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Alexandria town officials under pressure to drop costly health insurance

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ALEXANDRIA BAY — Local taxpayers are pressuring the Alexandria town government to drop costly health insurance benefits for council members and a couple of retired town employees, including former Supervisor F. Sampie Sutton.

The Town Council appears to be split on the issue, with two members advocating for a change in town policy and the other two hoping to retain the program.

Ronald G. Thomson, owner of several businesses in Alexandria Bay including Uncle Sam Boat Tours, said he and other taxpayers estimate that the town government is spending more than $10,000 every year in salary and health benefits for each town board member, who they view as “part-time” workers.

“The yearly cost to the town of Alexandria per board members ranges from $11,800 to $26,500, depending on what health insurance plan they have,” Mr. Thomson said.

The town of Alexandria covers 90 percent of the cost of health insurance for council members.

He and other residents also are demanding that the town stop providing health and dental insurance for former supervisor Mr. Sutton and past town code enforcement officer Stanley J. Parker, a longtime friend and former employer of Mr. Sutton.

In 2001, the town board, under Mr. Sutton’s leadership, passed a resolution granting health and dental insurance for retired employees, elected officials and their families after 10 years of service.

This resolution was updated in 2009, raising the requirement to a minimum of 20 years of service, but the Town Council in 2011 passed another resolution exempting Mr. Sutton and Mr. Parker from the 2009 law.

“Ten years of service does not warrant lifetime health insurance,” Mr. Thomson said.

While town Supervisor Dale D. Hunneyman and Councilman Brent H. Sweet said they believe the town simply cannot afford to hang onto this costly program, Councilmen Douglas G. Williams and Alcid E. Beaudin Jr. said the town should continue to offer health insurance to board members.

The Town Council has only four members because the board decided not to fill a vacancy created when Councilman James R. Durand resigned in January.

“I see no problem giving health insurance,” Mr. Beaudin said. “But we may have to change the copay.”

Mr. Sweet said he does “not think it’s right” to continue to offer health insurance to board members at such a great expense.

“It might have worked in the past when insurance was still cheap, but not anymore,” Mr. Hunneyman said, adding that Alexandria’s fund balance is running low at approximately $300,000 and difficult cuts have to be made during the coming budget season.

The Town Council is next scheduled to meet July 10.

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