Benefits, mask usage and more at BOCC meeting

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RBC | Commissioners and budget and finance director Janae Stanworth discussed the possibility of making changes to the county’s employee benefit plans in a work session Tuesday. Currently, the county pays 100% of the monthly health insurance premiums for staff, with a $1,000 deductible. The monthly premium for an individual is $870, for an individual plus one it’s $1,632, and for a family it’s $2,003. The cost of health insurance benefits for the county was listed as $2.85 million annually in a recent presentation. 

Stanworth presented various options, including changing to a higher deductible plan: $1,500 or $2,000, which would reduce the monthly premiums slightly, or having employees contribute a percentage of the monthly premium. If staff paid 25% of their health insurance premiums, savings for the county would be about $600,000.

Calls to neighboring Moffat and Garfield counties to compare benefit plans had not been returned as of press time Wednesday.

By way of comparison, an individual health insurance plan to cover “medium” health care needs (four doctor’s visits, one day in the hospital per year) through Connect for Health Colorado has monthly premiums of between $450 and $800 with a $1,400 deductible.

Also discussed was the possibility of reducing the county’s 6% retirement match to 4 or 5%, which would provide between $70,000 and $140,000 of additional savings to the county, and the previously discussed plan to have a one-day-a-month furlough for county employees, estimated to save $300,000.

Stanworth said she would prepare a survey for staff, which the commissioners asked to review, regarding the different benefit options.

PUBLIC HEALTH UPDATE

RBC Public Health Director Alice Harvey spoke with the commissioners about the current status of COVID-19 in the county. The case count remains stable, with no hospitalizations. The county is in good shape with testing capability and supplies, and expects to receive some 48-hour saliva tests from the state that can be used in the schools, as well as continuing to pursue the purchase of a rapid-testing device that can provide results in 15 minutes. 

RBC was one of the first three counties in the state to be certified by the governor for “Protect Our Neighbor” status. “We’re very, very proud of our community, because this is a team effort,” Harvey said.

The new status encourages increasing local control over public health guidelines, Harvey explained. “The biggest thing we need to talk about today is the mandated face coverings. We are able to request an exemption from that state mask order. If we were to do so, my suggestion and proposal would be that we replace it with a local public health order that would address how we would like to approach the face covering orders.”

Harvey explained that the current algorithms that allow schools to stay open to in-person learning, the hospitals and opening nursing homes to visitors again are all contingent on the continued use of face coverings by the general public.

“What I’m suggesting is that we require the use of face coverings in settings that are most at risk. Our success is completely contingent on that piece [masks],” Harvey said. For example, because children in schools are wearing masks, entire classrooms or grades don’t have to be quarantined in the event of a positive case. 

“The big purpose for this is to support our stakeholders. Schools are a perfect example. Should we request an exemption from the statewide mask mandate — schools, hospitals, businesses are already under pressure — there could be pressure from the public. There is potential for that to be misinterpreted as not needing to wear masks.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time adapting the rules to our county, but we’re still encouraging face masks and should be requiring them in certain settings.”

Harvey presented the commissioners with a rough draft of a local public health directive. The commissioners agreed to review it with guidance from legal counsel. 

Harvey also reminded the commissioners of two upcoming drive-thru flu shot clinics, one in Meeker on Oct. 1 and one in Rangely on Oct. 6. See the ad below for details. 

REGULAR MEETING

The regular meeting, commissioners approved the “posting” of six county positions in line with the plans to consolidate several departments. The six positions include a Director of Public Affairs, Emergency Manager, three IT positions and an administrative specialist for the combined departments. 

Asked about the Director of Public Affairs role, Stanworth explained, “This is that new department that will be presented in the proposed budget. It will be over the natural resource regulations, some of it will be a commissioner coordinator type of duty and there may or may not be some economic development duties, and public information. There will only be this one position under this one department.”

Posting the positions in advance allows for them to be included in the proposed budget.

The positions — if they are included as part of the adopted budget — will begin Jan. 1, 2021. 

Woodruff voted yes on the Director of Public Affairs position, “only because it’s just a posting.”

In other business, the board approved an annual DOLA block grant application that offsets the costs of the senior nutrition program, and approved an agreement with Pitt Roofing for the Rangely roof project not to exceed $75,140.

In commissioner updates, the board said they spent two days in tax abatement discussions with Utah Gas last week. Those meetings were done in executive sessions. 

“I don’t know that we will win this hearing or lose this hearing,” Woodruff said, “But we put up a wall of defense.” 

The last time the county had hearings with Utah Gas about taxes owed was in 2018. The results of this hearing won’t be known for two months.

The board went into executive session for the purpose of receiving legal counsel on specific questions and personnel matters with attorney Todd Starr, Road and Bridge Director Dave Morlan, and Human Resources Director Laura Smith. 

Starr stated “although it is possible decisions may be made during the course of that meeting” those decisions would not be made in executive session function, but in day-to-day supervision of an employee function.

By NIKI TURNER | editor@ht1885.com

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