Town to examine health insurance for employees

Northborough – Despite a lengthy list of cost-cutting moves, Northborough’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2010 remains close to $400,000 too high. When the Board of Selectmen met Feb. 23, the budget discussion included a presentation by Town Treasurer/Collector Jun Hubbard-Ward and Ken Lombardi, an employee benefits specialist from EBS Foran, specifically health insurance for retirees.

    “The bottom line is the only way to close this budget gap is to engage all employees in dialog [about] changes in health insurance coverage,” Town Administrator John Coderre said.

    The main message delivered by Hubbard-Ward and Lombardi was the need for the town to adopt sections 18 and 18A of 32B of the Massachusetts General Laws. This would give a wider range of options for retirees that would in turn save the town and recipients money.

    According to Coderre, the move is being pushed by Gov. Deval Patrick.

    “The governor made clear [that] communities need to do things in line with state,” he said. “To be fiscally responsible, we have to address that. It would be irresponsible for this community and this board not to address that.”

    A more comprehensive presentation of  sections 18 and 18A is slated for Tuesday March 10.

    “We have an obligation to provide education to all these impacted retirees and explain what the impact will be,” Lombardi said.

    The change could help repair the current economic problem hitting Northborough.

    “We have a choice. We either revamp the health issuance we have in town, or we cut heads,” Selectman Jeff Amberson said. “That’s the reality of it.”

    In other issues, the selectmen heard from Town Planner Kathy Joubert and Planning Board Chair Rick Leif about the Zoning Bylaw Project. The proposed plan would rename different zoning areas in town along with adjusting building size requirements with the intention of promoting more residential opportunities and small business downtown and expanding larger businesses on the outskirts of the downtown area.

    “What we’re really focusing on is strengthening business attraction in town and promoting economic development in town,” Joubert said. 

    The duo has three informational meetings in place for the coming weeks in different areas of town to go into greater detail about the project. Residents within these districts will receive a notice in the mail about the locations for the presentations. The group also plans to film a panel discussion for the end of March.

    Members of the Board of Selectmen believe the meetings will benefit the town.

    “[The information] is so overwhelmingly dense – what is going to put forward – and so compressive and so needed,” Selectman Fran Bakstran said. “Everyone out there should take time to go to one of these events and educate yourself with it.”

    The board unanimously voted to approve the purchase of property at 481 Howard St. to preserve the open space. Open Space Committee Chair John Campbell called it a positive move for the town.

    “We’ll be able to expand recreational opportunities,” he said.

     The selectmen agreed.

    “You couldn’t pick a better piece of land,” Amberson said.



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