City of Centralia City Manager’s View

Lifestyle
November 9, 2020

By Lowell Crow—

This is the first of what I hope will be many articles that will give me an opportunity to discuss initiatives we have ongoing in the City. I am aware that there have been two hot button issues within the City during my first six months here which includes the move of health insurance to Intergovernmental Personnel Benefit Cooperative (IPBC) and the purchase of the new firetrucks.

First, I would like to explain the move of the employee health insurance. The new insurance assures the members of the best deal for the employees and City, being in a co-op with other communities in our area: New Baden, Swansea, Glen Carbon, Trenton, Effingham, New River and Monroe County. We have found IPBC gives us the best of both worlds with the benefits of a fixed cost insurance contract where the City will have a fixed fee every month as well as having the ability to control cost with a self-insured program. Because the cooperative covers extreme increases out of their resources, this holds the cost down to its members.  The Prescription, Dental, Vision and Life insurance costs are also driven down with the large purchasing power of IPBC.  This year the City saw a decrease in Vision, Life insurance, Dental insurance cost and only saw a 2.2 percent increase in our health insurance costs. The City locked into this cost savings over the next 18 months.  This is versus the 11.4% increase for Blue Cross insurance, saving the City of Centralia taxpayers money. 

During this process of selecting health insurance the City was presented another option, one that is being used by other communities in the area.  This option would require us to be self-funded while additionally requiring us to move individuals off our insurance to a fully funded insurance plan when they or their families had major medical issues, with the City picking up the additional cost. Employees would be moved back and forth as cost became an issue. We did discuss this option with former City Managers in Salem and Olney and some former employers of these communities and found that, like IPBC, there were cost savings, but some employers did have reservations about moving employees on and off insurance plans. With all this information, we had an internal discussion and made the decision that IPBC was the best option for the City and its employees.

Second, the fire trucks were a tough problem due to many of our fire trucks being beyond their usable life.  In April, our 50-year-old Snorkel had been inspected and determined to be beyond repair.  Additionally, the City was spending a large amount of money on a yearly basis to keep the old front-line pumpers online. The condition of the City’s fire trucks affects the City’s ISO rating which drives our citizens’ fire insurance cost.  

Additionally, fire capability plays a role in recruitments of new business.  Currently, we are competing in a recruitment of a new industry. One of the requirements is that the City has a 100 ft. tower to fight fires.  With this knowledge, the City worked with MacQueen Fire Apparatus to identify two Pierce trucks, one platform truck and one pumper truck that were 2019 models allowing us to obtain them at a lower price. To also lower the cost, we worked with Community Trust Bank on a lease-to-own program to lower the cost to $148,000 per year.  With the purchase of the new fire trucks there is a need for different equipment to also be used on the trucks.  We obtained quotes from three separate companies to get bids for this equipment.  The money that is spent will ensure these trucks meet the needs and the standards of the fire service and provide Centralia two front line vehicles for the next 25 years. 

Both of these decisions were made to provide a safe, healthy working environment for our employees while being a good steward of the city’s money, thus ensuring we can provide the services our community needs to grow.   

This is the first of what I hope will be many articles that will give me an opportunity to discuss initiatives we have ongoing in the City. I am aware that there have been two hot button issues within the City during my first six months here which includes the move of health insurance to Intergovernmental Personnel Benefit Cooperative (IPBC) and the purchase of the new firetrucks.

First, I would like to explain the move of the employee health insurance. The new insurance assures the members of the best deal for the employees and City, being in a co-op with other communities in our area: New Baden, Swansea, Glen Carbon, Trenton, Effingham, New River and Monroe County. We have found IPBC gives us the best of both worlds with the benefits of a fixed cost insurance contract where the City will have a fixed fee every month as well as having the ability to control cost with a self-insured program. Because the cooperative covers extreme increases out of their resources, this holds the cost down to its members.  The Prescription, Dental, Vision and Life insurance costs are also driven down with the large purchasing power of IPBC.  This year the City saw a decrease in Vision, Life insurance, Dental insurance cost and only saw a 2.2 percent increase in our health insurance costs. The City locked into this cost savings over the next 18 months.  This is versus the 11.4% increase for Blue Cross insurance, saving the City of Centralia taxpayers money. 

During this process of selecting health insurance the City was presented another option, one that is being used by other communities in the area.  This option would require us to be self-funded while additionally requiring us to move individuals off our insurance to a fully funded insurance plan when they or their families had major medical issues, with the City picking up the additional cost. Employees would be moved back and forth as cost became an issue. We did discuss this option with former City Managers in Salem and Olney and some former employers of these communities and found that, like IPBC, there were cost savings, but some employers did have reservations about moving employees on and off insurance plans. With all this information, we had an internal discussion and made the decision that IPBC was the best option for the City and its employees.

Second, the fire trucks were a tough problem due to many of our fire trucks being beyond their usable life.  In April, our 50-year-old Snorkel had been inspected and determined to be beyond repair.  Additionally, the City was spending a large amount of money on a yearly basis to keep the old front-line pumpers online. The condition of the City’s fire trucks affects the City’s ISO rating which drives our citizens’ fire insurance cost.  

Additionally, fire capability plays a role in recruitments of new business.  Currently, we are competing in a recruitment of a new industry. One of the requirements is that the City has a 100 ft. tower to fight fires.  With this knowledge, the City worked with MacQueen Fire Apparatus to identify two Pierce trucks, one platform truck and one pumper truck that were 2019 models allowing us to obtain them at a lower price. To also lower the cost, we worked with Community Trust Bank on a lease-to-own program to lower the cost to $148,000 per year.  With the purchase of the new fire trucks there is a need for different equipment to also be used on the trucks.  We obtained quotes from three separate companies to get bids for this equipment.  The money that is spent will ensure these trucks meet the needs and the standards of the fire service and provide Centralia two front line vehicles for the next 25 years. 

Both of these decisions were made to provide a safe, healthy working environment for our employees while being a good steward of the city’s money, thus ensuring we can provide the services our community needs to grow. 

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