27 March 2016

[tpc] - Sunday Check-in: Talkin' City of Covington Insurance

The Chronicles
27 March '16

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As the Newton Citizen recently reported, the city of Covington's council meeting this past Monday did indeed cover other things than the geese at Ashton Hills (which, by the way, we might just be able to #savethegeese! Thank Goodness!).

For the first time in 12 years, the city has a new insurance broker/provider. Leading up to this meeting, the city had done something else for the first time in over a decade - they actually put it up for bid. A good thing, truly.

Here are the facts:

- the city has gone with a new provider, Ascension, who offered a flat rate of $95,000 and per staff and consultant recommendations offered the best in the way of services.

- the current provider, Gary Massey, who has been the insurance provider for the past 12 years, has been charging a 3.5% fee which, for the current year (2015/6), was a charge in excess of $150,000 per annum. Based on the information I've gathered, that's been the amount roughly for at least the last several years.

Now while it is true that Massey came in with a price of $78,000 with his bid for the upcoming year, there were concerns from some that perhaps the city had been paying too much for quite some time. Also, as previously mentioned, it seemed as if the range and scope of services would be better with Ascension.

In the aftermath of this vote, one city Councilman, Chris Smith, took to Facebook to call out half of the council and the Mayor:

"I can't express my disappointment in a council that continues to say they promote doing business local, and sent this out of town. Employees of the City call the three plus the Mayor that voted against your local voice when you have a problem. And was the lowest bid. Who's claiming to be conservative this morning?" 

For starters, this seems to be counterproductive to the city, but certainly it's Mr. Smith's right to air his opinions and mention his disappointment. What bothers me the most is that Smith, without probably realizing it, is basically telling staff - in this situation, the five city employees who served on the RFP committee to analyze this - that their findings are wrong and shouldn't count solely because Mr. Massey is local? And the conservative line? Well, I'd say going from almost $160,000 to $95,000 while getting more services seems to be pretty conservative to me.

There's been a lot of talk about this. The big thing sticking in the craw of many is why was the charge so much higher for the last several years. As one local told me - "what does it say when an agent cuts his fees 50%?" Perhaps the failure ultimately lies with the city for not having put it to bid sooner, although, as I understand it, there has been an effort to try to do just that the past few years but there was not the support on the council needed to make it happen. And that makes sense. Of the three council members who voted for it, two of them were not on the board until January of this year.

And as several have also said - if Ascension is not all that they're cracked up to be, then we put it up for bid again next year. At the very minimum, the city will be spending over $50,000 less than they did last year. That sounds like a win and a conservative action by the city of Covington Council & Mayor in this writer's opinion.