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Employee deductibles are up, but Granite Quarry saves money on health care premiums

GRANITE QUARRY — The town will switch health care insurance providers and save close to $11,000 in the coming year.

The new plan with United Healthcare represents mixed news for employees. An individual’s deductible will increase, for example, from $1,000 to $2,000. But the maximum out-of-pocket expenses will be $4,000, not $5,000, for an individual and $8,000, not $10,000, for a family.

To help employees with the extra deductible costs, the town is putting $4,800, or $250 per enrolled employee, in a health reimbursement account.

Minus the $4,800 set aside for the HRA, the net savings for the town will be $6,134.

The Board of Aldermen voted 4-0 to go with United Healthcare on Monday night. The town’s previous plan was N.C. Aetna Gold 1000, and Deputy Clerk Scott Stewart told aldermen that Aetna had proposed a 20.5 percent increase in costs for the year starting Dec. 1.

In response, the town looked at 18 different health care insurance plans, and an employee committee reviewed seven of those proposals. The committee met twice before recommending the United Healthcare plan.

Instead of paying a premium of $609.80 per month per employee this year, the new premium will be $552.85 a month. Aetna had proposed going up to $734.97 a month.

The town pays the entire premium for the employee, who must cover certain costs on his or her own if they add spouses and children.

Mike Brinkley said he looked at the numbers earlier Monday. His biggest concerns were the increase in deductibles, and he also wanted to be sure employees had input in the recommendation.

Monday night’s meeting was the last before today’s municipal election in which incumbent Aldermen Brinkley and Arin Wilhelm seek re-election to four-year terms. They are challenged by Kim Cress, John Linker, Wes Rhinier and Doug Shelton.

Shelton spoke during the public comment period and said he appreciated the coaching and help he had received in his first run for public office. Shelton said a good group of people are running for town office and that “Granite Quarry can’t go wrong” with whoever is elected.

Mayor Bill Feather is running for re-election to a two-year term. He is unopposed on the official ballot, but there has been a write-in campaign waged for former Mayor Mary Ponds.

Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today.

In other business, aldermen approved sending a letter to Bret Baronak, community coordinator for the Carolina Thread Trail. It suggests that a multiuse path be incorporated as part of the design of a U.S. 52 bypass, which is now on the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan and slated for construction in 2027.

As such, it might qualify for “incidental funding” from the state.

According to the letter, the town favors a realigned Carolina Thread Trail route that would essentially follow the new bypass route for a distance, then turn toward town, go by the Old Stone House and pass through downtown, making links with the Centennial Trail and Granite Civic Park.

On the other end and opposite side of the proposed bypass, the trail also could connect to the county’s Dunn’s Mountain Park.

A segment of the current Carolina Thread Trail proposal extends along existing U.S. 52 through downtown Granite Quarry. It would follow sidewalks from the northern entrance of town, and there is no timeline for its completion.

“Please consider this letter a formal request to change the adopted Carolina Thread Trail route in this area to follow the Granite Quarry bypass connector in lieu of existing U.S. 52,” the town stated.

During public comments, resident Ed Shell asked the aldermen to delay sending the letter and wondered aloud what the urgency was. After today’s election, there could be new faces on the board, Shell said, so any action should be deferred.

Shell also cited other concerns.

“There’s no financial commitment,” Town Manager Phil Conrad told the board. “At this point, we’re in the planning stage.”

Brinkley said regardless of where the U.S. 52 bypass goes, the letter is saying consider Granite Quarry for a trail. “There’s nothing we’re committed to,” Feather said.

In another matter, Jason Smith, owner of the Hot Dog Shack and a member of the downtown merchants group, presented “Community First Awards” (plaques) to town Maintenance Director Jason Hord and Shelly Shockley of the town office.

Smith said over the past months, he had worked with the town staff, and Hord and Shockley had gone “well beyond their job description.”

Shockley helped the Merchants Association with the recent Family Fun Fest, which offered adults and children food, activities, live music, Halloween candy and hayrides. Hord steered 22 separate hayride runs during the day.

“It was an excellent event,” Feather said.

In other business Monday:

• Aldermen approved a request to the N.C. Department of Transportation for funding through its Transportation Alternatives Program to bring eight intersections into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

If funding is approved, the projects would not require any local match.

• Police Chief Mark Cook took a moment during the meeting to eulogize former Police Chief Clyde Adams, who died Oct. 29. Adams was Granite Quarry’s first police chief, taking the job on May 22, 1995, and holding it until his retirement June 1, 2010.

“We lost a very valuable member of our department,” Cook said. “… It was a very rough week last week.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.





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