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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
During its monthly meeting last Tuesday morning, the County Commission discussed and approved matters relating to employee insurance, county agreements and more.
Relating to county employees and tying in with employees’ insurance, the commission and County Administrator Amy Gilliland discussed needing to rescind the recently approved and adopted Wellness Resolution.
The previously approved resolution instituted a penalty for county employees who did not participate in the annual wellness screenings going forward. It was adopted and approved at the September 12 meeting and went into effect November 1.
That resolution stated that employees and officials who fail to participate in the Worksite Wellness Program or fail to return a completed Provider Screening form by October 31 each year would be “assessed $50 per pay period toward the cost of health insurance premiums, until such time the completed wellness screening form is provided.”
However, during last week’s meeting Gilliland explained that local government is no longer allowing the wellness resolutions, which numerous counties already had in place. As such, she said the commission would have to rescind the resolution adopted just two months ago, and employees will not be “dinged” for not participating in annual wellness screenings.
During discussion she further explained that the county pays 70% of employee insurance for those who have insurance through the county. She said that some had mentioned providing an incentive to employees to do the wellness screenings, but said that with the county paying so much of the insurance costs the employees should be able to get wellness screenings done without being paid to do them.
In further discussion, Gilliland said that the county only has 52 people out of its 79 total employees who have the county’s insurance. She explained that each year the county has to get 80% of those 52 employees to participate in wellness screenings in order to keep their premium rates.
“That’s why it’s so important for these wellness screenings to be done,” Gilliland stated. “We pay a lot of insurance, and then it went up again this year. That’s why we’ve had to make some cuts in the budget to accommodate that. I’m thankful that the commission pays this insurance amount for us.”
After discussion, with all members present, the commission unanimously approved rescinding the Wellness Resolution.
Following that, the commission also discussed the county absorbing the 3.5% employee health insurance increase.
Gilliland explained that every year they increase the health insurance premiums, the commission has absorbed it. She added that last year the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, absorbed it, but that this year it is once again on the commission to absorb the increase.
With 52 employees that have insurance through the county, she said it will cost the county approximately $50 more per employee, per month, making the increase about $2,600 per month, or $31,200 more per year that the county will need to pay so as to not pass the increase on to the employees.
Gilliland said that the county does have the funds to absorb that, although they were not expecting a 3.5% increase. She stated that at one meeting they were told it would increase 1.5%, so they “were shocked” to see the 3.5% increase instead.
However, she added that everyone knows insurance rates are high and said that she is thankful that the County Commission will absorb that increase for everybody on their insurance.
During discussion Commissioner Lamar Daugherty asked if absorbing the increase can be counted as the incentive for employees participating in the wellness screenings.
Gilliland said that she thinks it is a great incentive, but that some do not see it that way. She further emphasized that the county is paying 70% of the employee insurance, mentioning that it is “a lot” and how difficult it would be on employees if they had to pay the full cost instead, adding that, “The commission does a lot for the employees.”
After discussion the commission unanimously approved the county absorbing the 3.5% employee health insurance premium increase.
In other business, the commission reviewed the updated School Resource Officer Agreement that is done annually among the commission, Board of Education and Sheriff’s Office. In a previous commission meeting there was discussion between the commission and Superintendent of Education David Stover Jr. regarding the possibility of the board taking on two-thirds of the SRO salary and the Sheriff’s Office paying the remaining one-third, taking the commission out of the equation from when it had also been paying one-third of the salary.
During last week’s meeting, county attorney John K. Johnson stated that the agreement presented to the commission had already been approved and signed by the Board of Education and Sheriff Michael Howell. He explained that the agreement was updated to reflect the county no longer paying a portion of the school resource officer’s salary, adding that it is an annual agreement and as such can be revisited each year.
The agreement reflects the Board of Education as paying $42,135.94 and the Sheriff’s Office paying $21,067.97 to fund the deputy’s salary as school resource officer.
After brief discussion, the commission unanimously voted to approve and for Chair Bertha K. McElrath to sign the School Resource Officer Agreement.
The commission also reviewed an annual contract or agreement between the county and John Boswell, doing business as J&J Construction. That contract, the Landfill Agreement, allows Boswell to load and remove all scrap metal and electronics delivered at the Coosa County Landfill.
Johnson added that there is no cost to the county for the service or agreement. After review, the commission unanimously approved the Landfill Agreement for another year.
In other business, Commission Lamar Daugherty mentioned Christmas falling on a Monday this year and was on the agenda to discuss potentially closing the courthouse on December 26, as well.
He mentioned that along with absorbing the insurance increase, to show appreciation for the employees he would like to allow them an extra day off and have the courthouse closed Tuesday, December 26, as well.
The commission unanimously approved closing the courthouse December 26, meaning it will be closed that Monday and Tuesday for the Christmas holiday.
Also during the meeting, the commission opened bids for a service truck for the Highway Department. Only one bid was received, and it was from Riverside Chevrolet of Wetumpka.
After reviewing the bid and much discussion with attorney Johnson regarding the bid process and bid packet information, the commission unanimously approved accepting the bid from Riverside Chevrolet in the amount of $58,723.50 for a 2024 three-quarter ton, crew cab, service truck for the Highway Department.
As reported last week, the commission also unanimously approved for Chair McElrath to sign a proclamation for Farm-City Week, which was November 17-23 this year.
Also at last week’s meeting, in public comments the commission heard from Devlynn and Kelvin Barnes regarding issues with numerous potholes on County Road 19. County Engineer Tad Eason explained that the Highway Department had just gotten the new patcher in and that they would be working on the potholes.
Barbara Maxwell and Pamela Graham also attended the meeting and addressed the commission and attendees to share their appreciation for District 3 Commissioner John Forbus, as well as engineer Eason and the Highway Department, for the work they do, stating that they are “so thankful.”
Maxwell specifically mentioned the great work done on County Road 130 and how much she and others appreciate it. She presented both Forbus and Eason with thank you cards to show their gratitude.
Also in the meeting, Commissioner Daugherty provided the commission with information he had received from the Association of County Commissions of Alabama stating that the county is not legally obligated to house the County Extension Office.
He added that he personally likes having the Extension Office at the old high school and likes that the county is able to keep the office there and house it as long as the county is financially able to do so. However, he said he wanted the county to know it does have “a little bit of freedom” if needed to make some changes.
Commission Chair McElrath also mentioned information provided by attorney Johnson regarding the attorney general’s opinion on a similar matter. That document, 2002-067, is dated November 19, 2001, under then Attorney General Bill Pryor, to the Chambers County Commission answering multiple questions.
Regarding what housing and utility services the Chambers County Commission is legally obligated to furnish the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, the attorney general’s opinion referenced Code of Alabama Section 11-12-15 and concluded that the commission “is not legally obligated to furnish office space or to pay the utility expenses incurred by the Extension Service. State law does give priority for payment to any appropriation that the county chooses to make.”
Also during staff reports, Administrator Gilliland stated that the county is “slowly and steadily” transferring from First Bank to the First Community Bank of Central Alabama, as previously approved since the county will not legally be able to have funds at a credit union once First Bank transitions to the Alabama One Credit Union.
Gilliland stated that representatives with First Community Bank “have been wonderful” and that they have been at the courthouse every week, sometimes multiple times per week, helping with the transition.
She also mentioned the county’s process of switching to Edmnuds Government Software with a go-live date of June 3 for that. During that discussion, the commission voted to go into executive session to discuss security measures regarding the financial software.
The commission was in executive session for approximately 20 minutes regarding the matter and did not take action on it once reconvened in open session.
Gilliland also mentioned to attendees that Accordia Health, Rockford Pharmacy and the Coos aCounty Health Department is holding an Open House on Thursday, November 30, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the Coosa County Commission will be held at 9 a.m. December 12.