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County tables insurance vote as employees complain (update)

Twenty-one Dougherty County Public Works employees expressed concerns over announced plans to raise employee insurance contributions starting in 2013, prompting the Dougherty County Commission to table a vote on the issue until the employees had an opportunity to discuss their concerns. (Sept. 17, 2012)

Twenty-one Dougherty County Public Works employees expressed concerns over announced plans to raise employee insurance contributions starting in 2013, prompting the Dougherty County Commission to table a vote on the issue until the employees had an opportunity to discuss their concerns. (Sept. 17, 2012)

ALBANY, Ga. — The Dougherty County Commission tabled a planned vote on employee insurance contributions after 21 Public Works employees addressed their concerns over planned increases at the commission's business meeting Monday morning.

Reacting to reports on the proposed increases, the Public Works employees told commissioners they would have trouble paying additional premiums.

"Since I came to work for the county in 2010, we've had an increase in insurance premiums and have had to take five furlough days," Jason Hillhouse told the board. "If premiums go up another 3 percent, that will be a 7 percent decrease in pay since I've been here."

When two members of the group came forward to discuss personal hardships, County Administrator Richard Crowdis cut them off, telling the commission they would be going against protocol if they allowed the employees to speak.

"If you set that precedent, it's set from this point forward," he said.

When Commissioner John Hayes objected, saying the workers — who had taken personal time to come to the meeting — should have a right to speak, Commissioner Jack Stone disagreed.

"If we don't follow the chain of command," Stone said, "we might as well fire Richard Crowdis and find someone else to do the job."

Crowdis pointed out that he'd already revised the previously announced recommendation on employee contributions, dropping the amount paid bi-weekly by employees to $1.42 for the base medical plan, to $2.76 for employee-plus-one and to $3.96 for families who are part of the plan.

At a work session last Wednesday, those proposed bi-weekly pre-tax increases were given as $16.85, $33.63 and $43.65, respectively.

Sinyard wanted to have staff meet with the Public Works employees and bring the matter back up at the commission's meeting next week, but he was told plans had already been made to have insurance vendors meet with county officials on Monday. That did not sit well with Commissioner Gloria Gaines.

"This should be a lesson learned for staff," the District 5 commissioner said. "Nothing is final until this board takes action, and you just don't make a schedule this tight not knowing what our action will be. Painting us into a corner is not something you need to do."

Gaines told the employees that their presence at the meeting had not been in vain.

"The mere presence of these employees speaks volumes," she said. "If the process does not allow you to speak today, we heard you, loud and clear."

Commissioner Lamar Hudgins pointed out financial realities that he said were crucial to the need to have employees meet part of the cost of the insurance increase.

"What we must take into consideration is that our insurance plan still owes the county's general fund $890,000," he said. "We're trying to keep this solvent so you still have an insurance plan."

Crowdis said extremely high employee claims in 2010 forced the county to borrow $1,495,336 from the general fund to offset the costs. The plan has since paid back some $600,000 of that cost.

Also at Monday's meeting, Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission President/CEO Ted Clem gave an overview of the EDC's five-year strategic plan. During the presentation, Clem noted that six companies had brought 478 new jobs into the county during Fiscal Year 2012 and made $9.8 million in capital investments.

Clem noted, "We're off to a good start in 2013, too, with the new Fed-Ex ground facility bringing 15 jobs and, more importantly, almost $3.7 million in capital investment."

Clem told the board his staff would utilize the "three R's of Economic Development: recruitment, retention and renewal" in an effort to attract new business and expand existing businesses in the community.

"The overall message of our planning sessions (for the strategic plan) is how do we get back to the nitty gritty, to the basics?" Clem said. "We plan to do that by organizing task forces in each area of our plan, to show prospective businesses that the entire community is interested in them coming here.

"There are some talented people in Albany, and we want to get them involved in what we're doing."

Commissioners also approved a joint resolution with the city of Albany urging members of Congress to act immediately to avoid sequestration, which would mean significant military cuts at facilities such as Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.

"This by itself is not going to make a significant impact (in Washington)," Sinyard said while holding up a copy of the resolution. "But we want our base to know that we support them and we oppose sequestration."

Comments

waltspecht 1 year, 12 months ago

Funny, in our Company they meet at Corporate Human Resourses and decide what will be best to keep the Company Profitable while still considering the affect of the change on the workers. Then they tell us what the Medical Plan will be. That is what management does,looks out for the best interest of the Company. That is what the Commission should be doing also.

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Amazed2 1 year, 12 months ago

Yep but this tax money. Kind of like Monopoly money when you dont have a Profit and Loss statement to worry about.

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AlbanyObserver 1 year, 12 months ago

"The bi-weekly increase for single employees covered under the base plan would be $1.42, while employee-plus-one would increase $2.76 and families $3.96. That's significantly less than the figures we talked about last week."

You cannot tell me that it is unreasonable to ask that employees pay an additional $3.96 every two weeks to ensure that their families have health insurance. Compare the increased costs of all other goods and services.

What a horrible example of the tail wagging the dog.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 12 months ago

Be lucky that you have a job that offers health care. Use that health care wisely and do not run to the doctor needlessly. Wasteful ways make wishful wants. I have a friend who goes to Phoebe once a year and has major tests that she does not need. $5000 here and there adds up. When Obamacare kicks in this measly amount will be a drop in the bucket.

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missdaisy 1 year, 12 months ago

I should read, "County tables insurance vote as employees WHINE." Gimme a break, pay another couple of dollars for your insurance! What is the county's share of each employees insurance premium?

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Amazed2 1 year, 12 months ago

Yea but I thought Obama was going to pay for Obama Care!!

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Amazed2 1 year, 12 months ago

Unfortunately things do go up. I wish my medical coverage only had those meager increases

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Sixty 1 year, 12 months ago

Should the public worker be any different than everyone else in America (that has a job with benefits). Everyone is paying more. Here is what you do, look at your budget (if you have one) and cut back in a few areas. It makes me sick when everyone agrees we spend to much and that we need to cut back. The only problem is that they don't want it to affect them. They want others to pay the burden. To all of the government employees, quit complaining. This is happening to everyone in America. We have a government that has put us into more debt in the last 3 years than all of the years combined in our history. You did not think that kind of spending was never going to trickle down into your wallets did you? Time to start paying up. Trust me when I say more is on the way. Wait until Obamacare is in full effect in 2014.

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dingleberry 1 year, 12 months ago

In the past four decades, under my government plan, there has only been one year when my insurance costs did not go up. One year, and I would have been absolutely thrilled to have an increase like that proposed for county employees. Shut up and pay up!

The $890k owed to the county general fund seems to have been glossed over during this meeting. How is this matter going to be cleared up? This plan sounds like a recipe for disaster in the future.

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USTPC 1 year, 12 months ago

Wow...this works? Okay, I am going to go to HR and tell them I can't afford an increase in my medical premium. I am sure they will respond the same way as the commissioners did and table the increase as a result. What a joke. Suck it up like the rest of us and pay the additional premium. Better than no insurance at all.

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Fletch 1 year, 12 months ago

......... HOPE & CHANGE ... get you some! ........... How ironic that a MAJORITY of these govt. employees voted for HOPE & CHANGE and now are reaping the affects of an economy declining in direct relation to ... ahem, HOPE & CHANGE .........

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Amazed2 1 year, 12 months ago

Well the county just needs to adjust benefits and payout to the employees to lower the premium They dont care about what it dont pay they just care about the $3 to $4 it is going up. Unfortunately things go up. Rarely does medical coverage go down unless you reduce benefits and/or increase deductables. This insurance this is just getting started the insurance companies as much as possible are going to try to spoon feed people a dose of the effects of OBAMA CARE every year or every renewal period that they get the opportuity to for several years and also for what ever it takes to make a profit. You cannot mandate OBAMA CARE and then expect the insurance companies to lose or not make a return in investment for the shareholders. This is called making profit that is what it is all about. Insurance companies are at least not yet a Government Agency but Obama is headed there. His is like HUGO CHAVEs the newest dictator in South America. Hugo took little bites and then he Nationalized.

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Amazed2 1 year, 12 months ago

I think Obama must have said "Hope you got some more Change"

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DUKE 1 year, 12 months ago

These were the numbers being disputed:

"At a work session last Wednesday, those proposed bi-weekly pre-tax increases were given as $16.85, $33.63 and $43.65, respectively."

Not these:

"$1.42 for the base medical plan, to $2.76 for employee-plus-one and to $3.96 for families who are part of the plan."

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Amazed2 1 year, 12 months ago

Duke then where are the numbers coming from. Are you sure the larger amounts are not the updated totals with increase added???? Regardless nobody including Obamer ever said it would be cheap.

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USTPC 1 year, 12 months ago

Duke, I do not care what increase they are whining about...the higher or the lower. Suck it up like everyone who works in the private sector is having to. Just because you work in public service should not mean that the cost of your benefits do not go up if costs go up. Geez, if public service was ran the same as private sector business we would not have a national debt of $16 Trillion.

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DUKE 1 year, 12 months ago

@ AMAZED2- These were the original increase bi-weekly #'s in addition to what is already being paid. $16.85 for the base medical plan, to $33.63 for employee-plus-one and to $43.65 for families who are part of the plan.

These are the revised increase bi-weekly #'s in addition to what is already being paid.

$1.42 for the base medical plan, to $2.76 for employee-plus-one and to $3.96 for families who are part of the plan.

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