No vote but lots of talk on health insurance contract for Wilkes-Barre [The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.] – InsuranceNewsNet

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Oct. 14—WILKES-BARRE— municipal Council Thursday shot the $7.8 million employee health care contract with Highmark from its ballot program, but spent much of the nearly hour-long town hall meeting discussing the proposed deal.

The contract, along with a road sign maintenance agreement, were last-minute scratches, leaving Council with 15 other items which were all approved 5-0.

Questions about the Highmark contract, particularly whether the city should pay Joyce Insurance Risk Strategies’ brokerage fees, remained from when it was brought up during the Council’s business session on Tuesday evening.

Advise Bill Barrette urged swift action to resolve the concerns of other board members to have a contract in place before the existing one expires next year and take advantage of the 3% increase amid other costs continue to increase.

“First of all, we can’t delay on this. It’s something that needs to be put in place sooner rather than later in the new year,” Barrett said ahead of the mayor’s comments. George Brown.

Initially, Highmark presented a package with a 7% increase which was reduced through the efforts of the broker, Brown told the Council.

“The city of Wilkes Barre does not pay a dime to Risk Strategies. This is paid for by the companies we are going to employ, Highmark,” Brown pointed out. Risk Strategies provides other services than the city Human resources department could use in the future to seek competitive offers, he said.

Brown assured that Council Highmark is firm on the proposed rate. “I want to put some of these things to bed because I think there are a few little misconceptions out there. People have made up ideas that aren’t true. What I’m telling you are the facts,” he said. he declared.

Advisors Tony Brooks and John Marconi heard from employees, retirees and residents with concerns neither said they could address. Councilors wanted more time so they could get back to them with more information.

President of the Board Beth Gilbert McBride added that she would like more transparency about the process. “Hopefully, though, we can move forward with some sort of plan in the next few weeks or months,” she said.

city ​​attorney Tim Henry spoke in favor of hiring the broker, noting that the proposed contractor represents a significant portion of the annual budget of approximately $53 million. “It’s a big expense. No one in City hall has the expertise of Risk Strategies,” he said.

In response to a question McBride raised during the business session about why the Board was being asked to vote on the contract for what she recalled was the first time, Brown explained that it should have been in the past. Brown was unable to attend the working session due to a family commitment.

“For 20 years, this was not on the Council’s agenda, so we are correcting something that was wrong,” acknowledged Brown, who served on the Council from 2012 to 2016.

“Believe me, I’m not opposed to you pulling it tonight. But I’m asking that we put it on the agenda so we can move it forward because we have what’s called the open registration coming soon,” Brown said. The city needs to have employee costs so they can make their decisions, he said.

Some of the items approved by the board include:

—The first of two readings to amend the consumer fireworks section of the existing ordinance to comply with new state law that went into effect at the end of September .

—A request from the city to upgrade the roof, windows and floor of the Osterhout Free Library through a $157,500 Keystone Grant from Pennsylvania Department of Education.

—The sale of city-owned properties to 110-112 Prospect Street. at Captain Milagros for $1,900.

— Hiring of Borton-Lawson to provide engineering services for the downtown streetscape project at a contract price of $49,065.

— Award the hourly rate contract for the maintenance of public lighting to the lowest responsible bidder, Richard Mellow Corp. and the second lowest responsible bidder, Delta Electrical Systems, Inc. Contractors will be paid hourly,

— Awarding of the landscaping and soil maintenance services contract to the most qualified service, American landscaping. The contractor will start the work when the Public Works Department is overwhelmed. The work was cleared with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 401 which represents DPW employees.

—The first reading to amend the Utilities Ordinance to repeal the section on operating charges because the schedule of charges is contained in Building regulations arrangement. readings.

—The final reading of the ordinance for the state-mandated stormwater management plan for municipalities.

Reach Jerry Lynot at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.

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