2008-05-24 / News

Liberty Township hopes to cut insurance costs

By Scott Rawdon

BALTIMORE - Liberty Township may trade its Cadillac for a Chevy.

Liberty Township Trustee Nancy Montell has described the township's existing health insurance plan as a "Cadillac" with no deductible. Monday night, Frank Herman of the Ohio Insurance Service Agency presented the trustees with three plans that could save the township $9,600 or even $17,000 per year. Some of the proposed plans had deductibles and co-pays.

"Personally, I don't think much of deductibles," said Trustee Ivan Ety. "You never know where you're at." He preferred a proposed plan that saved the township $9,600, but maintained the existing benefits.The plan that saved $17,000 included deductibles and is more complex.

"I think it's about being good stewards of the township," said Montell Tuesday, "not about the trustees. People are saying we need to do better, and that's what we're trying to do."

Trustee Tim Linkhorn said the trustees would consider the options and hear another presentation at a future meeting. "I don't know if we'll change it or not," he said.

Township Fiscal OfficerDan Alt said he, road supervisor Dave Keller, and Zoning Administrator Tom Spring have township health insurance and AD&D (accidental death and dismemberment) coverage. Ety and Montell have AD&D coverage, said Alt.

Ety said a measure was introduced to allow Spring to look into insurance matters on behalf of the township, which, said Ety, is the fiscal officer's responsibility. Ety and Alt objected to the measure.

In other Liberty Township news:

• Former township board of zoning appeals clerk Deb Barte asked to change less than an acre of her property to R-1 residential zoning to match other zoning within the same property. Currently, the property contains multiple zonings. She said she has no plans for building on the property any time soon, but the zoning change would unify the property and correct a problem from long ago.

But, Ety said the trustees couldn't vote because no one received a copy of approved minutes from a Liberty Township Zoning Commission meeting where two zoning commission members abstained from voting on the proposal, two voted against it, and one voted in favor. The abstentions caused confusion over whether the zoning commission turned down or approved the R-1 application.

Montell doubted the trustees couldn't vote without the minutes, but Ety and Linkhorn agreed the issue should be tabled until the trustees receive a legal opinion.

Ety said Wednesday that the application for R-1 was turned down several times previously.

Linkhorn is frustrated with the whole process. "This is a big to do about nothing," he said Tuesday, "a big waste of time." He predicted the entire property would fall under R-1 when the township updates its zoning, anyway.

• All three trustees agreed to purchase two new digital recorders at $59 each. The trustees will record their meetings with one, and the other will go to the zon ing commission and BZA clerk to record those meetings. Information from the meetings can be downloaded into a computer and onto a CD for storage. Montell said the township desperately needs a new computer, but was clear that purchasing a laptop was never discussed in an open meeting. She said the township has a donated computer, which is appreciated but outdated. The trustees did not discuss a new computer during Mondays meeting. Ety commented he didn't think the recorder was running during Monday's meeting.

• Bickel Church Road resident Joe Machado asked the trustees if the township could help he and his neighbors solve drainage problems, which are flooding properties and destroying the road. He asked if the township could help to install a drainage pipe beneath the road. Montell said the township would need to ditch the south side of Bickel Church to carry the storm water. She said the township is applying for federal Issue 1 funding toward the project.

• Before the meeting, Spring clarified that the township zoning administrator is a salaried position, not hourly as was previously reported. Spring said he is paid a flat sum regardless of hours worked. He said his position also includes duties as "township administrator" and includes matters having nothing to do with zoning. "Prior to 2006, the township never had a salaried employee before, which may have been new and unfamiliar territory for some of the trustees," said Spring.

Spring said there have been valid reasons for an increase in legal expenses during the past 18 months-the major expense is the township's hire of an independent legal counsel to represent it in a junkyard case after the prosecuting attorney's office withdrew from the case citing a conflict. The matter is now before the Fifth District Court of Appeals. "Private representation costs money," he said. Money was also spent to protect the legal rights and interests of the trustees and their employees, and to minimize township liabilities, said Spring.

Ety's not convinced. He said the township spent $10,000 on legal expenses during 2007 and has already spent more than $11,000 this year. "That's more money than the township has spent (on legal issues) in its history," he said.

• Montell commented that the township's meetings have become long and contentious. Referring to Monday's, "That meeting was like grinding teeth," she said, "and I was just at the dentist's."

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