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Charles City Council examines garbage rate increase

By Travis Fischer,

The Charles City Council discussed employee insurance, garbage rates and police equipment on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Ahead of the workshop, the council held a special meeting to review and approve changes to the city’s health insurance plan.

As the cost of insurance increases, the city has been considering moving away from offering a self-funded plan. While fully self-funding health insurance for city employees did give the city more control over rates and policy offerings, the limited pool size has made the option less financially viable.

Instead, the city has been exploring the option of switching to a general health insurance provider, namely Wellmark, to provide coverage. While offering less flexibility in options, joining the larger insurance pool allows the city to provide roughly the same coverage for significantly lower premiums.

“In the end, the cost savings are pretty substantial,” said City Administrator Steve Diers.

The biggest matter for discussion was how to split the cost share between the city and employees. Currently, the city covers 80% of the premium cost. The lower premium costs under the new plan would allow the city to increase its share of that split to as much as 90% while still lowering its own costs.

On the one hand, offering a 90/10 split to employees was recognized as a positive benefit toward employee attraction and retention. On the other hand, there was concern about offering a 90/10 split only to risk having to go back up again as insurance costs continue to rise, where an 80/20 split would be more viable in the long term.

Ultimately, the council decided to aim for the middle ground and offer an 85/15 split to city employees.

Moving into the regular workshop session, the council reviewed new information from Jendro Sanitation regarding a requested rate increase.

Jendro has requested a 5.9% increase to its rate based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) with an additional 2.5% increase attributed to increased landfill costs. Questioning the math behind the additional 2.5% calculation, the council requested more information about the tonnage coming out of Charles City and how it relates to landfill costs.

In its response, Jendro stated that while Charles City residents couldn’t be singled out, on average each household serviced by the company produces 35-40 lbs. of trash per week, resulting in a cost increase of $.14 to $.17 per stop per month. To that end, Jendro amended its rate increase request to an additional $.15 per household instead of the 2.5% increase previously proposed.

Combined with the CPI increase, this would raise rates for 35-gallon containers from $14.54 to $15.30; 65-gallon containers from $19.41 to $20.75; and 95-gallon containers from $24.40 to $26.45.

In other business, Police Chief Hugh Anderson presented the council with the ordinance that would regulate the incoming speed camera system. The ordinance would update the city code to include automatic traffic enforcement devices, spelling out how citations would be assessed and processed.

It was noted again that the primary purpose of the automated speed cameras is to control excess speeds on roads coming in and out of the city, and that city policy would be to set the cameras to not register vehicles that are barely exceeding posted speed limits.

“Just to be clear, our goal is not to collect fines,” said council member Keith Starr.

At the same time, Chief Anderson did bring forward a request to order two new squad cars, noting that the time it takes to get a new squad car ready is getting longer as the automotive industry gets backed up with jobs.

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