Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hailey cuts staff insurance benefits

Life Flight could be included for first time

Express Staff Writer

The prolonged recession has been hard on the employees of the city of Hailey. Over the past two years, the city has been responding to the faltering economy by cutting staff positions, retraining workers and consolidating tasks.

Now it has reduced insurance benefits for its 62 remaining employees.

The decision to adjust the city's insurance policy premium was made at a City Council meeting Monday. The change will increase deductibles from $500 to $1,000, saving the city about $20,000 in insurance fees.

Mayor Rick Davis expressed regret over the decision, but said there was no other option.

"I hate to cut benefits for staff because it is unproductive, but if you don't have a choice, you don't have a choice," he said.

City Administrator Heather Dawson said the new employee insurance policy was chosen to avoid an 11 percent increase in premiums. The new plan will increase the city's premium by 3 percent to $244,654. She said the "wellness component," a proactive self-help portion of the city's insurance plan used by 40 employees last year, will remain in place.

"This is for prevention," she said. "To keep health up and costs down."

City employees could also be eligible for Life Flight air ambulance insurance, which covers the cost of emergency helicopter transport to trauma centers in Boise in the case of serious injuries or accidents. The council agreed to add the coverage, at a total cost of $1,250, so long as the helicopter flies to St. Alphonsus Hospital, which Councilman Don Keirn said has the best emergency services.

To reduce expenses, the city has already eliminated 10 full-time staff positions in several departments, including one police officer, retrained Building Department personnel to work in the Street Department and reduced other staff once needed to handle high volumes of building applications and development inspections.

Staff salaries are also frozen until things turn around.

Tony Evans:

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