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BREAKING NEWS

County may cut retiree benefits

By Staff | May 22, 2011

Warmka

County employees hired after Jan. 1, 2002, may be out of luck when it comes to health insurance benefits after retirement.

The Faribault County Board voted to table the language of a proposal about the topic last Tuesday.

Those hired after 2002 will no longer be eligible for county contribution toward retiree health insurance benefits – something that was promised to them prior to the current proposal.

Commissioner Tom Warmka has major issues with how the current proposal reads.

“I would support it if it started in 2012 because nothing was promised,” Warmka says. “That’s just not the American way of treating employees.”

After Jan. 2012, all employees health insurance benefits are threatened to be cut after retirement. Employees will now cover increases in insurance rates from the day they retire.

Premium costs and benefits will be determined by insurance carriers and accepted by the board of county commissioners.

Commissioner Loveall notes the wording of the proposal discussed at last Tuesday’s meeting was not the same as what he has seen recently in union discussion.

“We need to sit on this until we get a little further in negotiations,” Loveall says. “We are in mediation right now and a lot of these issues have a tentative agreement.”

Those tentative agreements, according to Loveall, divert from the proposal commissioners discussed Wednesday.

Still many were skeptical with the plan.

“I hate to go back and change a promise made to people and jerk away benefits from them,” Commissioner Greg Young says. “Good employees of the county will leave so they are not affected by this.”

Young continues to say that five employees have approached him saying they might pursue other options of employment if cuts are made.

Another commissioner felt cuts in benefits are now a way of life in the United States.

“Ask General Motors employees, ask Ford employees or Chrysler employees what they did just to keep a job.” Commissioner Bill Groskreutz, Jr. says. “People are taking huge cuts in benefits and salary just to keep working.”

Whatever happens, Commissioner Young hopes action will be swift.

“There needs to be some urgency in getting an agreement.” Young says.

In other business at the board meeting last Tuesday morning, the commissioners;

• Voted to declare May National Drug Court Month.

Bev Snow reports that since the program was instituted in 2006, it has saved $2 million in federal prison costs and $3 million in state prison costs.

With the success of drug court, Snow would like to see services expanded.

“Alcohol is a drug and we need to bring in DWI offenders to the program as well,” Snow says.

• Gave permission to the South Minn. Central Youth for Christ to build a tornado shelter/recreation building, dining hall and office. Additions will also be made to the existing lodge and cabins.

•Voted to upgrade two railroad crossings; CSAH 13 at Delavan and CSAH 21 south of Minnesota Lake.

The county was able to tap into $440,000 dollars of free funding from the Federal Highway Administration. The county will contribute $52,000 to the project.

“Both are very critical intersections.” Commissioner Warmka says.

•Voted to award the bid of 540 tons of seal coat oil to Flint Hills Resources LP.

Seal coat oil will be used for blacktopping projects this summer.