LEWISBURG (WVDN) – Lewisburg City Council held a special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 26, to consider the city’s employee health insurance program renewal and some payments connected to the water plant upgrade project.
Chapman Technical Group engineer Greg Belcher spoke in response to change orders charged to the water project. City Manager Misty Hill stated that some older lines connecting into the plant itself have failed over the weather extremes and had to be addressed immediately.
The cost of these line replacements is appropriate due to the project goals; however, their installation had to be done out of order to the planned build, because the older pipes were disintegrating.
Belcher assured the Council that his company carefully considers and justifies the change orders so that they are acceptable to the federal funding agency through USDA. “There are usually change orders in a construction project. You were given estimates by the contractors, and they can be altered,” he said. “The amount for these change orders is not out of line. In fact, we hope to find savings in other parts of the project that will offset them.”
The change orders were primarily connected to the shortened timeline that was created in response to public outcry about the Greenbrier River Trail closure. One such change order is $120,000 for the construction of a parking lot at Hopper Road which was built to accommodate River Trail hikers who are now accessing the trail there.
Another change order, the repair to the lines at the water plant, cost $33,000. Hill explained this same contractor had done repairs and patches about six times since Dec. 25, 2021. The materials for these current repairs are compatible with the lines being installed in the upgrade.
In employee health insurance program business, Council discussed that a vote must be held prior to March 1 when the open enrollment begins. Insurance representative Bill Dyer was present to go over the changes to the plan and answer questions.
Council members expressed interest in what is called “spouse carve out,” which indicates if the spouse has insurance available through their employer, they cannot participate in a joint policy offered to the full-time city employees.
The decision to deny coverage to spouses was made by a previous city council, and the reason at that time was the liability amount for the city was too great, as the city has to bank the potential payout of claims that will be made against the insurance policy.
The claims have been much lower over the past few years however, and as a result, the savings account total for the city has been easily afforded and no longer requires much in annual deposit to maintain the total required funds.
The Council voted to table the renewal until research into the increased liability for spouse coverage can be judged by the insurer and an estimate for an expanded policy is available. The information should be provided before the next Council meeting.
Finally, the Council discussed the county building permit charges that had been billed on structural elements of the expansion of water service to the city. The pumps at the river will be contained in a building, and the permit cost from the county is $23,115.
Hill advised Council to put the charge in perspective — the structure itself will cost over $3 million, she said. City attorney Tom White recommended this building permit cost was acceptable.
White also recommended the Council accept the building permits for the public works building at $1,165.21 and the parking lot at Hopper Road for $734.67.
Again, Hill brought the perspective to the issue. She said, “The H&H (Hydraulics and Hydrology) reports required for these permits were drafted by Chapman Technical,” and she asked Belcher what the costs were for these H&H reports.
Belcher said for the parking lot, to show that it will not create additional flood waters to the adjacent river, the H&H study cost $5,000, and the study for the pump building was $9,000. These studies were required to get the permits, so the additional permit charges are actually tied to them.
The Council voted to approve payments of these three building permits to Greenbrier County.