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City readies for coming ACA insurance changes

By Jonathan Pleasant
The Mountain City Town Council meeting was a relatively short and uncontroversial affair this month as city leaders handled a variety of small topics. Possibly the biggest decision of the night concerned adopting an early renewal for the town’s insurance plan. Mike Shoulders, who has worked on Mountain City’s insurance for several years was on hand to answer questions about the change, which is intended to help offset some of the new policies of the Affordable Care Act this January.
According to Shoulders, many of the larger companies are now offering an early renewal date which will fall at the end of 2013 and would lock in their customers current plans for at least the next year. Because of the many changes associated with the Affordable Care Act, the city is looking at a potential five percent increase, but by renewing on December first before the new requirements take effect, coverage could remain the same with only about half as much rise in rates.
Mountain City’s current renewal period takes place in July to better align with the fiscal year, but because of the benefits at least in the short term, the council voted unanimously to follow Shoulders’ recommendation.
The council also approved an initial deposit toward a recent 80/20 TDOT grant to replace two bridges. The funding will cover a complete renovation of bridges on Circle Drive and at the entrance to Johnson County High School. Additional funding from the school system will be added to this second project to help provide sidewalks and additional amenities, but the city will likely be forced to seek out debt service to come up with their full portion of the grant. Regardless, Mayor Lawrence Keeble pointed out that the construction cost would be far greater if the city had to go it alone.
Addressing construction projects, City Recorder Sheila Shaw provided information about a separate TDOT grant that the city could apply for to potentially install new sidewalks alongside Highway 67. A 95/5 grant, the city’s portion would be significantly smaller and the funding could be applied for through the First Tennessee Development District. While there are no guarantees that Mountain City will receive the money, Alderman Bob Morrison made a motion to allow Mayor Keeble and Recorder Shaw to proceed with the application. Alderman Kenny Icenhour seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
One other small grant was brought to light when Economic Development Coordinator Karla Prudhomme requested approval to purchase and place four more planters downtown with funds she had secured. The money would also go to spruce up already existing landscape at several locations including the corner of Church and Main Streets adjacent to Food Country. With no cost to the city the council approved Prudhomme’s request without issue.
Continuing her address, Shaw indicated as well that the FCC has finally approved the city’s requests to move the police department’s radio repeater to another location in an effort to increase service. With this last step the city can now purchase the necessary equipment and will hopefully soon have reliable radio capabilities at any location in town.
The council also took action concerning policies at the city pool. Formerly the pool was closed to the general public on Saturday and Sunday evenings to allow time for reserved pool parties, but after looking at the revenue and finances, Mayor Lawrence Keeble expressed his desire to reaffirm the facility’s position as a public pool by increasing the access of the general public. Pool parties will still be available on the weekends, but to accommodate users that may not be able to take advantage of the pool through the week there will also be time available for walk-ins. While reducing the number of time slots available to reserve parties could slightly diminish revenues, Keeble felt the decision would much better serve the needs of the community.
Other business included an update from Mayor Keeble concerning the progress on Doe Mountain and a request from Public Works Director Bob Eller for a budget amendment in the amount of $2,150 to replace a malfunctioning garage door. Alderman Bob Morrison made the last point of the evening, reminding the Council that next month’s meeting has been postponed until December 10th at the regular meeting time of 6:30.