City, county show signs of cooperation

Published 6:00 pm Friday, September 18, 2015

Gov Fronts

The City of Bainbridge and Decatur County are searching for ways to cut healthcare costs, ultimately reducing taxes for residents.

In the aftermath of court-mandated mediation last March, Decatur County and the City of Bainbridge are trying to work together, hoping to benefit the residents of the city and county equally.

At Tuesday’s Bainbridge City Council meeting, City Manager Chris Hobby said that he and Decatur County Administrator Alan Thomas were talking about how to collectively lower healthcare costs, much of which will land on the plate of the city’s newly created Human Resources Manager.

“Alan and I have been talking about how we can cooperate with that position,” Hobby said Tuesday evening. “One thing the Affordable Care Act allows you to do is create [captives] for health insurance purposes, so we can actually potentially — and there are some legal issues that have to be explored here — combine our workforces under a [captive] and have a 400-employee pool rather than two separate pools and get our rates better.”

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Hobby said that the pair would work out a plan over the next few months before submitting it to the City Council and Decatur County Commission for applicable approval, and that they are still in the early stages of doing so.

The goal, Thomas said, is to combat rising healthcare costs without diminishing city and county employee benefits.

“We think that if we can do it combined, it will be to the benefit of our employees and ultimately the citizens of Bainbridge and Decatur County,” Thomas said. “There’s no reason to not try to use a combination of services.”

Hobby said this will be the first of many things the city and county will try to work together on. He then wants the HR Manager to compare city and county functions to see where they cross over and can be consolidated.

“It won’t be a full consolidation, but we’re thinking of consolidating some services,” Hobby said. “It’s a very refreshing atmosphere, and we’re trying to work together.”

Hobby said that working with Thomas has made the process possible.

“He wants to do what’s best for all taxpayers with the realization that the city taxpayers are also county taxpayers,” Hobby said.

“I have always been able to work with Chris Hobby, and I believe that it will benefit the residents of Decatur County and Bainbridge. We keep that in mind every step of the way,” Thomas said. “I don’t know what the end result will be, but we have opened the line of discussion.”