas costs, the pollution caused by an idling car should be eliminated.]
The county engineer drives a county car to and from Seymour daily. [NOTE: This was negotiated at his hiring, to cover the time to get his home built in the county.]
Mitter challenged the council pay of $130 for 60 hours- saying that council members work numerous hours on other boards and county work. [NOTE: Mitter does as Plan Commission Chair and also on master plan, but not all council members are as civic minded.]
Council agreed that communication needed to happen. This plan is apparently done for 2007. [NOTE: Doesn’t Messmore function as an administrator who should be communicating the commissioner decisions to employees?]

Special appropriations- additionals:

$25,000 was approved from Riverboat revenue with Cheek the only Nay for gas and oil.

$1395 times 15 inmates for 4 months approved from Riverboat Revenue for inmate housing out of county with Mitter the only Nay.

$5,000 was approved for part time help and $12,000 for autopsies for the Coroners office.

$491 for Court ordered drug tests for the probation dept. was approved.

Extension office was tabled to get further info.

Mike Rozow, of the Chamber of Commerce, was grilled by Mitter regarding how much of the $25,000 goes to DCEDI funding. (About $20,000) Mitter said his support for EDI has dried up and he is unwilling to spend another dime of taxpayer money on EDI as they are supporting a developer who is in violation of county zoning ordinances.
Rozow said the money goes from the county to the chamber to Redevelopment Commission to EDI. In addition $50,000 from Tourism Bureau (CVTB) goes to Redevelopment Commission, which works with EDI.
Rozow said part of his salary comes out of this too.
Mitter said he’d worked hard on the TIFs with EDI and felt their latest actions were a slap in the face.
The money was approved at this point with discussion later on these issues.
[NOTE: Mitter must have seen the circuitous route this money was taking. It seems that the county needs to clean up their funding mechanism on these private entities.]

The contingency fund was approved to pay $200,000 in additional health insurance costs. The $3.2 million from January was not enough.

2007 salary ordinance was signed.

Extension was untabled and money transfer approved for them.

Bill Black asked about his possible part time help or assistant. Cheek finally told him that if there is money left he thought health insurance would take precedence over more Homeland security. Apparently all the grants and paperwork are getting extensive.

At 9:30 PM Alex Humphrey son of Judge Humphrey introduced himself as an 8th grader at St. Lawrence working on his Eagle Scout badge. He has raised $19,500 of the $25,000 needed for the eternal flame to be installed at Greendale cemetery. He has also sought $20,000 in a grant that hasn’t been awarded and may only realistically be half that amount. He plans to use excess funds raised to maintain and keep the flame lit as often as possible considering gas costs. Council approved the ENTIRE remaining $5,500 needed from Community Services Funds. All ayes. Council members commended Alex for his dedication.

Minutes were approved for the year with Cheek and Morris abstaining on those when they were absent.

Mark Mitter then addressed Council regarding the details of the Plan Commission Meeting last night and stating at the outset that he was immediately resigning as Council’s rep to the Plan Commission so that he could speak freely on these issues.
[NOTE: Council needs to resolve these issues quickly and then attempt to get Mitter to reconsider serving on PC.]

He said that this stemmed from issues regarding his ability to speak at the Plan Commission hearing raised by an applicant’s attorney (Lisa Lehner) who was informed by Nicole Daily (of Bayer Becker Engineering) that Mitter had a conflict of interest. Daily was present and Mitter called her to the podium to answer questions. Daily related that she had reported to Lehner that Mitter had said at a previous meeting that he was going to step down to avoid a conflict of interest when the Mariah Business Park came in. She wasn’t sure what the issue was- she said. She knows there is a conflict with one of the owners- Kramer- who owns land next to Mitter’s home. She does not know who all the owners are. She knows there are questions regarding how they are using the property next to Mitter’s home. She said Lehner already knew about this. Daily said she wasn’t aware that Lehner was going to use her name in the meeting last night.

Mitter said he worked for the county for 11 years as a volunteer and then as an elected official. “Just because I’m elected I don’t give up my right to free speech. I stepped down because I filed a complaint of a zoning violation against the owner of Mariah Development who also owned land next to me.”
Mitter met with DCEDI and others regarding concerns over this owner doing a new project in the county when in violation on another piece of land. EDI said they viewed this man as a property owner only- selling his land. Mitter then showed Council the plans with Mariah DEVELOPMENT on them as owner. He said the owners are also the developers.
Metter said- we fought for TIF districts as a development tool. What do we get? Self-storage units and gas stations? Does that create jobs? We capture tax revenue to help create jobs. These businesses are not going to do that. Mitter wants job creation and increased property values. This does NOT do that. Staff report at Planning office showed numerous deficiencies in the plan and roadway design. EDI wants a shovel ready site. We need to look at these issues and not create a further problem up there at I-74. We want industry with a POSITIVE impact on the community. The attorney for the developers (Lehner) only wanted an approval- no discussion.
Mitter told them he did not speak on that issue at PC, he resigned tonight so that he was free to speak on it with no potential legal repercussions for the county.
EDI wants one in the win column and it doesn’t matter what it is. Mitter outlined slopes greater than 20% LOS F for access points, SR1 access problems, and improper use of valuable land in a TIF.
Cheek was strongly against supporting anyone in violation of county ordinances. “This is NOT the right thing to do.”Mitter said EDI needs to pay attention to county government if they want our money.
Cheek said we’ve also paid out a lot for supportive services with GIS, qualified staff in planning, and this EDI support sounds like the good old boy system.
Mitter said an ad ran in the local paper listing this 56 acres as M zoned property as if it were a done deal.
Daily said they didn’t know that had happened with their client. She thought EDI didn’t either.
Mitter said we need to send a message to EDI. Daily said they should be here to answer to this.
Mitter said West was at PC at the order of the executive committee to support the Mariah Development Park. Mitter said he was so worked up by this issue that he didn’t sleep till 4 AM after the PC meeting.
Fehrman is to set up a public special meeting with Council and DCEDI to air these issues.

Fehrman and Council joked around with Bo Lansing and wished him well at his last meeting after 24 years on County Council. Lansing will get his plaque at the County Christmas party in 2 weeks.

Meeting adjourned at 10:30 PM
Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

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