The Warrensburg Town board took action last week to end the controversial practice of granting free lifetime health insurance for board members in office at least 10 years.
In a unanimous vote, the board voted to amend their personnel policy to abolish the perk, as well as requiring sitting board members to contribute 20 percent to their health insurance premiums. The policy also calls for the health insurance to be terminated at the end of a board member’s term in office.
In the decision, the board also specified that all full-time non-union town employees will begin paying 10 percent of their health care premiums as of Jan. 1. Presently, those town employees hired before January 2007 pay nothing for their premiums, while those hired after that date pay 10 percent.
The lifetime health insurance coverage came to light earlier this year, when councilmen Dean Ackley and Austin Markey proposed that the practice be stopped, but only terminated for future board members.
A public outcry ensued, with citizens protesting that such a proposal granted special privileges to those now in power.
In the fall elections, Ackley and Markey were defeated by challengers Joyce Reed and Linda Baker Marcella, whose campaigns included protests that such a proposal was unfair and that health insurance for life could end up costing taxpayers $1 million or more.
In response, Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty introduced a 2012 budget in late October that reflected reductions in the town’s payments toward health insurance coverage for board members.
The employee policy revisions were supported in a unanimous vote at the Dec. 14 meeting
Other actions, the town board:
• Scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Wednesday Jan. 11 to consider a local law prohibiting deposition of snow on sidewalks. Several residents and businesses, in clearing their driveways, have been known to push snow onto the sidewalks, Geraghty said. While a state law now exists prohibiting the practice, a local ordinance provides for efficient enforcement, he said. A public hearing was also scheduled for the same time and date to change the town water billing from annual to quarterly.
• Approved two Occupancy Tax allocations to the Warrensburgh Beautification Committee — one for $1,481 for their Christmas in Warrensburg event, and one for $312 to advertise the local Farmer’s Market Garlic Festival.
• Heard from Supervisor Geraghty that the town’s drinking water tests conducted this month were very favorable, with all but one of the 41 households tested passing state standards, which set limits for copper, lead, and other substances. He said the town was continuing to improve the prevailing water quality.
• Discussed the possibility of developing a new well on the Countryside Adult Home property, a suggestion proposed earlier this year by incoming board member Joyce Reed.
• Scheduled the town’s annual organizational meeting — which this year will include swearing-in ceremonies of incoming board members Reed and Marcella as well as Judge Bryan Winslow — to be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday Jan. 3.
• Approved contracting with Waste Management to take over trash hauling and disposal for the town during 2012. The town now hauls refuse deposited at the town transfer station to the Hudson Falls trash plant. The change is expected to save taxpayers $50 per trip. The town truck now routinely takes one or two trips to the plant per week.
• Authorized applying for a $175,000 grant from the Adirondack-Glens Falls Transportation Council to replace 3,277 feet of sidewalks in town. This sum would pay 75 percent of the construction costs.
• Voted to commit $1,000 of Occupancy Tax funds to the Warren County Bicentennial Committee in 2012 toward promotion of events in 2013 celebrating the 200th anniversary of the county’s founding.
• Enacted a Resolution of Appreciation to Town Justice Richard Nissen for his 24 years of service as a local judge.