WELLSBURG - On Tuesday the Brooke County Commission debated whether to adopt a policy that would require all new employees and newly elected officials to contribute 20 percent of their health coverage.
The plan was tabled after concerns were raised about the ability of lesser paid employees to afford that.
County Commissioners Marty Bartz, Tim Ennis and Norma Tarr said their intention was to phase in employee paycheck contributions without affecting the county's current employees.
The proposal also would involve requiring employees whose spouses have insurance coverage to go on their spouses' plans.
But Bartz said he couldn't support it after hearing from County Clerk Sylvia Benzo and County Dog Warden Chuck Shreve, who said employees who are paid the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or not more than a couple dollars more would see a large portion of their paychecks go to the coverage.
County Sheriff Richard Ferguson questioned how much savings it would bring, saying new employees are hired only sporadically.
Based on proposed single, married and family rates considered by the commission, he estimated it would take 10 new employees contributing to their singles coverage to match one current employee's family coverage.
The commissioners acknowledged the change wouldn't mean significant savings currently but would phase in employee contributions over time, as retiring employees are replaced with new ones.
Ennis said health coverage accounts for one-sixth of the county's budget, and something needs to be done to curtail that cost so the commission can invest funds in economic development.
He said while the county isn't seeing an increased cost for coverage this year, the expense typically rises every two or three years. In the future the commission may not be able to afford the level of coverage it provides its employees, he said.
Bartz said perhaps the county should adopt a plan with lesser coverage but also a lesser cost that could be shared by employees.
Tarr, who receives coverage through the county, said she doesn't support adopting a lesser plan.
Donna DeJaro, director of the county's animal shelter, said a previous employer offered its employees their choice of three plans, with different levels of coverage and individual contributions.
She said each employee could choose the plan that fits them best and could change plans each year.
Bartz said the commission should consider other options.
Tarr had moved to adopt the plan, pending review by County Prosecutor David B. Cross, but agreed to table it.
In other business:
DeJaro and Shreve asked the commission if Shreve can write citations for violations of the county's leash law and noise ordinance, the latter when barking dogs are involved.
Ferguson said he believes the dog warden can write citations for the two violations but nothing more.
Ennis said he believes sheriff's deputies should handle violations involving the noise ordinance. Tarr noted a deputy has been designated a humane officer to handle cases involving the mistreatment of animals.
The commission agreed to consult Cross.
Agreed to interview on Tuesday four applicants for the position of county emergency management and ambulance director.
The commission has decided to merge the two positions, saying it would save money and make operation of the county's emergency departments more efficient.
John Schwertfeger is retiring soon from the ambulance director position, and Bob Fowler, the county's emergency management director, has expressed interest in the merged position.
Reappointed Brian Taylor of Wellsburg to the Washington Pike Public Service District.
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