Insurance back payments frustrate city leadership
by Daniel Gaddy
Aug 16, 2012 | 1479 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CARBON HILL — The city council, for the fourth time, recently voted to spend tens of thousands of dollars on back payments for a city worker’s health insurance.

In January, the council was notified that the City of Carbon Hill owed more than $70,000 in unpaid health insurance premiums for municipal workers.

During it’s meeting Monday, the council approved $24,178 in back payments for a worker. Last month, they voted to pay $33,000 for the same issue with another employee. And two months ago, city leaders reached an agreement with the Carbon Hill Utilities Board that included $17,890 for back payments toward two staff members’ premiums.

Carbon Hill City Clerk Kim Sides said city leaders discovered the problem last year during the municipality’s open enrollment period. She said they were told by representatives from their insurance provider, the State Employees Insurance Board, that all employees must either have coverage through the program or show proof of health insurance elsewhere, like through their spouse.

So when city administrators tried to add the employees, they were notified that they must pay all of the premiums from the workers’ start date. Since some of the staff members started in 2006, that means city leaders were required to pay tens of thousands of dollars for each worker to be insured.

“We had no option,” said Council Member Jacque Roberson Allred, who is also running for mayor. “We either had to pay it or we would have been dropped from SEIB, and the city employees would have no health insurance.”

Mayor Chris Hart said the city cannot catch up financially when it is forced to pay such back payments. He said the City of Carbon Hill will likely not make up the funds until the fall, when revenue from business licenses starts to come in.

James “Pee Wee” Richardson was mayor when the city chose SEIB as its health insurance provider. Richardson, who is also running for mayor, said the requirement for all employees to have coverage was not explained to him or any other city leaders when they chose the provider.

“We thought the ones that didn’t want to have insurance didn’t have to,” he said.

He said the issue was never brought up during his administration or the term of Phillip Howard, who was mayor before Hart.

In other business during Monday’s council meeting:

•Police Chief Heath Allred asked the council to approve a purchase of several hundred child ID kits. The kits would include pertinent information about the child as well as a saliva swab and a lock of the child’s hair. Allred said the items would provide critical information to local police during a search for a missing child.

Chief Allred said he and other officers could hand out the kits during a community event or at the schools. He told the council a box of 500 kits would cost somewhere between $250 and $300.

Hart and Council Member Scott Wright asked the chief to wait on the purchase given the city’s financial situation.

•The mayor and council congratulated Heath Allred for winning the office of president of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police.

•Sides notified the council that 10 letters were sent out to the owners of nuisance properties in the city.