FAYETTEVILLE — The Washington County insurance benefit fund got an additional $450,000 Thursday (Sept. 20) as the Quorum Court voted to add the money to avoid adverse actions from the county’s excess insurance carrier.
The court also briefly discussed an ongoing issue regarding a conditional use permit for Northwest Arkansas Quarry.
The money goes into the insurance benefit fund for the county’s self-funded health insurance program. The county pays a premium to an excess carrier that offers coverage above and beyond what the county’s system pays in the event of a catastrophic claim. The contract with the excess carrier is up for review soon and the county can avoid excessive premium increases if it has a healthy self-funded insurance account.
The justices of the peace made multiple motions to change the amount that the insurance fund would receive ranging from $300,000 to $500,000. None of the amended motions passed and the originally requested amount of $450,000 received approval.
Those who wanted to transfer $500,000 said they wanted to make sure there was enough in the fund through the end of the year. The JPs who supported the motion to only add $300,000 said that it was enough for the immediate need and that more could be added later if necessary.
The account has been “leaking” 14,000 a month, said Nelson Driver, county health insurance consultant. That means that the fund is paying out that much more than what it is bringing in from employee contributions. Starting Jan. 1, 2013, county employees will pay larger premiums and deductibles for their health care coverage.
The plan changes approved in July include:
• A 5% increase of employee and retiree contribution to the premium
• Increase in deductible from $300 to $345
• Increase from $20 to $25 for primary care physician co-pay
• Increase in prescription costs from $5/$25/$50 to $10/$30/$55.
The controversial and ongoing debate over a requested conditional use permit for Northwest Arkansas Quarries is expected to come to a resolution Oct. 18 as the third and final reading of the appeal is scheduled. People on both sides of the issue will be given a chance to speak during the hearing, which will be during the Court’s regular monthly meeting that night.
The Northwest Arkansas Quarry is located east of Springdale with an entrance off of Parsons Road. Washington County granted a large-scale development permit to the quarry when it opened in 2003. Since that time, the quarry expanded its boundaries to include approximately 118 more acres to the north, south and southeast of the existing mining area.
The quarry’s new compliance officer discovered that while the quarry had permits from all the necessary federal agencies, a county permit was never sought for the expansion.
The Washington County Planning Board approved the permit this summer but residents in the area have appealed that decision. The Quorum Court did not come to a consensus on the issue during the August meeting, which meant that it had to go into three readings before being passed.
In other county-related news the JPs learned the Washington County Animal Shelter will open to the public next week and a grand opening ceremony will be later this fall
They also approved an emergency clause that dissolves the county’s relationship with Tontitown for law enforcement coverage from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. The town plans to establish its own police force.