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Alexandria begins discussion about ending health care coverage for retired officials

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ALEXANDRIA BAY — The Alexandria Town Council faced strong opposition from former town officials as it began debate on a local law cutting their health care coverage.

Former town code enforcement officer Stanley J. Parker said keeping his plan was critical, because of his current cancer treatment, and his wife, Suzanne K.’s, back ailments.

“If something happens, it’ll ruin us,” he said.

The Parkers are two of the 11 former officials and family members covered by the town through a supreme plan with the New York Teamsters Council Health and Hospital Fund.

No decision was made Wednesday night about changing the plans, but both sides framed their sense of urgency.

The council started the discussion outlining the massive drops in its reserves over the past 10 years, spurring large-scale cuts.

“We’re trying to find ways to make this town government work,” Town Supervisor Dale D. Hunneyman said.

The cost of covering the 11 retirees was listed at $74,200, higher than an estimate given Tuesday, which missed certain costs.

Others on the plan are former Supervisor F. Sampie Sutton and former Councilman Douglas G. Williams and their spouses, former Town Clerk Ellen S. Peck, along with her husband and son, former Councilman Alcid E. Beaudin Jr. and former Highway Superintendent David H. Bain.

Councilman Ronald G. Thomson argued the town’s coverage was widely different between union and non-union retirees.

“You shouldn’t have to look in two drawers for them,” he said.

Among the complaints from the covered members in attendance was that they would fall to Medicare if the local law passed.

“We’re getting screwed,” Mr. Parker said.

Several town advisers told them there would be plans available to aid them.

“If the plan goes away, you have good options,” said Gary H. Zehr of ENV Insurance Agency, who has discussed plans with the town for about a year. “It’s about being educated on what you got.”

The decision was tabled Wednesday, with both sides appearing interested in negotiating cuts to plans rather than a full loss of coverage.

Mr. Bain expressed frustration with the town’s initial approach.

“The way to do it isn’t to cut people off at the knees,” he said after the meeting.

The coverage group members also voiced frustration at hearing about the planned cuts in an announcement about the public hearing, rather than directly.

“I didn’t like reading it,” said Mrs. Peck, who worked for the town for 36 years.

Mr. Parker, who complained of not receiving proper paperwork from the town, said he would consider legal action if the local law passes.

“They should honor what they’ve done,” he said.

Mr. Sutton and the Town Council passed a resolution in 2001 granting health insurance for retired employees, officials and their families after 10 years of service.

This requirement was upped to 20 years of service in 2009, but Mr. Sutton and Mr. Parker were exempted from that mandate in 2011.

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