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Hampshire fire district looks at insurance alternatives



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Updated: April 16, 2013 4:03PM

HAMPSHIRE — People are wondering how they are going to fare under Obamacare when it is fully implemented next year.

The Hampshire Fire Protection District, meanwhile, said it is trying to find ways now to provide affordable insurance coverage for its employees.

“Dollars are shrinking for our district,” said Jim Dunbar, district board president. “We’re at our limit. We don’t know what kind of funds we will have next year. Because of economic conditions, it’s important to stay up to speed and find ways to save money.”

This week, the board approved staying with Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage for a cost of $9,763, the lowest of three separate quotes it received. The other quotes were $10,890 and $11,795.

The board has discussed the possibility of offering compensation to some of its employees who might choose to opt out of the district’s health insurance plan and be covered under their spouse’s plan. According to Robert Britz of Ottosen Britz Kelly Cooper Gilbert & DiNolfo Ltd. in Elburn, “such a policy has become popular in the public sector.”

“We’re looking at ways on how to save money on insurance,” said Hampshire Fire Chief Bill Robinson. “There are three employees who might want to opt out on insurance; but if there were five or more, we couldn’t do it.”

No decision regarding the proposed opt-out program was made by the board this week. Board Secretary Connie vonKeudell said she will continue to research the matter and bring information back to the board for future meetings.

In other news, the recent loss of five employees prompted the board this week to approve the hiring of three part-time workers.

The Hampshire fire district staff currently includes 30 part-time and eight full-time employees, including Robinson and Deputy Chief Trevor Herrmann.

“We want to keep the roster where it is,” Robinson said. “The goal is to hire three who could go on callbacks.”

The board this week also approved spending $4,130 to install a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the fire station’s fitness room. According to Robinson, the air conditioning unit would be installed outside while the blower would be installed inside.

Robinson also told the board that an Energy Efficient Lighting grant from Illinois Clean Energy and the Illinois Department of Commerce, which initially cost the district $700, is expected to save the district $800 annually.

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