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Timberline expands benefits package from three to four employees

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New insurance provider, Chief’s work agreement, AWOL website.

By Lynn Volkens

Timberline Fire Protection District (TFPD) held a special board meeting on January 6, 2013 with only one item on the agenda: to discuss and review an employee health care plan. Approximately half of the three-hour meeting time was spent in an unposted Executive Session to discuss personnel matters and the fire chief’s contract. Board president Rick Wenzel and members Kay Johnson, Paul Ondr and Chris Samuelson were present; Jim Crawford was absent.

New Healthcare Benefit Plan

TFPD Business Manager Jennifer Hinderman told the directors that TFPD employees are unhappy with the district’s current insurance provider, Anthem, mainly because the out-of-pocket expense for premiums has gotten too expensive and there is no dental or vision plan included. The 2013 rates show the chief’s out-of-pocket portion has gone from $206.78 per month to $312.61; the monthly out-of-pocket cost for the business manager and maintenance technician has gone from $62.04 to $85.54. The district’s total monthly contribution of $1,076.25 ($893.93 for the chief; $182.32 for the business manager and maintenance technician, together) remains unchanged. Hinderman had researched plans from numerous insurance providers and presented the Board with a summary of the plans from Public Sector Health Care Group (Cigna), Warner Pacific (Rocky Mountain Health Plan), CEBT (SDA) Pool (Self-Insured), and CTSI (SDA) Pool (Self-Insured). Public Sector, with four plans to choose from, was the provider that employees favored.

TFPD has budgeted $15,220 ($1,270 per month) for healthcare benefits in 2013. Employees who work over 24 hours per week are eligible for benefits. That is currently the chief, business manager, and maintenance technician. Chief Jennings told the directors they should consider costs for expanding the benefits to include four employees. After checking the figures, the directors determined they could add the bookkeeper position to Public Sector’s plans, thus providing healthcare benefits for four employees, and still remain within budget. Dental and vision plans could be included in that. Further TFPD could afford to pay more than the required 50% of the employee portion of the premium. Directors voted (with Ondr’s the only vote against) to change the district’s healthcare provider from Anthem to Public Sector (with Cigna as the network provider). They then voted (again, with Ondr voting “No”) to set the TFPD’s contribution to the employee out-of-pocket portion of the premium at 75%.

Chief’s Work Agreement

  Chief Jennings originally called for an executive session to discuss “personnel,” stating that the directors should not even discuss the healthcare options until he had made them aware of its impact on an employee who was not present. The chief also pointed out that $10,800 of his $18,700 annual benefits package is comprised of his healthcare benefit – an amount that had been negotiated under his employment agreement. Changing that amount would mean renegotiating that agreement. The $10,800 is the bulk of the $15,220 total budget for all employees’ healthcare benefits in 2013. The Directors reviewed the insurance material Hinderman had provided, and then decided to meet with the chief in an executive session to hear his concerns. When the Board reconvened to public session, Wenzel announced that they had been discussing the Chief’s compensation package, reached no conclusion, and would discuss it further at a later date. The Board moved on to pass the two motions authorizing the healthcare benefit changes outlined above.

Website

  Http://Timberlinefire.org, the District’s website, has been down since November, depriving citizens of easy access to information such as Board meeting schedules, meeting agendas and minutes, information about burn permits, departmental documents and, of course, the District’s budgets. Jennings said the problem lies with the volunteers who had been maintaining the website up to November. After a meeting in August when numerous citizens told Board members that they wanted more transparency from Timberline, including information that was accurate and up-to-date on the website, Jennings set about having the website managed by a contracted firm in Nederland. He said he is ready to proceed, but there is now a problem regarding use of the domain name. Jennings could offer no timeline for when the website might be back.

Heads Up

  TFPD’s Board of Directors meets next at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 14, 2013 at Station 7 (next to Taggert’s).

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