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3rd firefighter laid off; new family health benefit package decided


Click for full audio of the May 1 Sullivan Board of Public Works meeting

Sullivan Board of Public Works and Safety members voted to lay off another full-time city firefighter Tuesday night and agreed on a new health benefit plan for the families of its workers.

The moves come after city leaders try to combat this year’s budget shortfall without dipping into its sewer fund — a common practice in years past.

BPWS members unanimously agreed to lay off Chris Fisher. It’s the third full-time firefighter to be let go in recent weeks; Tell Howson and Chad Robertson were laid off last month.

The decision came down to firefighters Fisher and Jerrad Pirtle, leaving board members to discuss the seniority of the two public servants.

City attorney Doug Followell said, ultimately, it was a “judgment call.”

If the department increases its workforce, those laid off would be the first to be reinstated, according to the discussion.

Meanwhile, a representative from Springer Insurance discussed the new family health benefit package with board members and audience members.

City employees would still be fully covered by their employer, but the plan for their families would be a health-savings account through insurer Anthem. Changes include higher deductibles and monthly contributions for employees. Dental insurance was also dropped.

“I know this is a drastic change, but I do know that a lot of businesses are going to this,” said Rose Doty, of Springer Insurance.

Costs for employees would vary depending on their needs. The city would also contribute $600 the employees’ HSA; $1,200 to the families’ plan — as long as the funds are available, Lamb said.

The health benefit changes will help the city meet some of its budget deficit caused by the property tax caps. The firefighter positions were also reportedly needed to meet this year’s $440,000 total deficit; $261,000 from property tax caps and $179,000 in state cuts, city officials have said.

Lamb has also said the city can no longer afford to use its sewer fund to make ends meet. He said the fund once had a balance of around $1.3 million and now is around $600,000.

“Out of all the proposals that we have discussed and looked at, this seemed to make the most sense for the family and seemed to make the most sense for the taxpayer,” Lamb said. “It’s not comfortable, and it’s not anything anybody wants to do, but we are on a path to financial devastation.”

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