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Carbon County commissioners Lower insurance premiums benefit the county

Published December 09. 2011 05:01PM

Carbon County is continuing to save money on its workers' compensation insurance.

During the weekly meeting of the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board voted unanimously to approve the proposal from the Housing and Redevelopment Insurance Exchange (HARIE) for workers' compensation insurance for 2012. The total cost is $346,508, $50,226 less than 2011.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said that the lower premium is due to smart planning on the county's part.

In 2008, O'Gurek said, the county was paying $1,360,000 to the Pennsylvania Counties Workers' Compensation Trust (PComp), when officials decided to accept proposals from other insurance providers. The county received 13 proposals and interviewed five companies about their policies on claims handling, loss control, risk management and assessment and return to work policies.

On Dec. 12, 2008, the county voted to hire HARIE as its new workers' compensation insurance provider and paid $1,165,621 for 2009. Since then, the premium has continually dropped.

O'Gurek then outlined the decreased cost in claims that the county has had to pay out over the last six years as a result of making changes in the county offices, having a safety committee in place, and contracting with HARIE.

"In 2006, the county had $1,049,000 worth of payouts in claims for workers' compensation," he said. "In 2007, $574,000; in 2008, $482,000; in 2009, $401,000; in 2010, $230,000; and this year to date, our claims are only $102,000."

He also recognized the safety committee's efforts in addressing workplace safety. Getz chairs that committee.

"The safety committee did a great job," O'Gurek said. "This was a concerted effort by everybody to grab a hold of a runaway freight train of workers' compensation premiums, get our arms around it and wrestle it to the point that we're now in a much more comfortable position."

Having a safety committee in place allows Carbon County to save around $15,000 additionally each year on its premium.

Randall Smith, county administrator, said another reason for the reduced premium was due to the temporary return to work policy that was implemented. It allows employees to return to work on light duty and work in that capacity until they are ready to go back to their regular job.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein added that HARIE has also been a lot more aggressive than the county's previous workers' compensation insurance carriers in denying claims, as well as investigating and following up on claims.

"The company has made a big difference."

In other county matters, the board approved two quit claim deed actions in Nesquehoning.

O'Gurek explained that the first quit claim deed is an agreement of sale between the county and Elizabeth A. Lisella of Tamaqua for a .47-acre portion of land, owned by the county, on Mill Street. The purchase price is $12,000.

The land being sold also contains the Nesquehoning Lions Club building, which was built years ago after an agreement between the club and the county had been made.

O'Gurek added that the reason for the sale is due to the Nesquehoning Lions Club wanting to sell its building. Because the building was built on land owned by the county, the land also needed to be sold.

The county will also deed another portion of land in that same area along Mill and Ratcliff streets, to the borough of Nesquehoning.

O'Gurek said that this deed is because it was discovered that a portion of the road along Mill Street is actually owned by Carbon County. The cost for this deed is nothing.

The board also approved a change order for a street improvement project in Nesquehoning. The change order calls for an additional $27,912.55 in road resurfacing along portions of Ratcliff and School streets in the borough. The overall project will now cost $181,089.05.

O'Gurek explained that the county initially authorized $61,560 of Community Development Block Grant monies to Nesquehoning for the resurfacing of a portion of Mill Street. The remaining $119,529.05 is the responsibility of Nesquehoning, which is using liquid fuel monies as well as a loan.

In addition to the road resurfacing project, Nesquehoning is also installing new sewer lines and curbing to some streets.

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