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City takes first step to approve annexations

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By Stephen Lega

The Lebanon City Council spent much of its time discussing animals last week, but it wasn't the only issue addressed at its March 10 meeting.

Property annexations, employee benefits,and a resolution on road funds from the state were among the items discussed.

The city council unanimously approved the first reading of two annexation ordinances last week.

The first ordinance would annex parcels A and B of the Gray Caskey Farm Division on the city's southern border.

The second ordinance would annex the property belonging to Wal-Mart East, LLC, on the city's western border. The property formerly belonged to David and Penny McCarty along US 68.

David McCarty gained national attention last fall when he refused to leave his backyard when construction crews planned to detonate explosives along the southern fence on his property. Wal-Mart sought and received a court order requiring McCarty to vacate his back yard to allow the explosion to occur.

Wal-Mart later purchased the property from the McCartys.

Insurance policy ...

The city is seeking quotes for its health insurance packages for its employees. The current plans expire April 30, according to Lebanon City Administrator John Thomas.

Councilman Dennis George asked if the city could do better for the citizens by reconsidering the benefits package offered to city employees.

"With all due respect to city employees, we've always heard the benefits aren't good, we don't pay equal, and some other things," he said. "I think when you compare us to present industry, our employees do quite well between pay and benefits."

The city is paying between $26,000 and $27,000 per month for health insurance for 44 employees, Thomas said. Three employees have waived the city's insurance.

The city pays 100 percent of the premium for single plans and nearly 96 percent of the premium for family plans, according to Thomas.

The city set 4 p.m. Friday, March 28, as the deadline to receive insurance quotes.

George said the city may need to reconsider what it has offered in the past.

"Should we not look at other alternatives rather than saying we've always had a Cadillac, we're always going to give a Cadillac insurance policy?" he said.

Councilwoman Denise Fogle said what the city pays is "extravagant" compared to what's offered at non-profit organizations. Fogle works for the Community Action Agency.

"Our insurance is dictated in large part by one or two incidents that come along," Lebanon Mayor Gary Crenshaw said.

The premiums may or may not seem extravagant depending on the claims filed, he added.

George said he knows of industries in town where employees pay up to 40 percent of the cost of their premiums. He added that he doesn't want to say that to the city's employees, but he does want to talk to insurance agents about other plans.

Crenshaw said the council discusses health insurance every year, and the city advertised for bids based on what was approved last year.

Councilman Bill Pickerill said he agrees that the city needs to cut its costs. He said he supports the city paying all the premium for single plans, but he could see increasing the employee contribution for family plans.

Crenshaw said the city may need to have a special-called meeting shortly after the quotes are received to decide if they want to accept or reject them. He also said insurance companies won't want to talk to the city about possible changes in its insurance policy until the quotes have been opened.

Thomas said insurance costs could be changed by changing the policy or by adjusting deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

In other business:

• The council approved a recommendation by the planning and zoning commission to rezone the property at 825 W. Main Street owned by Paul Hilpp. The property was rezoned from R-1, residential, to B-2, highway business.

• The city council approved a request by Big Jim's to use the city's parking lot May 24 for a cook-off and entertainment.

Jim McMurtry said he's planning to have a barbeque cook-off in the city parking lot. The cook-off will coincide with a battle of the bands that same day.

• The council approved a resolution requesting to receive 60 percent of its 2008-09 motor fuels road aid funds.

The city's initial request is for $63,813, according to the resolution.

• Lori Hamilton was introduced as the city's new tax administrator.

• The city approved a bid from Wheatley's Seamless Gutter for material and labor for a new concession stand at Graham Memorial Park in the amount of $8,273, provided the ceiling is vinyl and not aluminum. This stand is located near the new baseball/softball and Little League fields.

The city also received a bid of $8,800 from John Knopp.

• The city considered a request from the Ham Days committee to use the former Arista Theater property. That parking lot has been used to set up rides during Ham Days for several years, but that lot has been identified as the preferred location for the future Marion County judicial center.

The city has worked out an agreement to sell the property to the county, provided the costs to move the creek that runs under the property don't cause the price to exceed the budget for the project.

Lebanon City Attorney Kandice Engle-Gray, who is a member of the judicial center project board, reminded the council that if the sale goes through, the Marion County Public Properties Corporation will own the property before Ham Days weekend.