County gets update on employee health plan

ALBANY, Ga. -- Monday was an informative day for Dougherty County commissioners, as they, after a brief work session, got reports on economic development initiatives in the county, employees' health benefit plan, a pair of rezoning requests, efforts to beautify the community and insight into the amount of money spent to provide local citizens with food stamps.

Wells Fargo Insurance Services Senior Vice President Spencer Allen told the commission 22 members of the county's group insurance plan, only 2.7 percent of those among the group, accounted for 31.5 percent ($1.25 million) of the plan's total claims for the year. Sixty-seven percent of chronic condition claims among employees, Allen said, were diabetes-related.

Allen also said specialty drug spending rose by 144 percent among plan members for the year.

"(Such increases) are common among all (insurance) groups," Allen said. "We're trying to put strategies in place that will allow us to mitigate this."

The consulting group executive said Wells Fargo would review such options as health savings accounts, adding a PPO network to the county's dental plan, improving the program's wellness plan and devloping a strategy to focus on disease management engagement heading into the next year.

Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission President Ted Clem told commissioners the county had gotten off to a strong start in 2013 with the creation/retention of 150 jobs and capital investment of $7.69 million from such companies as Fed-Ex Ground, Better Brands, Sara Lee and Federal-State Shipping Point Inspection Service.

Clem also said his staff had actively talked with 42 prospects in the month of January.

County Extension Coordinator James Morgan said his office had been involved in such initiatives as well testing and pregnency prevention programs through its various youth development, agriculture and natural resources, food and nutrition, and family and consumer sciences programs.

During discussion of the continuation of an agreement through which the county pays half of the salary of a Department of Family and Children Services case manager position, a DEFACS official stunned commissioners by telling them the department was part of disseminating $6 million in food stamps last month alone.

"I never would have thought that; that's unbelievable," District 6 Commissioner Jack Stone said. "That's getting close to what our entire budget is for a month."

"That's more than our monthly budget," District 5 Commissioner Gloria Gaines pointed out.

Commissioners also heard reports from Albany Dougherty Planning Services' Mary Teter on rezoning requests for 215 acres of land at 3424 Fleming Road that would be used as a borrow pit by the county landfill and 268 acres of land at 3851 Moultrie Road that owner Clinton Miles wants to rezone Ag so that row crops may be grown on the land.

The Planning Commission had previously recommended approving both requests.

Before hearing requests for funding of the yearly National Youth Sports Program held at Albany State University and an invitation to take part in the Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful "Stash the Trash" campaign April 19, the commission gave formal approval to a request for $122,943.37 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VI funds to encrypt Dougherty police and sheriff's office radios and accepted a quit claim deed for a private drive off Wildwood Drive from the county's school system.

While discussing the possibility of funding the NYSP program, County Administrator Richard Crowdis said, "(The county) could be a mini-United Way if you open that door."