The Franklin County Quorum Court passed four ordinances Thursday with the most notable being an ordinance to transfer County Attorney Jim Mainard’s salary from Special Legal services to full time employee status so he could participate in the county health insurance plan. Up until the passage of the ordinance, Mainard was listed as a contract employee. Despite this switch, Mainard’s annual salary will remain the same.
Mainard has been suffering from major health problems in the past few years and had been on his late wife’s COBRA insurance plan which ends soon. Mainard explained that with this policy ending, he will have to get new insurance which he estimated will cost $800 per month, while the County’s Arkansas Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BC/BS) group insurance costs enrollees $300 per month.
The ordinance stipulates Mainard’s annual salary of $13,199, one of the lower paid to a County Attorney’s in the state, will be transferred from Special Legal (County Attorney) to "full-time salaries" with an additional $6,571.68 coming out of Unappropriated County General funds for Social Security Matching, Unemployment Compensation and Health insurance.
The county’s insurance plan is available to all elected county officials including Quorum Court Justices and full time employees but is not normally available to part time employees who work less than 30 hours per week.
Justices David Hewitt, Mary Jane Cains and Lacy Neissl questioned the ordinance’s validity and Cains wondered if the ordinance would open a "pandora’s box" of problems if Mainard is put on the insurance while other part-timers are not included.
County Clerk answered, "He is a full-time employee in our opinion since he is on-call 24 hours per day and often works 30 hours or more per week on county business. She also said that she discussed Mainard’s case with BC/BS agents in both Ozark and Fort Smith and that the insurance company is "fine with it."
Hewitt suggested the county give Mainard a raise to cover the $6,571.68 difference so the county would not have to deal with other part-timers wanting equal insurance options.
Franklin County Judge Janet Powell noted that BC/BS agents she spoke with said county could stipulate that the "County Attorney" be included on their list of eligible employees and that in doing that, the county could exempt non-specific part-time employees from the policy.
Justice David Bowles commented, "Whether we pay him more or put him on our insurance, we need to do something for him."
The ordinance passed by a vote of 6/2 with Hewitt and Cains casting no votes. Justice Freddy Ree was absent.
Three other ordinances passed unanimously 8/0.
General Ordinance 2014-01 was put on third and final reading by unanimous decision and set the Quorum Court meeting schedule for the year. The Ordinance sets 10 monthly meetings on the second Thursday of the month and two meetings on the third Thursday. The August 21st meeting will be at the Charleston Courthouse and the November 20th meeting at the Ozark Courthouse. All meeting will start at 7 p.m. The April 10th meeting will also be at Charleston.
Ordinance 2014-02 transferred $37,951 from the Unappropriated Fire Premium Fund to the county’s Fire Protection Premium. Act 833 grant checks in the amount of $7,133 each were given to the Barnes, Cecil, Charleston, Oak Bend-Aetna and Watalula Rural Fire departments and $2,284 went to the Altus Rural Fire Department.
Appropriation Ordinance 2014-4 transferred $7,500 of grant money received from the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District Inc. for improvements and repair of the clock tower at the Ozark Courthouse.
A rough draft of the 2014 Franklin County Personnel Handbook was passed out to Justices to read over and comment on. There will be a special 1 hour meeting on the handbook before February’s general meeting, but the handbook is not expected to be finalized and voted on until March.