Health benefits discussion ends in Jasper’s March meeting

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JASPER, Ga. – On the agenda since January, Jasper City Council has been discussing self-funding for medical insurance versus insuring normally as they have been for years. They have had both Matt Bidwell, of MSI Benefits, and Kevin Godfrey, of Godfrey-Downs, looking through their contacts and markets to bring forth proposals to the council for insurance.

The city ultimately went with the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) recommended by Bidwell and MSI Benefits. Though the original recommendation was a $1,500 deductible plan, the council’s motion approved an alternate plan with a $1,000 deductible. The new plan’s premiums for the city would come to $1,104,163.00, around a $52,000 increase, which is far less than the near $300,000 increase the city was originally looking at during the beginning of the year. According to Bidwell, this plan is just above a 4 percent increase over the $1,500 deductible plan for the city.

The plan also allows, according to Bidwell, for any employee receiving compensation in the form of workman’s comp or a salary from the city to be covered under the insurance. This covers the issue the city had with their current insurance preparing to drop an officer from coverage who was injured in the line of duty.

The city may be closing down North and South Main street once a month in favor of a recurring Chamber event. Setting the events as May through August, the Chamber is attempting to establish the Saturday Social in the Mountains as a tourism event. The issue came before council to close South and North Main Street for the social events. While representatives had no set point of exactly what every event would entail, they did suggest they could include live music, children’s events, food, and other activities. Ultimately approved, the item passed with two votes, as Dr. Sonny Proctor and Anne Sneve abstained due to their involvement with the Chamber.

The council also approved a number of previously budgeted expenses including $14,000 to swap out the Cove Well emergency generator, $11,900 to rebuild pump four across from Shiloh Church, and the previously discussed 3 percent raise for city employees.

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Council member resigns to take new position

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JASPER, Ga. – Jasper City Council Member Jim Looney resigned during the Jasper City Council Meeting Monday, Feb. 5.

Resigning so that he may take the interim position of city manager, Looney stated it was due to information advised to him that state law prohibits a councilman from holding another municipal office without resigning from his council seat.

Looney read the state code in the council’s meeting: “A councilman or alderman of a municipal corporation shall be ineligible to hold any other municipal office during the term of office for which the councilman or alderman was chosen unless he first resigns as councilman or alderman before entering such other office.”

Immediately after his resignation, the city council officially nominated Looney as city manager for Jasper. As part of the motion made, the city manager position was set “until such time as specific duties and powers of the mayor and city manager are clearly delineated by the city council, that the city manager report to the mayor and city council collectively.”

Jasper Mayor John Weaver recognized members of the public to speak at the meeting. The council was questioned about the public knowledge of the proceeding involving the transfer of the city manager position from Weaver and now to Looney.

Jasper City Council Member Dr. Sonny Proctor commented saying he had asked about the situation last year and began researching the position and the separation of positions. Having spoken on the topic several times, Proctor confirmed there was closed discussion about personnel issues in executive sessions, but the votes were taken in public.

In addition to this resignation and appointment to the city manager position, Looney’s move leaves a city council seat open. During their meeting, the council approved a call for election and set the qualifying fee at $35 for the position. With details still coming about the approval, Jasper will be seeing more details about the election in the coming weeks.

One last comment from Proctor came before the final vote on the issue. “This is a time for us all to come together, and I know it doesn’t feel like that is what’s going on,” Proctor said. “I’m not trying to divide us. I’m trying to bring us together, in a different way I understand that. But I want us to collaborate and work together.

The official vote appointing Looney as city manager came 3-1 with council member Tony Fountain being the dissenting vote.

As the meeting moved through the rest of the agenda items, it came time to adjourn the meeting. However, Mayor John Weaver took time to make one final comment before adjournment saying, “I have been mayor/city manager for 25 years, 5 months, 2 days and 15 minutes, maybe 4 hours and 15 minutes. Anyway, I have enjoyed my stay here and I feel like by being the mayor/city manager, being the evil thing that it is, has allowed the city of Jasper to grow from a $1.6 million budget to over $12 million without raising taxes and with only one water rate increase. I feel like by being the mayor/city manager has given me the opportunity to go visit people, look them in the eye, and argue the case of the city of Jasper better than any city manager that you could possibly have.”

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