Union County Commissioners decided to accept bids to provide health insurance services to county employees, with bids due by Aug. 7; the county's current provider attempted to secure a renewal before the bids are read with an attractive quote at the commissioners' July 24 meeting.

The decision to accept bids was made at the June 19 meeting when commissioner Howard Curry pushed to offer the opportunity for local businesses to bid on the policy. Commission president Paul Wiwi and vice-president Tim Williams agreed and set the Aug. 7 deadline to bid for the policy covering approximately 50 employees.

Commissioners received a renewal offer from their current insurance carrier, UnitedHealthcare, presented by VanVleet Insurance agent Kyle Zajdel.

Curry inquired why they are seeing an offer two weeks before the bids are due. Zajdel replied the carrier was offering the county a discounted rate from the 7.9 percent increase renewal rate previously offered, down to a 3.9 percent increase.

“So, you're saying if we do this, we throw our bid process out?” Curry asked.

Zajdel replied in the affirmative.

“I'm against this… So, if you're us, what do you tell the insurance company across the street, that we told they could bid on our health insurance?” Curry probed.

Zajdel explained most municipalities are seeing a ten percent increase this year and that a four percent increase is a good deal. He went on to review the claim statistics from last year. Emergency room and urgent care visits have dropped to zero and inpatient stays were reduced to one; however, outpatient stays have increased, and pharmacy use is higher than average.

Williams noted the statistics indicate the county likely paid a lot more in premiums than they received in benefits and remarked, “you guys are like a casino, you guys just never lose.”

Curry returned to the process itself; the board had already decided they will review bids in August. Wiwi asked if Richard Blank had an opinion.

Blank, who has experience in the insurance industry and currently sits as president of Union County Council, replied, “I like the quote, but we did say we were going to take bids, we advertised we were going to take bids. I understand there is a way of legally not taking bids now by advertising; my feeling is we're obligated to take the bids.”

“If you say you're going to do something, you've got to do it, that's rule one for me,” insisted Curry.

After further discussion, the board reached a consensus to protect the integrity of the bid process and wait until all bids are received on Aug. 7.
Commissioners receive parks board update

Tayler Bryson of the Union County Parks Board detailed the progress that had been made to the new county park project at the county commissioners' meeting held July 24. While there is not a lot of visible progress, they have been busy behind the scenes.

To reduce long-term property maintenance costs, the meadow will be planted with pollinators and a walking path will be mowed through it, instead of mowing the entire meadow. Property cleanup is continuing at the property, including discussions with Duke Energy to replace the overhead powerlines with underground service.

A grant received from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources came with a deadline; however, between the COVID-19 pandemic this year and a government shutdown last year, they have experienced setbacks. The board is working with DNR to get an extension.
Bryson reports seeing anglers and walkers making use of the park on a regular basis.

Also discussed:

Repair bids for a building at the highway department were reviewed. The building sustained storm damage earlier in the year and the roof has come loose from the walls of the building. The structure must be repaired, electrical work completed, and then upgrades are planned to the building.
Repairing the structure is the primary concern and must be completed before the cold weather hits. The contractor for the structural work estimates they could be onsite in October at the absolute earliest. Commissioners decided to accept the bid to put the building back to where it was before the damage, to get the process started.

Kent Reineking brought concerns about the road surface of Old 101 to commissioners. The road was rehabilitated two years ago with the help of the Community Crossings Matching Grant program, which covers 75 percent of road improvement costs with a 25 percent local match. Since the work was completed, the shoulders are degrading in certain sections. Reineking asked if there is anything that could be done, such as a gravel shoulder.

Highway department head Jeff Bowers replied gravel will help some but will degrade quickly and likely end up in the yards of property owners. He agreed to investigate it.

“It's the widest road we've got in the county and people can't stay on it,” lamented Bowers.