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Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Celina security deposit increase advances

Council also takes action to reduce insurance premiums

By William Kincaid
CELINA - An ordinance to raise utility security deposits by 50 percent across the board, sailed on to a third reading on Monday night with no comments from either the public or city council members.
Also, city council members at their regular meeting passed a resolution to join a cooperative that mayor Jeff Hazel said would save the city thousands of dollars in reduced insurance premiums.
City council took up the utility security deposit issue at the request of some landlords who have been forced to pay their tenants' unpaid bills. Also, the city is owed $280,000 in delinquent utility bills, city safety service director Tom Hitchcock pointed out at a previous utilities commitee meeting.
Non-owner deposits for utility services are $120 for electricity, $40 for water and $40 for sewer. Deposits are used to cover non-payment for services. They have not been changed since at least 2004, according to councilman Mike Sovinski.
Hitchcock said the average monthly utility bill among renters is $270.
If the ordinance is approved on final reading, utility security deposits would increase to $180 for electricity, $60 for water and $60 for sewer.
No one from the public addressed council members about the legislation during the comment section of the meeting. The ordinance will move on to third and final reading at council's next regular meeting at 7 p.m. March 25 in council chambers on the second floor of the city administration building.  
Councilors on Monday also unanimously passed a resolution authorizing Hitchcock to enter into the Health Insurance Alliance Contracted Membership to the Metropolitan Educational Technology Association.
The resolution was passed after councilors suspended the rule requiring three public readings.
Membership costs $300 per year, Hazel noted, saying the proposal was discussed during a telephone conference among himself, auditor Betty Strawn and a META official.
"Ultimately if you look through that, it will be a savings on the city's premium by about 1 percent so it's going to be somewhere around $14,000, $15,000 a year," Hazel said. "So the $300 to be part of this cooperative allows us to get that discount."
Hazel later clarified that the savings would be captured by the city's employees through reduced premiums.
According to the agreement, META has established an alliance with the state on behalf of its members. The city's insurance provider, Medical Mutual, will provide a 1 percent premium reduction in billing to the city on behalf of the employees.
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