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Employee insurance, Lobbyist contract on Water Board meeting agenda
Posting Date: 10/14/2013

By Barbara Ellestad

General Manager’s report includes discussion about prayer at meetings

When the Virgin Valley Water District Board of Directors meet Tuesday, Oct. 15 they will discuss employee health insurance benefits and possible upcoming changes related to the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).

The Directors have several options to choose from: 1) renew the current policy in November with a 2.1 percent increase; 2) renew the policy in December with a 3.5 percent increase; 3) wait until the current year plan expires June 30, 2014 and renew at a 64.2 percent rate increase.

If the District implements one of the early renewal option, it will save approximately $12,000 per month.

Staff is recommending the Directors choose one of the early renewal options and allow the District time to evaluate other options during the budget cycle next spring.

The District’s current insurance policy does not expire until June 30, 2014. The District now pays out approximately $19,700 a month for employee health insurance. If it chooses the Nov. 1 renewal date those costs will rise to $20,123 a month. A Dec. 1 renewal date will cause the monthly rate to rise to $20,417. If the District waits until next July to renew, monthly premiums will soar to $31,310.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nevada, the District’s health insurance carrier says “With the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) in 2014, a Community Rating will be implemented for employer groups with 2-50 employees. This is projected to cause a large rate increase for many of these employer groups. The early renewal offer allows these affected employer groups an ‘Early Renewal.’”

“Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will drive change in both the look and pricing of insurance coverage for small employers like you. For some groups, this will be a positive shift. However, other groups may see a significant increase in premiums as a result of this law. Early renewal buys you valuable time as you evaluate the best long-term strategy for your business,” the documents from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nevada say.

Also at the VVWD Board meeting, Warren Hardy will provide an update on current negotiations with Clark County, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and others on changes to the Virgin River Habitat Conservation and Recovery Program. Changing the plan from three fees and two separate plans to one fee, one plan has been under consideration for over 15 months.

Ryan Wheeler, Forsgren Associates, will present an update on the Bunkerville Secondary System study that was completed in April 2013. The study’s report offers six options for the Directors: 1) abandon the system; 2) do not make any changes to the current system; 3) enhance water delivery through proactive management; 4) abandon residential connection – high volume users; 5) utilize Virgin River water through VVWD shares; or 6) utilize Virgin River water and relocate existing facilities.

The Bunkerville secondary irrigation system was placed into service in 1999. The source of water is

a shallow well located near the Virgin River, half a mile north of Bunkerville. The quality of the water from the well is very poor – so poor that the District blends the water with 67 percent potable water and 33 percent secondary water to get a sufficient quality of water for irrigation and operations and maintenance purposes.

Wheeler and District Staff recommend the Directors choose option 1 to abandon the system.

The Directors will also discuss options for keeping or changing its contract with the Furman Group, the District’s federal government lobbyist in Washington D.C. The current contract expires Nov. 15. The District pays the Furman Group $72,000 per year for its services plus expenses.

The City of Mesquite also contracts with the Furman Group at a cost of $96,000 per year plus expenses. A proposal has been in front of the City and the Water District to combine both contracts into one. Many issues on which the Furman Group lobbies are the same for the City and Water District.

Aaron Baker, City Staff, and Kevin Brown, VVWD General Manager, have negotiated a shared total cost of $110,000 reducing the total amount paid by the two government entities by $58,000 a year. If the Directors agree to a shared contract, the District annual payment will be $35,000 reducing its costs by just over half. The Furman Group will not receive any reimbursement for expenses unless the District asks the Group’s representative to attend more than one meeting per year in Mesquite.

Brown is recommending the Directors allow him to finalize the amended contract with the Furman Group and to work with the City to construct an interlocal agreement for the combined contract.

Brown’s General Manager report includes an item related to public meeting prayer at the beginning of each Board meeting. Brown says “The District received a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation requesting the District do away with the prayer at the opening of the Board meeting. This issue was dealt with several years ago with the Board decision to keep prayer as part of the District board agenda.”

Typically, the Board President calls upon one of the Directors to say a prayer and lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The City of Mesquite recently instituted a prayer at the beginning of its City Council meetings with a pastor from a different church or religion leading it.

“Historically, District board members have been the only persons to pray at the District meetings. Congressional, state, and municipal governments throughout the country, including Nevada, include a non-denominational prayer,” Brown says in his GM report. “I recommend the District consider maintaining prayer as part of our agenda, and similar to the City of Mesquite, allow for others besides board members to offer prayer at the District Board meetings.”

Since the item is technically not agendized, it’s unclear whether the Directors can address the issue.

The VVWD Board of Directors meeting begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15 at the District headquarters at 500 Riverside Road. The public is invited to attend.

 

Commentary
  • Posted Date: 10/14/2013
    In other words, they're going to start treating small groups the same as they've been treating individuals for years. Welcome to the club.
    By: Bill Miller
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