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City retirees’ 2014 health care savings projected

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The city of Ogdensburg’s 89 Medicare-eligible retirees and their dependents could save just over $270,000 in health care costs in 2014 by switching coverage plans.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, First Niagara Benefits Consulting Vice Presidents Zachary Zuckerman and Judy M. Tyo told the lawmakers that switching from a self-insured system where the city pays the provider directly to one where the city pays a monthly premium to Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Medicare Blue preferred provider organization will cut costs and maintain coverage.

Under the current setup, according to Mr. Zuckerman, the total cost in 2014 to the city would be $561,569. With Medicare Blue PPO, the cost would be $290,474.64, a savings of $271,094.36.

The advice comes at a crucial time. The city’s employee health care costs for this year will probably exceed the $2.6 million budget. The proposed $19.1 million city budget for 2014 has $2.8 million projected. City Manager John M. Pinkerton is predicting a $4 million annual bill in another 10 years.

In 2004, the city’s health care bill was $1.4 million.

Mr. Zuckerman said the city would join several other municipalities whose retirees and their dependants would be part of a Medicare Blue PPO coverage pool and keep costs down. Retirees who already pay premiums would continue to do so, but at a lower amount, said City Comptroller Philip A. Cosmo.

Mayor William D. Nelson liked what he heard.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” he said.

Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle wasn’t quite satisfied.

“I wish it was higher,” he said. “Any savings is good savings.”

The city’s self-insurance provides coverage for 516 current and retired employees and their dependents. The health care budgets in recent years have exceeded their seven-digit projections.

In 2012, the total was $2,652,387.51. In 2011, the city’s final bill for health coverage was $2,325,766.80.

In other business, the council voted unanimously in favor of paying $18,750 to the engineering firm Barton & Loguidice of Syracuse to

conduct concrete foundation and soil contamination for polychlorinated biphenyl - PCB - at the former Standard Shade Roller site on Covington Street.

Full demolition and removal is anticipated in spring/summer 2014.

Barton & Loguidice’s findings were based on the results from 37 soil borings and seven monitoring wells.

A laboratory analysis was conducted on five sediment samples, 14 concrete samples, 13 groundwater samples and 74 soil samples.

Standard Shade Roller closed in the 1990s, was demolished in 2011 and is eyed for redevelopment.

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