April 13, 2011 Edition

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Insurance costs up for county

Leslie L. Ginn
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County Quorum Court discussed an increase in its health insurance premium at Monday night's meeting.

Justice Junior Briner raised the topic of seeking approval for a change in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance policy for county employees. He reported that the county insurance premium has been raised $50,000 since 2010 because of a few specific large bill illnesses. The increase will go into effect in May.

"Our coverage is increasing because last year the insurance company paid out 33 percent more in claims than we paid in premiums," Briner said. "The Budget Committee opted to raise co-pays and medicines by $5 each and make other minor changes to reduce the overall premium increase from $75,000 to $50,000."

All employees are highly encouraged to make use of the wellness programs offered through Blue Cross Blue Shield to improve overall health. Programs focused on heart disease and diabetes are examples of programs offered through the wellness plans.

"If all the employees participate in wellness programs and health costs lower, we foresee our premiums lowering again in a few years," Briner said. "That means that we can use that $50,000 for other things, such as raises."

Program to use volunteer labor

Also on Monday, County Judge Dale Freeman informed court members of a program that the county and the sheriff's department are participating in that will make use of volunteers who are either on probation or unemployed.

The program will give individuals who owe fines a chance to work them off, as well as gain work experience. Freeman said that tapping into this labor force will help balance out increasing fuel costs the county is anticipating.

"I am also told that judges may choose to assign people to work off their fines through this program rather than having them spend time in jail," Freeman said.

The courthouse bathroom project, which will provide accessibility for those who are disabled, was reviewed and approved. A bid totaling $9,480 from R & G Masonry Contractors, Inc. of Jonesboro was accepted.

The bid allowed for two doors to be extended from 30 to 36 inches and an expanded hallway. The new blocks will not match exactly, but will be close. It was reported that the work will be done during weekend hours to avoid disturbing regular courthouse proceedings.

Several court members praised the efforts of the mayors of Walnut Ridge and Hoxie in combining efforts in the Twin Cities Cleanup agreement.

"We all need to cooperate to maximize the opportunities that are available to our communities," said Justice Alex Latham.

In other business:

  • the 2009 legislative audit was approved.

  • two resolutions were discussed officially commending individuals in the community. These resolutions will be presented next month.

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