2009-12-12 / Top News

City OKs Increase in Insurance Costs; McNally Cottage Future Debated in Letters

By Karen Gould

The city averted a 17.5% increase in health insurance premiums by adjustsing deductibles and now will budget for approximately a 3.7% rate hike. It will pay about $18,150 a month under the new plan, compared to about $17,500 that it now pays each month. The new increase will account for about $650 more in monthly payments, or about $7,800 annually. The cost to city employees will increase based on use of services, including the deductible, office visits, prescriptions, and trips to the emergency room.

The 17.5% hike was based on maintaining the city's current health care plan for 2010, and would have cost the municipality $3,100 more each month, or about $37,000 annually.

For 2009, the city budgeted $215,000 for health insurance. The municipality has 24 employees on its health insurance plan and payments fluctuate based on the number of employees and family status.

City Council approved changes to the health care benefit at the recommendation of the Finance Committee that met before the city council convened Wednesday, December 2.

Employees now will pay $40 for office visits, up from $30, and $150 for each trip to the emergency room rather than the $50 they had been charged. If the emergency room visit results in hospitalization, the insurance will cover the $150 charge. Employees will pay $10 for generic prescriptions, $40 for brand names, and $80 for certain medications. Employees had been paying $10 for generic drugs and $80 for brand names. The deductible will increase from $1,000 for a single person to $1,500. The family deductible will rise from $1,500 to $3,000.

A year ago, the city changed its deductible and prescription plan and premiums decreased 5.5%.

The city's carrier is Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The finance committee recommended the deductible change to keep its costs down.

Also during the finance committee meeting, the mayor's assistant, Kelly Bean, gave a report on the revenue the city has collected from boat line franchise fees. The city receives 2% of gross ticket sales from the three ferry lines that serve the Island. Through October, revenue this year totals $275,831.34, compared to $283,959.34 for last year for the same time period, or a decrease of $8,128.

During the council meeting, a letter was placed on file from attorney Neil Marzell, who is representing Ira Green, developer of the McNally Cottage property. The letter was not read aloud publicly at the meeting, but council members received copies. No discussion took place. McNally Developers plan to move or demolish the house and replace it with a three-story hotel and retail complex. The house would be moved, they say, if a lot is found for it.

The two opposing groups battling over the future of the Main Street house have taken their cause to a letter-writing campaign to council. At council's November 18 meeting, attorney Eric Starck, representing the Save Our Island group, argued for consideration of a local historic district designation to be placed on the house, along with a demolition moratorium for it.

In his letter, Mr. Marzell argued that any moratorium should be Island-wide.

"...to place a moratorium on a single parcel is unfair, would be a 'taking' and is probably illegal," he opined. "The owner of a parcel that is under consideration for a moratorium has the right to due process under the law. Due process requires that the governmental act not be arbitrary and be rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest..."

In other business, the city council opened bids for a certified public accountant to perform the annual audit, handle some bookkeeping requirements, and serve as a consultant on accounting matters. The city has been using Rehmann Group of Cheboygan, although in June the city decided to solicit bids in hopes of reducing costs. The city budgeted $27,900 for Rehmann in 2009.

A committee, appointed to assemble a report on the bids, includes Treasurer Rick Linn, Clerk Karen Lennard, Finance Committee Chairman Mike Hart, and Ms. Bean.

The committee, said Mayor Doud, would give its recommendation to the Finance Committee, which in turn would make a recommendation to council. The issue is expected to come before the council in January.

Bidders were the Rehmann Group of Cheboygan; Gartland and Niergarth of Traverse City; Campbell, Klusterer & Co. of Bay City, and Tackman & Co. of Kincheloe. Each company had varying stipulations and some had added costs for services that others included, and council agreed it was not possible to compare costs the way the bids were submitted. Mayor Doud said the committee would clarify each bid in its report.

The city approved paying $1 for its fire protection contract and lease with the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. The city provides fire protection to the state park and its buildings and the park plows city streets in the winter. The city leases the Fire Station #2 property near Surrey Hill from the park.

Three temporary motor vehicle permits were approved during the meeting, including one to remove stained glass windows in need of repair at Ste. Anne's Church. Full Spectrum Stained Glass of Colon is doing the work. Mission Point Resort received a permit for propane tanks, and Sunset Forest Association received approval for tractors and trucks to plow snow through the winter to allow access for emergency vehicles, if needed.

During public comment, Robin Dorman, executive director of the Mackinac Island Community Foundation, said the fall grants awarded to Island organizations this month will total about $14,000.

"I ask that you talk to your organizations and other nonprofits to come to us with ideas with things that we might be able to help within the community," he said. "The more we hear about, the more eyes and ears that we have looking for situations to be solved, the better it is."

City Council next meets Wednesday, December 16, at 5 p.m. on the second floor of Community Hall.

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