City sees worker's compensation premium on rise

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Rising insurance rates have become a higher new cost for city and county governments.
   The city of Elizabethton's 2002-2003 insurance premiums providing coverage for workman's compensation claims, general liability, and property and crime totaled $337,123. The city receives workman's compensation coverage and liability insurance coverage through the Tennessee Municipal League's Risk Management Pool.
   The biggest single jump came from workman's compensation premium, which rose to $227,000 -- roughly $25,000 more than last year's premium, city Purchasing Director Gene Deloach told the council.
   "I think we need to do something about the worker's compensation costs," said Councilman Richard Sammons. "I think we need to do a workshop on getting this thing lowered."
   City Manager Charles Stahl said most recent workman's compensation claims had been filed by the city police department.
   "It goes in cycles," Stahl added. "We've had large claims in the warehouse, and in the 80s, some in the sanitation department."
   Health insurance for city employees increased approximately 10 percent for the fiscal year, said Stahl. However, that rate became downright reasonable after the city negotiated with insurance providers; city administrators had estimated an increase of 22 percent for employees' health insurance this year, said Stahl.
   "It appears part of it is expenses and I have to think part of this may be related to the events one year ago," he said referring to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
   The council approved the purchase requests 5-0 with Mayor Sam LaPorte and Councilwoman Diane Morris absent.
   The council approved an $11,326 change order to the contract for improvements to the Big Springs Filtration Plant Project for the replacement of several valves. Approved by the council in November, the $1.5 million project will filter water drawn from the Big Springs water source.
   "This is a state mandate to filter the Big Springs source," said Stahl. The additional cost could be funded through existing State Revolving Loan funds provided for the project to the city.
   The council voted 5-0 to accept a proposal from the Mattern & Craig engineering firm to design and construct casement pipes to house water lines and utility appurtenances beneath the new Northern Connector Highway. The proposal set a cost of $14,240 to complete the project.
   The Tennessee Department of Transportation has scheduled a public hearing to discuss the corridor and design of the Northern Connector on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the National Guard Armory, 128 Don Lewis Blvd.
   The council also approved an appropriation of $10,000 to fund the Veterans War Memorial in downtown Elizabethton. City Planning director and Memorial committee member David Ornduff said the veterans park had received $90,000 in donations to fund the project.
   The committee is seeking to fully fund its goal amount of $125,000, he said.
   "We haven't encountered any major problems," said Ornduff. "We've had a lot of in-kind donations that have helped."
   The council also voted 5-0 to approve on second reading to amend the city's ordinance on effluent limitations of pollutants discharged into the city's wastewater system.