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Farwell okays health insurance plan

It was a sometimes emotional discussion when the Farwell Village Council questioned a health insurance plan for employees.

The plan enacted when former DPW Superintendent Aaron Moline was employed cost the Village more than $40,000 per year.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield plan researched by Village Clerk/Treasurer Janet Conlay, would cost approximately $38,000 annually.

Council Member Vicky Gunden said she thought the cost was “way out of line.” Conlay said “I don’t think it is too much for the budget,” citing the cost when Moline was DPW Superintendent.

Village President Steve Grim said, “We have two employees who have chosen to ‘opt out’ of the insurance and two others, one new and one new to the position. I’m a supporter of the employees, but this needs to be reviewed.”

Conlay, a bit emotionally, said she had presented the plan to the board earlier in the year and again last month. “I have been working on this for months,” she said. “You (the Council) told me to research plans. I could have just continued the coverage (under another company) that we had. I thought this would be better for employees and add coverage for families. We need this.”

Council Member Delores Knepper said, “We all need to have an open mind.” She added, “We need a serious discussion on this.”

“I just don’t like the option to ‘opt out’ and be paid,” said Elton Marshall. Conlay replied that changing the provision to “opt out” and receive the portion that would have been paid to employees wasn’t part of the information she presented.

Grim said lowering or eliminating the portion paid back for employees that opted out (of the health coverage) would mean lowering their wages. “Eliminating the ‘opt out’ provision will make two employees very unhappy,” Gunden added.

After some further discussion, the Council voted 5-1 with Gunden voting no and Council Member James Conlay abstaining, to approve the motion to accept the clerk’s proposal for a Blue Cross Blue Shield Community Blue Plan 3A with a $500 deductible and $2,000 co-pay by employees with a single, two-person and family coverage for full-time employees.

After another lengthy discussion, the Council voted 5-1, with Council Member Barb Roe voting no and Vicky Gunden abstaining, to approve $35 compensation for the Market Masters on the new Village Farm Market Days. The market is held each Saturday from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Market Masters are Gunden and Office Assistant Tracy Lee, who take turns supervising the market.

Roe said other Market Masters volunteer their time to manage the markets and she felt Farwell’s should be the same. Gunden replied that they didn’t only give up Saturdays, but did many other things, including canvassing local businesses and seeking new vendors for the market. “We deserve to be paid,” Gunden said, “We are not here for money we are here for the Village.”

Kathy Methner from the Middle Michigan Development Corporation said, “The Farmer’s Market is a marvelous addition to Clare County. Thank you for developing it. It will help folks eat healthier; it is a win-win situation.” She said there are grants available to help with funding and that although the deadline to apply for a Federal grant has passed, there may be funds through the Clare Community Foundation.”

Some of the items on the Market Committee’s wish list include bike racks, benches, receptacles, signage and marketing materials.

She added, Vicky, Tracy and I will be working on this in the coming weeks.”

Both matters were motions made at the Committee of the Whole meeting May 22 that were removed for discussion at the regular meeting. Other COW motions that were approved unanimously included:

*opening a checking account for the Farm Market;

*changing the Verizon phone account from “business” to a “government plan;

*approval of an on-line training course for Municipal Clerks at a $195 cost;

*changing the office assistant hours from 24 per week to 30 hours per week;

* approval of a policy for paying employees to attend meetings; and

*monthly bills totaling $18,341.86.

Other business included:

*Methner told the Council that they are seeing expansion throughout Clare County with an uptrend in manufacturing in both Clare and Isabella Counties. “Businesses are back to where they were prior to 2008,” she said.

*In his DPW report, John Koch reported that four-way (or all-way) stop signs will be installed on the corners of Hall and Ellen, Hall and Illinois and Illinois and Wright streets.

He said getting the water tower washed would cost approximately $3,000. He said the tower would have an inspection due in 2014 and costs for paint and repairs would be approximately $100,000. He said an eagle carving on Main Street would cost $250 and that the refurbished “Welcome to Farwell” signs would be reinstalled by the end of the week. Koch also said Terex Company in the Industrial Park would donate ten bike racks for Main Street.

*Approval was given to Wade Trim to begin the General Plan and Reliability Study update which is required by the end of the year. The costs will be $8,000 to $12,000.

*The Council also approved a contract with Agri Valley Broadband for antenna installation on the water tower and equipment under the tower. The company agreed to an inspection of the work.

*A Community Yard Sale was approved for Labor Day Weekend.

*A motion for a $1 per hour increase for DPW Supt. Koch was tabled for review by the Finance Committee.