County commissioners approved a nine-percent increase over the next year in insurance premium payments for county employee health care coverage.

The rate increase with Cigna will cost the government $166,000.

County government employee health insurance benefits will stay the same over the next year, with workers who insure dependents having the opportunity to opt into a “Piedmont only” network that would require all services to be handled by Piedmont providers. That would cut approximately $20 per pay period off of premium payments for employees with dependents. The government covers insurance premiums for individual employees, but the employees must pay out of pocket to insure dependents.

The board considered a plan that would have limited employees to the Piedmont network, but commissioners said they wanted to keep good employees in the county, adding that a restrictive policy on what doctors could be seen would not be a smart move.

“My preference that the employees would be able to see any Cigna doctor,” said commissioner Theresa Bettis. “That’s what I feel would be best for the employees.”

Commissioner Brian Kirk agreed.

“I think for us to retain good employees, the quality of the health benefits will mean a lot in terms of retaining folks and getting good applicants here,” he said. “There’s an increase there, but I think it’s worth it the retain the employees and give them the best option.”

The board voted 5-0 to approve the employee health insurance renewal with the nine-percent premium increase.

In other matters during the BOC’s Monday Zoom meeting, the board approved a 2020 tax levy resolution for the county school board. The move allows the school board to refinance its 2011 bonds, which will save the school system $173,000.

Drago Tesanovich, co-chair of the Madison County Clean Power Coalition, thanked commissioners for their support of a HB857, which passed the House of Representatives unanimously, but has been sitting in limbo since the legislative shutdown due to the coronavirus. The bill would ban the burning of creosote as a full source. The Senate is slated to reconvene June 11, and citizens groups in both Madison and Franklin counties, where two biomass fuel plants are burning creosote-treated wood, have sent packets to all senators asking them to support the ban by passing the bill this summer. Tesanovich also asked the commissioners to consider partnering with citizens in conducting an acoustical study of noise from the Georgia Renewable Power plant in Colbert. The noise from the plant has frequently been cited as a nuisance for neighbors of the facility.

The board met in closed session Monday to discuss the potential acquisition of real estate. The group also agreed to participate in the update of the Northeast Georgia Regional Solid Waste Management Plan. The board approved Margo Fowler and Linda Kay Holloman to the board of the county Department of Family and Children Services. The group approved a procedural step in amending its purchasing policies, which requires amending a section of its Charter set in 1965. The action will bring purchasing policies more in line with modern pricing.

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