RED SPRINGS — The town of Red Springs will no longer provide health insurance for future hires who retire before reaching age 65, the Board of Commissioners decided on Tuesday.
Any employee who was hired before today — including all existing retirees and current employees — who is age 55 and has worked for the town for 30 years may continue to participate in the town’s health, dental and vision plans until they reach age 65, at which point they will be eligible for Medicare, according to Town Manager James Bennette.
Bennette proposed the amendment to the town’s policy to save money. According to Bennette, the cost of health insurance per retiree is about $7,200 per year.
“Any employee that comes in after July 12 that obtains 30 years of service, we’re not going to pay for it,” he said. “It’s a cost that we can’t budget for. In this down-turned economy, more and more towns have gone to doing this.”
Mayor John McNeill stressed that only new hires will be affected, and that the move can be reversed.
“What we’re doing here is planning more for the future,” he said.
“Right now, as it stands, it’s going to be almost 30 years before somebody’s impacted by this decision,” Town Attorney Neil Yarborough said. “Circumstances can change. If it ever got to the point where it was creating a hardship, causing a problem in recruitment, something like that, anytime between now and 30 years, it can be changed.”
Also on Tuesday, the board amended the town’s policy so that anyone who is at least age 50, has worked for the town for at least 30 years, and had their job eliminated by the town could still be provided insurance benefits by the town until they reach age 65.
The change was made to accommodate a former Police Department employee whose position was recently eliminated, McNeill said. Because the man is not age 55, he could not be provided the benefits, even though he has worked for the town for 33 years.
“It’s not his decision to retire. His job was eliminated,” McNeill said. “We felt like the citizens of the town want, in that situation, for someone who’s given us 33 years, that we should make some kind of accommodation for them. … If you do the math on it, we’ve got all his experience; we’re paying him less money but giving him the insurance, so it’s a trade-out.”
In other action on Tuesday, the board:
— Rejected a request from Celedonio Capote Castrejon and Enoelia Tetelcingo Capote to rezone 3.8 acres located on Lewis Street so they could construct and operate an auto service shop.
— Accepted the Robeson County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan.
— Approved a signatory card allowing the town manager to sign checks for the town.
— Heard from resident Marcella Grantham, who presented the board with a petition of 279 signatures asking the board to move the town’s clock back to the Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The clock was moved several months ago for reconstruction and improvements made to the park.
— Heard a presentation from Boy Scout Colby Johnson, who refurbished and cleaned up Polly Brown Memorial Park for his Eagle Scout project.
— Recognized Caroline Sumpter, who recently graduated from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Institute, and was nominated as a delegate at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which will take place in Charlotte in November.
— Heard an update from Jay Howell of VFIS on an insurance proposal for the Fire Department.