Pct. 2 Comm. Cole Hefner, who had the matter put on the court's meeting agenda, said it was just an attempt to see if commissioners "can get our health care plan within our budget." He said the mattter was discussed a year ago, and that the court had been overspending on health care because that expense had "not been budgeted properly."
Hefner said he wanted only the most minimal change, and that the court would be receiving proposals on a third-party administrator for the plan.
Before the vote, Mrs. Harris told commissioners she thought it was too late in the year to make a change, although "I don't have anything against (seeking proposals). . .It's just the timeline."
She later explained to The Mirror that she thought it was too close to the start of the county's new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, due to "all the processing" involved in a change. The court's vote to act now leaves inadequate time for both the legal process to seek bids, and for changing over the health plan, she added.
Mrs. Harris told the newspaper that the county must send out certain legal notices to get in bids, then sign up county workers in September to make any changes they desire in their health plan.
In addition, the County Treasurer told the court that she was being swamped with information on the new federal health care law, which the county must obey to avoid being fined, and that she still doesn't know what that will entail.
But she conceded Pct. 3 Comm. Frank Berka's point that insurance agents know more than she does, and Berka added the court cannot continue "kicking the can down the road" on insurance.
County Judge Dean Fowler said he wasn't opposed to receiving proposals, but without making a specific RFP (Request for Proposals) with specifications, he was "not sure what we're looking at."
However, Berka said "I don't think you get specific" in seeking a proposal. He urged the court be "generic."
Earlier, Berka had said, "We need recommendations. We need someone else's eyes on" the county's insurance program. Hefner said he believed that could benefit the court.
Added Pct. 4 Comm. Mike Spencer, "I don't know that we need any changes. (But) It never hurts to look."
The court set a deadline of 5 p.m. July 30 for receiving proposals. Fowler said the county's insurance consultant will meet with the court at its next regularly scheduled meeting July 15.
In other business Friday, the court approved advertising for proposals for computer software to replace the current 30-year-old material. Deadline for submitting proposals is 5 p.m. Aug. 14.
Pct. 1 Comm. Paula Gentry praised County Clerk Brandy Lee and Deputy Clerk Greg Dodson for an "awesome job" in helping prepare the package for receiving proposals. Hefner praised the clerks and Mrs. Gentry as well.
During a discussion of paying the county's bills, Mrs. Harris said the county had completely paid off a bank note earlier than scheduled, thus lowering the interest rate.
Hefner added that he'd had County Auditor Janice Tucker tabulate the bills for food for jail prisoners from March 1-June 26, and had found the county "spent roughly $22,000 less" on that than during the same period last year. The average number of prisoners was up or down 8-10 from the same period last year, he said.
The county in recent months began seeking bids on jail food.
The court also Friday approved spending $79.50 from the Justice of the Peace Technology Fund for repairing a scanner in Gladewater-based Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Rhonda Welch's office.
Commissioners also heard Hefner and Fowler report on progress on the ongoing renovation of the courthouse basement.