Chesterton Tribune



BH hopes to save on 2014 insurance, hires agency to collect ambulance fees

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As the roll out of the controversial Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, unfolds, local governments are caught in the uncertainty over its mandates and implications.

At this monthís meeting, the Burns Harbor Town Council voted 5-0 for early renewal of its 2014 employee health-insurance plan to lock in a price now if itís possible to do so at a favorable rate.

The current policy runs through May, 2014 but town officials said with the possibility costs next year could jump 20 to 60 percent, renewing this December for the next 12 months will help avoid mid-year surprises.

In the interim, said council president Jim McGee, other options might present themselves to lessen what could be a big increase for the town to provide employees with health insurance.

Next year the town is hoping to reduce the money itís paying to help fund the Fire Departmentís new advance-life-support (ALS) ambulance service, which requires 24-hour paramedic staffing. The department also operates a less expensive basic-life-support (BLS) ambulance.

In July the department had a total 49 ALS and BLS runs; billing is lagging behind service so the council unanimously hired Pan Am Collections Inc. of Indianapolis upon clarification of contract language to recover unpaid billings. According to fire chief Bill Arney, the contract requires the town pay a $100 set-up fee, and PanAm will keep 31 percent of what it collects.

Town attorney Bob Welsh said ambulance collection rates are poor initially and the money that isnít paid within a reasonable amount of time is at high risk for eventual recovery.

Town Council member Jeff Freeze, who works in the health-care field, said his company uses Pan Am Collections but Welsh said that wouldnít disqualify Freeze from voting on the townís contract.

On another matter, four-year town resident Marcus Rogala shared his research into the history and importance of the Westport Community Club, which recently disbanded and donated its clubhouse and grounds to the town for community use. The building, built in 1954 five years after the Westport Homemakers organized, long hosted meetings of the townís Lions Club as well as Burns Harborís first elections and Town Council meetings.

Welsh said once the community clubís board of directors provides a resolution confirming its donation, the title transfer to the town can be recorded.

Rogala urged the council to preserve the community club as the heart of the community and a Burns Harbor landmark. He supported leasing the property for receational purposes, and the town preserving the building for Burns Harbor to reopen it.

During council reports, member Gene Weibl said he and Chesterton Pop Warner football league representatives have been looking into options that might allow the league to lease the Westport grounds for football games and the building as a permanent home, although thereís no hurry to reach a decision now, Weibl added.

He also said Save the Dunes is working on a management plan for the east branch of the Little Calumet River, which flows through Burns Harbor, and is looking for a resolution of support from the council for a Clean Water Act grant. Vote was unanimous in support.

In other business Wednesday:

* The council gave Cas Perez permission to paint one bus shelter in town in a school-bus theme; the council will pay up to $100 on paint for the pilot project. There are about 10 bus shelters in town, and Perez had submitted several possible design options.

* As Park Board president Rogala invited town residents to the annual town picnic at Lakeland Park on Sunday, Aug. 25 from 1 to 3 p.m. There will be food, entertainment and a dunk tank.

* The Town Council approved a $100 donation for the Party in the Park festival, which took place Saturday at Chestertonís Thomas Park.

* As building commissioner Arney reported that headway is being made on a required Boo Road connection between The Village and Harbor Trails subdivisions north of U.S. 20. Compaction tests are being conducted but barriers will be left up because the new roadís edges are not secure until final completion.

* Arney also said the Fire Department responded to 107 calls in July spending 85 hours and 27 minutes on-scene at emergency calls. Fifteen firefighters spent a total 106 man hours on duty and training last month. Calls included the 49 ambulance calls, 23 assists to other EMS units, one structure fire, eight vehicle accidents, three vehicle fires, one gas leak, two calls to Mittal Steel and 16 assists to other departments.

* Fire vehicles traveled 1,507 miles in July, said Arney, and 53 children attended this summerís popular Fire Camp educational programs.

* Town marshal Mike Heckman said Burns Harbor police responded to 627 incidents in July including six vehicle crashes (four property damage, two personal injury), and made 10 arrests, two of those felonies. Officers wrote 146 tickets and gave 223 verbal and written warnings.

* Street Department superintendent Randy Skalku said his men have been trimming back trees/brush to clear intersections for school buses, and that he will attend a road school this week to learn about new paving techniques.



Posted 8/19/2013