MASON CITY — The Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors on a split vote approved amending their policies for the continuation of health insurance for retiring employees and for elected officials leaving office.The supervisors 20 years ago approved a program where certain retirees could obtain county-paid single health insurance, with the program being cut off for any non-bargaining employees hired after 2010 and union members hired after 2011.The county’s director of administrative services Tom Meyer says if everybody took the program when they could, the max premiums in today’s dollars is $4.4 million over 30 years as the program runs out and winds down. Meyer says the county’s insurance broker says that could have a big impact in the future for the county. “His projections, based on if everybody takes the program when they can at the age they could, we’d probably have to address at some point not a normal premium increase but we have to address the increased claims that come with more people on the plan. Once again, those are variable, but we’re looking at 10 years down the road or more, but there would have to probably be some adjustments in how much money is going into the plan because we are self funded.”Supervisor Casey Callanan says the insurance benefit is not self-sustaining. “Our legal counsel represents about 60 counties. There’s not one county in the state of Iowa that has a legal benefit like this. It’s just not financially sustainable is what it comes down to, and the only way to address it is to have it sunset, raise taxes, cut services, pass the money on to our current employees that are on the plan. Right now we don’t require our employees, individuals, to contribute anything into health insurance. I looked at a million different options as to how to potentially make this viable, and I wasn’t able to find one.”Callanan says as an elected official, he feels the supervisors have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. “They are the ones that are funding this. As badly as I feel for the employees that are just going to be miss out on this, unfortunately I feel worse for the taxpayers of Cerro Gordo County that are funding employees to be retired for up to seven years with a pretty rich benefit. This is not a knock on our employees, our employees work hard and do a good job. It’s not something that we started, but it’s something we need to address.”Supervisor Tim Latham voted against the resolutions. “I understand where Casey is coming from, I understand where the employees are coming from. I talked to a dozen easily and addressed another two dozen e-mails to people yesterday. This is probably one of the toughest things that’s come forward to us.”Latham wanted to delay the board’s decision for two weeks to see if there was a better solution for all parties involved. “I know we’ve talked a lot about out, but I’d like to sit down — it does say we can kill it in 60 days, but I’m not looking to do that, but I’d like to maybe modify the program to make it more feasible. Maybe put half a dozen or a dozen people together that are going to be involved in this and maybe sit down and talk about it.”Callanan and Chris Watts voted to approve resolutions to sunset the insurance policy, while Latham was the lone no vote.
…optimistic of recommendations for improving agencyThe Natural Resources Ministry has hit back against suggestions that the task force Government established to reform the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) has nefarious political motives.The Guyana Forestry Commission head office, Kingston, GeorgetownAccording to the Ministry in a statement, the task force’s mandate will be to reorganise and restructure the Commission, which has been plagued by criticisms over administrative concerns and complaints from staff.“The Ministry of Natural Resources has taken note of the letters and commentaries regarding the functioning of the task force and wishes to reiterate the Cabinet’s direction on this matter … The task force’s mandate shall include, but will not be limited to, an examination and evaluation of current job descriptions and performance standards, personnel procedures, conditions of employment and appointment, wages and salary structures and payroll administration,” the statement said.“It will further aim at improving the efficient performance and effective management of the Commission by identifying training and development opportunities for staff. The task force is expected to submit to the Minister of Natural Resources a work schedule with timelines and a preliminary report that would complete this assignment no later than July 2019. “According to the Ministry, the task force was established in keeping with the national objective of moving towards a ‘green’ economy and the consequent realignment of critical agencies of the State. As such, the proposal for the restructuring of the GFC was approved by Cabinet.“Consequently, a task force has been established jointly between the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Board of Directors of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) to address the reorganising and restructuring of the Forestry Commission. ““The task force will include the technical and administrative talent and personnel of the MNR, the Board, and the Commission, who will examine the structure and functioning of the GFC to make recommendations to the Minister of Natural Resources Hon Raphael GC Trotman, who, in turn, is mandated to present a report to Cabinet.”According to the statement, the Convener of the Task Force is the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Project Coordinator Clayton Hall.“The Ministry expects that this addresses misguided remarks about the task force having an ulterior and devious political purpose, and clears up any uncertainties and awaits the preliminary report and work schedule,” it added.There have been letters written by staff of the GFC, who have expressed concern over the restructuring effort. In one such letter, the staff member wrote that when Hall was confronted with probing questions during an April 26 meeting with staff, the meeting ended abruptly.“Several GFC staff asked questions that were of high concern on the minds of staff: would the monitoring division and resources management divisions be merged as pre-empted by Hall’s early submission of his desired structure of the GFC? Would staff be dismissed and left hopeless and helpless?“What would happen to the families of these staff? Is it a witch-hunting exercise aimed at getting rid of specific persons? Is the committee experienced in human resources management to undertake a task such as this? And finally, how were the members of the task force chosen and is there a clear terms of reference for the committee’s work?”According to the staff, a showdown ensued during which Hall was asked by Commissioner James Singh to withdraw certain comments made in the meeting to staff, who were also on the verge of walking out.