The chance to save money was one of the top selling points for merging Macon and Bibb County governments.
Now the first big savings is being nailed down, as the consolidation task force recommends new insurance carriers for the roughly 2,000 city and county employees.
The bid from Blue Cross/Blue Shield to provide basic medical insurance should produce at least $1.2 million in annual savings from administration fees, stop-loss premiums and prescription rebates, compared with the amount the city and county pay out now, said consultant Jimmy Hinson, employee benefits vice president from BB&T Insurance Services.
The whole concept of the consolidation has been borne out, I think, by this process, he said.
A nine-member joint city-county committee compared bids from many carriers and chose Blue Cross/Blue Shield for basic insurance; The Hartford for group life insurance; Ameritas for dental coverage; The Standard for long-term disability; and Blue Cross/Blue Shield for vision coverage, Hinson said.
We had consensus from all nine members present for the recommendations, he said.
Benefits are similar to or better than current coverage for city and county workers and should result in lower employee premiums for some coverage, Hinson said. How much lower those rates will be, however, will depend on how much of the premium cost the new government assumes, he said.
During an afternoon committee meeting, mayoral candidate Charlie Bishop -- a former Bibb County Commission chairman and retired Macon police officer, but not a task force member -- stood up to urge that elected officials not be offered coverage. Many current city and county elected officials are elderly, with multiple health problems, and covering them would drive up the overall cost, said Bishop, who is 69.
At the full task force meeting, Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards was the only one to vote against the recommendations. Afterward, he said his reason for opposition was too complicated to quickly explain, but that he objected to the selection process.
Current city and county governments will have to accept the insurance recommendations for coverage to be in place at the Jan. 1, 2014, start of the new government. Hinson said he expects the bid packages to come before the Macon City Council and Bibb County Commission on Sept. 3.
New Macon-Bibb seal
The new government will need a new official seal, and website designers and attorneys are advising officials to choose one as soon as possible, Macon Public Affairs Officer Chris Floore told task force members Wednesday in a communications team meeting.
The team wants to involve the general public in the choice, he and Nick Kouloungis said.
Kouloungis, director of technology services for the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, said they plan to hold a contest for design ideas.
Its open to anyone, not just local residents, according to rules Floore distributed. Individuals or groups can submit up to two entries each. Full rules and an entry form are available at contest.maconbibb.us; the deadline is Oct. 11.
A city-county committee, including graphic artists, will evaluate the designs, and the winners will come to the task force for a final choice, Kouloungis said.
Designers could choose elements from several entries, even if theyre done in crayon, Floore said; but a final version will be prepared by professionals.
The task force accepted three chapters for a new Macon-Bibb code of ordinances, covering record management, stormwater standards and alcoholic beverages. Current city and county standards were reconciled by government staff and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.
If the new government chooses not to adopt the recommended versions, the old standards will stay in place until something is decided, said Macon City Councilman Tom Ellington, a member of the task forces Laws Committee.
Edwards asked whether a problem with the countys current alcoholic-beverage license rules had been worked out. Betty Hudson of the institute said the new ordinance states that if two applicants seek the last available license, the earlier applicant will get it.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.