Common council committee meeting highlights for 2-6-2017

Council considers new health benefits provider

The common council heard from Chet Schneider, vice president-regional manager for Marshall and Sterling Insurance, at a committee meeting held Monday night in regards to how his company might better handle the city’s employee benefits, particularly the city’s self-funded health insurance program. The city has used The Garvin Group to handle employee benefits since 2015.

Controller Matt Agresta asked Scheider several questions specifically about how the company would help the city stay in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. Schneider said that his company would handle almost all the required paperwork and reporting.

“Right now we’re doing all that ourselves, or at least attempting to, and not necessarily succeeding in every case,” said Agresta.

Alderman Jim Martuscello asked, “The company we have now is not helping you with it?”

Agresta replied,“Not particularly, no.”

According to Martuscello, the current provider is also not responding to questions from city officials in a timely manner.

In addition to handling required compliance and reporting for the ACA, Schneider said he estimated his company can provide approximately 3% savings on employees enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plan, and 3% to 8% savings on stop-loss insurance, which is insurance the city carries to cover larger claims.

Editor’s note: I have sent a request for comment to The Garvin Group and will post an update with their response.

Water tank maintenance plan proposed

Council members heard a proposal from Roger Linder, a water system consultant for SUEZ, to renovate and maintain the city’s two steel water tanks. One tank is located on Locust Avenue, and the other behind Tecler School.

Linder said that the structural integrity of both tanks is fine, however the inside and outside of the tank behind Tecler will require sandblasting and the application of new coatings. The tank on Locust avenue, which is newer, does not need as much work, however Linder said that if it was left un-maintained for any longer, may require more expensive repairs.

According to Chief Plant Operator Bob Discenza, neither tank has received any regular maintenance since they were built, except for painting over graffiti.

Linder proposed a 20 year, $6 million plan that would include the initial renovation of the tanks and ongoing maintenance. He stressed that the company would warranty their renovation work for the length of the plan. In order to fund the project, Linder said his company is willing to explore different payment plans as an alternative to the city issuing a bond. He suggested one option would be to add a flat fee to the existing water user fees. After the meeting, council members expressed reservations about increasing users fees.

Future capital projects list reviewed

Engineer Rich Miller went through a list of capital projects that various department heads have requested. Projects discussed include new air handlers for the public safety building, new patrol cars for the police department, a utility truck for the fire department, new vehicles for the Department of Public works including a vacuum excavation truck, re-paving the library parking lot, structure demolition, replacement of light polls along the Route 30 bridge, various maintenance equipment for the golf course, re-paving the City Hall parking lot, new bathrooms at Shuttleworth Park, and equipment upgrades to the city pool. The council also discussed the deterioration of the roof of the DPW building.

According to Alderman Jim Martuscello, the city could not borrow any more money in the current fiscal year which ends in June. He said the city’s debt service would be dropping significantly in the next fiscal year, which would allow for additional borrowing.

Council members agreed the next step is to discuss the possibility of leasing, rather than bonding for police cars and other light duty vehicles.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.