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County to switch health insurance; save $300,000
Covington approves trash pick-up change
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In order to save nearly $300,000, the Newton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to switch the county’s health insurance from Blue Cross Blue Shield to Cigna.

The vote will end the county’s 15-year relationship with Blue Cross and will move the county from a self insurance pool to a fully insured plan with Cigna. The Cigna plan will cost $6.54 million and the exact savings is $297,388.36. A fully insured plan from Blue Cross would have cost nearly $7.12 million.

Administrative Assistant John Middleton said the county had spent $6,287,824 from May 2009 through April of 2010.  Based on inflation projections, Blue Cross's cost  would have been $6,840,541 for FY2011.

District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said the board agreed the best way to reduce costs was through a good wellness program; he said in his opinion Cigna has the best wellness plan in the industry.

- In other local government news, the Covington City Council approved the final reading of an ordinance change that will now require city residents to pay for furniture and appliances to be picked up.

As a result of the new ordinance, only yard waste, grass trimmings, leaves and tree limbs, will be picked up for free if not in a trash can. Any trash that fits into the city’s trash cans, outside of certain toxic materials, will continue to be picked up normally.

Residents will have to get permits from City Hall to have furniture and other large items picked up, including construction materials, but the cost will be $50 for any amount of trash up to half of the capacity of a city trash truck and $100 for any amount between half a truck and a full truck. In addition, the city will charge the resident for the tipping fee at the county landfill, which is $35 per ton.

Each additional half or full truck load will be an additional $50 or $100. For example, two and a half city trash truck loads would cost $250, in addition to the tipping fee.

Local businessmen Joe and Gene Mobley wrote a letter to the council warning that residents would simply dump their furniture in businesses’ dumpsters.

"We feel the lack of free large trash pickup will create an epidemic of furniture, appliances and other unwanted items being simply left in and near dumpsters for the property owner to dispose," the letter said.

They suggested raising the solid waste fee instead. However, the council decided to implement the permit fee instead by a 3-2 vote, with Council members Keith Dalton and Hawnethia Williams opposed. Councilwoman Ocie Franklin was absent.