Warner Robins City Council delays health care, baseball decisions

bpurser@macon.comApril 15, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- An overhaul in the city’s health insurance plan that would have increased employee health insurance costs was pulled from the City Council agenda Monday.

Also tabled was a memorandum of understanding that would have given a company that acquires and operates professional baseball teams an exclusive right to work with the city to pursue the feasibility of bringing minor league baseball to Middle Georgia.

The term of the memorandum of understanding was for 24 months, according to the proposed contract.

On both issues, council members expressed a need for more information and communication about the proposals.

Both were scheduled for a vote at the regular meeting Monday night but were pulled during the council work session prior to that meeting.

The proposed change in health insurance for the city’s more than 500 employees called for increasing the cost of prescription brands from $50 for retail and $75 for mail order. The cost is now $25 and $30, respectively.

Councilman Daron Lee expressed concern about the affordability of the move for many city employees. He also noted that when it comes to certain medications, such as heart medications, a generic may not be preferred.

The changes also called for increasing the emergency co-pay to $100 a visit and upping the co-pay for doctor’s office visits to $20.

The changes would save the city an estimated $242,855 in annual health care costs.

The city’s insurance committee, which recommended the changes, is expected later to make a formal presentation to the council about the proposed changes.

The proposed ordinance did not include a spouse surcharge, which had been discussed by the city.

In other business, a group called Evans Street Baseball, in conjunction with sports marketing firm National Sports Services, sought a contract with the city to conduct a feasibility study to secure a minor league baseball team.

City Attorney Jim Elliott told council members the contract has three essential elements: that the city would help identify suitable land, assist with the development of costs estimates and would not provide similar services for 24 months to another group.

Some council members balked at the contract, nothing that the first time they had seen it was when it was handed out at Monday’s council work session.

Lee said he wants to hear a presentation about what’s being considered.

John Hughes, who spoke to the council about the proposal, said the problem with a presentation to the council is that it would be required to be open to the public. He told council members he was trying to protect his financial investment in the project and did not want that information disclosed publicly.

Three council members expressed interest in meeting with Hughes, which Mayor Chuck Shaheen told members would be less than a quorum required for the meeting to open to the public.

The memorandum of agreement, spelled out in the proposed contact, already has been approved by the Houston County Development Authority and the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.

Hughes declined to name those who are behind the proposed venture but said he would at a later date.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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