Board discusses fire dept. changes
Details on efforts to make all fire department personnel employees of the Glen Lake Fire Department were discussed this week by the Glen Arbor Township Board.
Supervisor John Soderholm updated board members Tuesday night on activities related to the discontinuation of service from NorthFlight, a subsidiary of Munson Healthcare. The Glen Lake Fire Department will become a stand alone department covering Glen Arbor and Empire Township.
In April township officials received notification from NorthFlight that it wanted to end its 12-year arrangement with Glen Arbor in which emergency medical staff were employed by the agency. These persons were also township firefighters.
“There were some concerns associated with these people also being employed as firefighters,” Soderholm said. “It’s not something that’s compatible with their mission of health care.”
The contract allowed either party to terminate the arrangement with 90 days notice.
Soderholm established a committee to ease the transition and the board authorized up to $6,000 in expenses to work with consultants Liz Sayre- King and Rex Rudolf. Requests for proposals were sought for insurance and payroll services with five vendors responding to each.
In June the township selected Burnham & Flowers of Kalamazoo and Traverse Tax and Accounting (TTA) to provide insurance and payroll services.
“The official extension for the transition is now Sept. 1, 2012. Our payroll will begin Sept. 2,” Soderholm said.
He explained the subcommittee has been working with Burnham & Flowers in efforts to replicate the benefit package offered by NorthFlight.
Tuesday night the board acted on his recommendation and selected Blue Cross/Blue Shield PPO 3A, which Soderholm said is not only comparable to that of NorthFlight but in some instances better.
Board members also acted on the committee’s recommendation to offer department employees a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) through which they can designate “pre tax” moneys for insurance co-pays or prescription costs. Each department employee will be given $250 to be put in the FSA with the opportunity to contribute on their own.
Cost of processing the payroll was estimated at $1,880 per payroll for a three-year period. However, Soderholm said Tuesday that TTA could take over all township payroll for an additional $40 each pay period. This will be done beginning Sept. 2 with department and township employee compensation going electronically into bank accounts rather than using paper checks.
A mock payroll will be completed by TTA before the formal transition Sept. 2.
The committee, which includes Soderholm, treasurer Terry Gretzema, fire chief John Dodson, Roy Pentilla and John Kenney, is scheduled to meet this morning to further discuss a retirement plan that will allow participants to continue with the same family of funds (ING) but with a new IRS qualifi ed plan.
In related business during the 90-minute meeting the board:
• Learned that the township treasurer and supervisor had refinanced construction bonds for the public safety building and the remaining balance on department fire trucks. The action is expected to save the department $220,000 in interest over the bond repayment period and $65,000 in interest on the truck financing, Gretzema said.
• Approved the purchase of 14 new state “narrow band” radios for the fire department at a cost of $65,000.