By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Finding the potential savings had disappeared, the Monticello Village Board unanimously agreed Tuesday to temporarily shelve plans to switch to a self-insured health plan for its employees.
With a variety of village employees and retirees packing the meeting room, Village Manager John LiGreci told the board the NYS Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP, with which the village is currently insured) had revised its projected 2012 rate hike down to around five percent this week.
NYSHIP at one point had projected an increase exceeding 10 percent, leading the village and other municipalities to seek alternatives.
Monticello was considering hiring a third-party administrator, Magna Care, to set up and manage a system whereby the village would create a fund to pay claims itself.
Various members of the public decried the idea prior to and during Tuesday’s meeting, worried that it could bankrupt Monticello if too many big-item claims came in at once.
In the end, LiGreci said NYSHIP’s lower projected cost increases negated the competitiveness of Magna Care’s plan, and village attorney Dennis Lynch recommended the board instead solicit proposals from a number of companies.
The board agreed, though since the proposals are due in December by which time the village would have to choose to leave or stay with NYSHIP any changes to the plan won’t occur till next year at the earliest.
Several speakers recalled a previous failed attempt to self-insure in the village, but several trustees reiterated that they’ll vote for whatever saves money and preserves the current level of benefits.
If the deal looks good, “yes, I am going to be one to vote for a change in our health insurance,” affirmed Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins.
Only Trustee Carmen Rue seemed solidly in favor of remaining with NYSHIP.
“In my opinion, I don’t want to play with people’s lives,” she explained.
The bankrupt Dunbar Towers property on West Broadway, now owned by a bank, was again discussed as a possible affordable housing development by the village, but whether LiGreci’s idea gains more traction remains uncertain.
Rue wants a private buyer to develop it, as opposed to LiGreci’s plan to have the village oversee it.
Mayor Gordon Jenkins said he’d like to see something happen there, though he didn’t commit to a particular plan.
“We’re just looking at some ideas,” he told the crowd. “... Otherwise, it’s going to be a huge eyesore.”
Resident David Rosenberg, who’s running against Jenkins for the mayor’s spot in March, suggested approaching the Center for Discovery, New Hope Community and Catskill Regional Medical Center to turn the 96-apartment facility into housing for their staffs.
“The village I don’t think should be in the landlord business,” he mused.
Have your say
The board set a public hearing for its next meeting (Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. at the village hall) for people to weigh in on a plan to expand the “local” Civil Service list for the code enforcement officer position to the Town of Thompson, not just the village.
While the countywide list of eligible candidates would be the backup choice, LiGreci said the village would prefer to have someone in the role who could respond quickly to code issues and emergencies.
Once the new law is in place, the position will be advertised. LiGreci said current Code Enforcement Officer James Snowden is filling the role now and may be one of the applicants when the village begins its search.