Douglas County commissioners OK $275K health subsidy for employees | SierraSun.com

Douglas County commissioners OK $275K health subsidy for employees

Kurt Hildebrand
khildebrand@recordcourier.com

Douglas County will subsidize employee health care to the tune of $275,000, commissioners decided 3-2 on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Commissioners Dave Nelson and Larry Walsh voted against the raise.

The county plans on paying for the subsidy using personnel cost savings, which run about $575,000 a year.

Nelson said he felt that money should be used to improve infrastructure or returned to the taxpayers.

Walsh, while saying he believes the county employees are first rate, said he felt subsidizing health care would be a slippery slope.

“We worked hard to get a long-term contract,” Walsh said. “This money could be used elsewhere.”

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Chairman Barry Penzel said paying the difference this once will help the employees.

“It actually plays into the smaller government argument, because we’re not hiring as many people,” he said.

The debate was prompted at the commission’s Oct. 5 meeting where they approved switching employee health coverage to Hometown Health.

That switch included an unanticipated increase in health insurance premiums across the board.

Justice of the Peace Richard Glasson spoke in favor of the subsidy.

“Douglas County employees are people, and some of the hardest working people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” he said. “It’s the right thing, and I trust this board to do the right thing.”

North Valley residents Jan and Lynn Muzzy opposed the subsidy.

“I’m outraged this is on the agenda, much less saw the light of day,” Jan Muzzy said. “What have residents received in return nothing but hollow language from this board? Is it time for the taxpayers to march with pitchforks and torches to get your attention?”

Resident Terry Faff suggested that commissioners didn’t have to fully fund the subsidy.

According to Moore, the minimum increase for the county would be $13,400 for the elected officials, which Penzel said he felt was unfair to the other employees.

“I can’t stand by and say it’s OK for elected officials to get it and not OK for employees to get it,” he said.

Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Halsey said he spoke for Sheriff Ron Pierini in urging commissioners to approve the subsidy.

He said training a deputy is an expensive prospect, and the office has lost several officers to other jurisdictions.

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