2009-09-26 / News

Soil and Water bails on flood control plan

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON – Ohio Insurance Services Agent Terry Burns convinced the Union Township Trustees to change the township employee medical benefits to a plan carrying a $1,000 deductible. She told the trustees during Monday night’s meeting that if they didn’t change, the township’s existing plan is subject to a 22 percent increase.

“We’ve been pitching this to every township we go to,” said Burns. She said the township currently pays $19,980 per month for health insurance. Adding a $1,000 deductible would save the township roughly $26,000 per year. Even if each employee met the $1,000 deductible within the year, the township would still save nearly $7,000.

“Basically, we’re self-insuring the deductible,” said Trustee Jack Justice. The township would pay employees’ medical bills up to $1,000 and the insurer would cover 100 percent after that first $1,000 is met. Burns estimated that each year 30 percent of employees would meet the deductible, which is still a significant savings from the current plan.

Benefits will not change for township employees, except for the co-pay. The current $15 rate for office visits and $25 for specialist visits will increase to $25 for office visits and $50 to visit a specialist. Burns said the insurer offers an option to reimburse employees beyond the original co-pays.

The buy-down on the co-pay is the only question,” said Trustee President John Slater. “The rest is a no-brainer.” The trustees voted unanimously to adopt the $1,000 deductible but reject the co-pay buy-down.

“This (plan) has been very successful,” said Burns, adding that 80 percent of the groups she represents adopted the plan.

In other township news:

• Slater said the Licking County Soil and Water Conservation District would not support a supplemental work plan draft for the South Licking Watershed Conservancy District’s proposed 1,000-acre dry dam project to mitigate flooding near the I-70 and Ohio 79 interchange.

Licking County Soil and Water District Program Administrator Jim Kiracofe said Wednesday the district still supports the conservancy and it supports flood control, but board members had some questions about the supplemental work plan draft. He said the original plan did not include the dry dam. Kiracofe said the current board members were not active when the soil and water conservation district became a sponsor for the conservancy and its plan to control flooding in 1980.

He said the proposed supplemental work plan uses updated “anecdotal” information from 1980, and it lacks other data board members believe is necessary to include before they can lend their support. He urged the conservancy to “go back to the drawing board” a bit and revise the plan. He said the board might consider supporting it if revisions are made. Kiracofe was clear that the district has not changed its position as a sponsor; board members only have questions about the supplemental work plan draft. “We’re not in support of this supplement as written,” he said.

Slater said conservancy district representatives are speaking with the Licking, Fairfield, and Perry county representatives to determine support for the project.

Justice said the trustees are obligated to watch Swamp Road, which would be elevated if the project is ever approved.

“The concerns go beyond Swamp Road,” said Slater. “We’re still trying to be open-minded, here.” He said concerns are rising about the project’s cost to benefit ratio.

Trustee candidate Rick Black, present at Monday’s meeting, asked what ODOT’s plans are for I-70 in the floodplain near the Ohio 79 interchange, particularly if the conservancy’s plans don’t materialize.

ODOT District 5 spokesperson Kate Stickle said according to District 5’s planning department, there are two alternatives – a larger and a smaller project – for the I-70 and Ohio79 interchange area. The larger project would include reconfiguring the interchange from the current full cloverleaf layout to a conventional diamond layout. The project would also include widening the interstate to six lanes (three lanes in each direction) and raising the roadway’s elevation to reduce flooding. Nearby bridges would also be raised as part of the project. “This project was recently submitted as a TRAC (Transportation Review Advisory Council) project,” she said. “We are waiting for the TRAC decision to determine the final scope and schedule of the project.

“The smaller is a safety project,” she said. District 5 applied for safety funds to provide an interim safety fix for the interchange – the loop ramps would be removed and signals installed at the ramp terminals, which would create a conventional diamond interchange. This project was only to address the safety concerns (intense weaving, fixed object crashes, short merge areas, etc.) related to the current interchange layout. Stickle said there are some small mitigation measures that were discussed to provide additional water storage as part of the smaller safety project. The application is tabled until there’s a decision about the larger TRAC project. “If the TRAC project is not selected, then I believe our next course of action will be to pursue safety funds to provide the smaller fix,” said Stickle.

• Slater said Hebron Village Council members agree with a proposal to divide EMS billing revenue between the village and township, and trustees are waiting for documentation from Village Solicitor Wes Untied.

Trustees believe the township is entitled to 60 percent of all the EMS billing revenue that the Hebron Fire Department collects because the township contributes 60 percent of the Hebron department’s operating expenses. Hebron Village Council members maintain that it’s not that simple, and some runs are not eligible to collect EMS billing revenue. Trustees and council members have been at a stalemate since January.

Following extensive negotiations, they agreed the township would receive 50 percent of the EMS billing revenue generated from July 2007, when billing began, through December 2008. Then the township would receive 100 percent of EMS billing revenue generated from the township area this year, and the revenue would be used only in that service area.

• Trustee Jesse Ours said Squire Lane, a concrete road, needs four patches. The trustees approved $1,500 for repairs. They’ll allocate more if necessary.

• Justice said the Energy Cooperative plans to extend a gas line on Grandview Road near Stone Valley. The project is approved contingent upon the trustees approving the site.

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