Benwood City Council voted Tuesday to extend its current employee health insurance contract until Dec. 1, 2014 - provided the city isn't assessed a 40 percent tax under the new Affordable Care Act for providing a "Cadillac" health benefits package.
Benwood is set to pay the Upper Ohio Valley Health Plan $185,283 next year to provide the same health insurance plan for its 13 employees, an increase of $9,803 over its present annual rate of $175,480.
Benwood employees do not pay a premium or deductible for their insurance, and Benwood officials have been told they could be assessed a 40 percent excise tax for continuing to provide the cost-free benefit. City Clerk Judy Hunt told council Tuesday she was meeting with an independent insurance agent this week to learn if Benwood could be subject to the tax, which would cost the city about $60,000 yearly.
All council members present voted in favor of the agreement, including Robert Rose, Larry Ferrera, Carl Richter, Chuck Terry and Walter Yates. Council members John Kazemka, Lori Longwell and Curtis Mele were not present.
In an unrelated matter, council also learned the new Christmas decorations they purchased for the city might not be able to be placed on some electrical poles in Benwood.
Public Works Coordinator Jon Howard explained the city's older decorations were mounted on brackets that stuck out 4 feet, while the new ones must be mounted flat against the electrical poles. The new brackets could interfere with wiring on some polls unless a solution is determined.
Council had budgeted $50,000 to purchase new Christmas decorations from Rileighs Outdoor Lighting of Bethlehem, Pa., but the final cost for the 56 decorations in the end came to $18,796 after discounts, according to Hunt.
The new decorations can be mounted on all the electrical polls along Main Street in Center Benwood, but placement may not be possible on polls in other parts of the city, explained Mayor Ed Kuca.
City leaders agreed they would call Rileighs to see if they could offer some solutions, and the older decorations may be used in areas where the new ones can't be mounted.
Howard suggested if the city could not place all of the new decorations, they be returned.
"I'd hate to see us buy these, then just have them sit around," Howard said. "But I'd like to put them all up because they're bigger and you can really see them."