December 16, 2009 Edition

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Walnut Ridge votes to offer
insurance plan for retirees

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council voted to allow retired employees to participate in the city's healthcare plan at their regular meeting on Dec. 8.

Retirees must be 55 or older and must have completed 20 years of service with the city, currently receive a retirement benefit from the Arkansas Local Policy and Fire Retirement System, Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System or a local pension fund adopted by the city of Walnut Ridge.

Those wishing to continue their coverage after retirement must pay 100 percent of their healthcare coverage cost and must not be covered at any time during retirement by another healthcare plan. They must also notify the city in writing of their intent to participate in the plan within 90 days from the official date of their retirement.

Eligibility to participate shall not be offered retroactively to previously retired employees or officials. City Clerk Carolyn Hayes was directed to amend the employee handbook to include the criteria for eligibility and distribute it to all current employees before Jan. 1, 2010.

Allen Smith addressed the council concerning the Walnut Ridge Golf Club. He had previously provided packets of information to the councilmen about the events leading to the airport's decision to upgrade runway 18-36 to a C3, and he added additional information at the meeting.

"I wanted to show the council that other communities have waivers and variances that allow them to exist with golf courses in proximity as close as the Walnut Ridge Country Club's course," Smith said. "There are at least 25-30 airports and golf courses across the country that coexist with no problems. They have been able to work things out, so why can't we?"

Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin asked Smith if he was at the meeting on behalf of the Country Club, and Smith told him that he was there as a private citizen who would like to see the golf club/airport issue resolved.

Smith told the council he was wondering why the choice was made to change runway 18-36 from a C3 to a B2 in 2004, and then back to a C3 in 2007. "The information is in your packet in black and white," he said.

He asked that the council members read the information he had given them in order to get a better understanding of why the runway was changed in 2004.

Alderwoman Paula Haskins said, "Can someone please tell me why we need two C3 runways?"

Her question was not answered; however, the importance of moving the airport forward and not regressing was discussed.

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