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County Enacts Tobacco Free Policy For Work Force

Tobacco Is Restricted During Work Hours

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – Yalobusha supervisors implemented a tobacco ban for county employees while on the job in an effort to combat rising health insurance premiums for the new year.

    The new tobacco-free policy will save the county more than $13,000 annually, based on a $16 monthly reduction per employee. The county currently employees just over 70 full-time workers. The ban does not extend to personal time.

    Even with the tobacco-free policy,  the cost increased 7.5 percent for the monthly premium, jumping from $632.53 in 2009 to $680.51 per employee per month, starting in February.   The county pays the monthly health insurance premium for full-time employees as part of their employment package.

    “On the tobacco policy, we don’t have a choice,” District Three Supervisor M.H. “Butch” Surrette noted when the decision was made to implement a tobacco ban for employees while on the job during the “first Monday” meeting on Dec. 7. “I have got folks I have to explain that too… It is to their benefit in the long run,” Surrette added.

    Supervisors also tweaked the deductible with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Mississippi, increasing the amount to $7500. A supplement insurance policy from Jackson-based AmFirst Insurance Company is provided for each employee to make up in difference from the employee’s deductible, which is $500. The supplemental policy pays the first $7,000 of medical expenses and using the combination of the two policies in addition to the tobacco policy resulted in a five percent savings for the health insurance in the coming year..

    In a separate insurance matter, Yalobusha supervisors approved a renewal from Zurich for the county’s general liability policy that covers county-owned vehicles, county-owned property, general liability and law liability for the sheriff’s department.

    Tyler Wortham, the county’s agent of record, presented the renewal in the amount of $151,822.10 for 2010 during a recessed meeting held Monday.

    “We contacted three or four other companies, but when we looked at the coverage we felt this was the best coverage for the money,” Wortham told supervisors. “Our hopes were there would be no real increase and it is not,” Wortham added. The premium for the current year was just over $148,000, according to Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn. The increase came from adding several vehicles and one new building, the Carothers building, to the county’s liability policy.

    “You only have one outstanding claim in which the company  has set some reserves out for that,” Tyler explained, when looking at claims in 2009. Wortham was referencing a lawsuit filed by former Civil Defense Director Cecil Harrison against the county.

    “We have been lucky this year, we have had no real property claims and we’ve had no major physical damage claims on autos and such,” Wortham added.

    • Other business conducted at the Dec. 21 meeting included:

    • Approved a request from Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney to transfer $7,000 to the Circuit Court juror’s account.

    “We have got grand jury coming up and we feel like we are going to have a couple of trials,” Burney told supervisors.    

    • Heard a request from William Shelton regarding the use of the conference room at the Multi-purpose Building to distribute food for the Mississippi Food Network. Supervisors did not take any action on Shelton’s request, which was the free use of the conference on the second Monday each month. Board Attorney John Crow told Shelton that the county could not legally waive the rental fee for the Food Network for the use of the conference room. The fee for a non-profit organizion to use the room is $35 for half a day.    

     • Approved five applications to exceed the posted weight limit while logging including an application from Valley Timber on county roads 94, 95 and 436 in Districts One and Two; from Fly Timber on County Road 82 in District Five; from Trey Mullins on county roads 186 and 144 in District Five; from Jeremy Aron on county roads 158, 141, 139 and 430 in District Five; and from Timberland Harvesters on County Road 41 and County Road 44 in District Three.

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