Kenai employees may share in health savings

Posted: Wednesday, June 03, 2009

With the approval of the city council, Kenai city employees will each receive an extra $585 this year, representing a share of savings the city realized from changes in the employee health insurance plan.

This would be the second consecutive year for the payout, which resulted from significantly increasing the employees' deductible amount for health care claims. The city then self-insures, reimbursing employees for the increased deductible.

In a memo to City Manager Rick Koch, Finance Director Terry Eubank said the city realized a savings of more than $90,000 the first year and $99,000 this year.

The recommended extra payments will be up for council consideration at tonight's meeting. The payments would be made on or before Aug. 1, according to Koch.

"It is a recognition of the partnership between the city and the employees in trying to minimize health care costs," Koch said Tuesday.

Also on tonight's agenda are several items relating to proposed changes in the Limited Commercial zone land use table.

Two versions of Ordinance 2403-2009 are on the agenda as is Ordinance 2414-2009, all of which would amend the types of businesses allowed in the Limited Commercial zone.

In response to citizens' concerns about some businesses that would be permitted near neighboring residential zones, the city administration proposed an ordinance particularly defining businesses grouped under the "personal services" label.

Councilman Barry Eldridge introduced a substitute ordinance requiring certain personal-services businesses to obtain conditional use permits in order to be allowed in the zone.

The city administration also had objections to certain service businesses that might have an adverse impact in terms of water usage and vehicular traffic.

Now, Ordinance 2403-2009 substitute C is a compromise on the land use table in Limited Commercial, Koch said.

"If substitute C passes, 2414 becomes moot," he said.

The concerns arose during debate on whether to rezone 14 parcels along the north side of the Kenai Spur Highway across from Kenai Central High School to the relatively new Limited Commercial zone.

The rezone was passed by the council, but now faces a referendum vote of Kenai citizens later this year. The council is expected to decide tonight whether to schedule a special election on the referendum, which would repeal the rezone decision, or have the referendum be included on the regular municipal election ballot in October.

The special election could not be held less than two months after the referendum was certified by the city clerk May 27. The council must decide whether to wait until October, or schedule a special city election some time between July 27 and Oct. 6.

Koch said he was uncertain how much it would cost the city to conduct a special election. City Clerk Carol Freas said, "Since we haven't had a special election since 1994, I don't have those costs available anymore.

"If council decides they wish to hold a special election, then cost information will be calculated for either holding a special election in the regular format or a by-mail format ..." as outlined in Kenai Municipal Code 6.05.300.

Tonight's agenda also calls for consideration of setting a 10 mph speed limit for motorized vehicles on a section of north beach beneath the Toyon Way neighborhood in response to residents' complaints of noisy, all-terrain vehicle and pickup truck racing on the beach.

Koch said he would prefer the council not pass the ordinance, which is being introduced by Councilman Mike Boyle, but rather conduct work sessions on a more comprehensive plan for addressing the ATV issue.

"We already have a 10 mph limit in the (municipal) code when people are present," Koch said, adding that a speed limit for vehicles on one section of the beach would be impossible to enforce.

The council meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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