County commissioners ponder insurance committee again

The Putnam County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday once again discussed the layout and scope of the newly established Insurance Committee amid the public’s concerns about commissioners being on the committee. 

When commissioners reviewed the list of open positions on various county boards and committees, Commissioner Karl Flagg asked to reiterate the purpose of the committee and why commissioners are part of the group. 

Last month, commissioners and constitutional office leaders agreed it would be best to have a committee review health insurance trends year-round so the county wouldn’t again be blindsided by skyrocketing health insurance rates like it was this year. 

At a meeting earlier this month, the board voted to establish a committee that would consist of all commissioners, a representative from all five constitutional offices, an official from the firefighters’ and carpenters’ unions and a representative from the Public Works, Information Technology and Planning and Development departments. 

“The representatives from the board’s departments does not have to be the directors,” Flagg said. “I just think the makeup of this working group … until we can get this further down the road, I think the way it’s laid out here is what we should adopt so that staff knows that that’s our intent.”

Flagg said he didn’t foresee the committee being permanent, but it was needed immediately to help solve the county’s insurance crisis. 

When county officials presented the proposed budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, commissioners and numerous county employees were caught off guard by increased insurance rates. 

In previous years, the county used the Insurance Reserve Fund to partially subsidize insurance rates for employees, and commissioners plan to do so for the upcoming fiscal year. 

But with reserves in the red and the likelihood of rates increasing again next year, commissioners and department leaders suggested bringing back the Insurance Committee. 

But earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, members from the public, including District 5 commission candidate Robert Bley, said it wasn’t practical to have commissioners on the committee. 

Bley suggested having people who work for the county sit on the committee instead of commissioners. 

“I’d like to point out that on the Insurance Committee, you’d be recommending to yourself what action to take with the insurance,” he said. “In the workshop, we had discussed – and I had made the observation that other people had agreed with me – that the committee should be made up of individuals, not constitutional officers or commissioners.”

Commissioners held their ground on being a part of the Insurance Committee. 

Commission Vice Chairman Walt Pellicer II echoed Flagg’s remarks about commissioners’ time on the committee possibly being temporary. 

After the initial crisis is resolved, Pellicer said, commissioners could probably pass the baton. 

“At some point in time, I see this committee being handed off to people with more expertise,” Pellicer said. 

For the time being, commissioners should must abide by the Sunshine Law when it comes to the committee, County Attorney Stacey Manning said. 

All committee meetings must be advertised and open to the public, he said, and proper records and meeting minutes should be kept. 

“What I would suggest or recommend is that during that time when the commissioners are on that committee is that you all go ahead and treat these as special meetings of the board so you are empowered to make decisions at those meetings if you so choose,” Manning said.

Other than the commissioners, no names were mentioned Tuesday to be appointed to the committee. 

Palatka Daily News

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