MINUTES
COUNCIL OF COLUMBUS, GEORGIA
SPECIAL CALLED MEETING
JANUARY 21, 2014

The meeting of the Council of Columbus, Georgia was called to order at 5:32 P.M., Tuesday, January 21, 2014, on the 2nd Floor of the Citizens Service Center, located at 3111 Citizens Way, Columbus, Georgia. Honorable Teresa Pike Tomlinson, Mayor, presiding.

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PRESENT: Present other than Mayor Tomlinson and Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Turner Pugh were Councilors R. Gary Allen, Mike Baker, Jerry Barnes, Glenn Davis, Bruce Huff, Judy W. Thomas, and Evelyn Woodson. City Manager Isaiah Hugley, City Attorney Clifton Fay, Clerk of Council Tiny B. Washington, Deputy Clerk of Council Sandra Davis and Administrative Secretary Lindsey Glisson were also present. Councilor Evelyn Woodson took her seat at the Council table at 5:40 p.m.
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ABSENT: Councilor Charles E. McDaniel, Jr., was absent.

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INVOCATION: Reverend Charles R. Hasty, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church.
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PLEDGE: Led by children with the Parks and Recreation, After School Program.

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Mayor Tomlinson made the following announcements to Council and the Public:

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Councilor Barnes took a moment of personal privilege to say, The Dream Lives festivities that were held on this past weekend was a great success. He wanted to personally thank all participates and citizens that came to show their support despite the cold weather. Also, he thanked Mr. Morris Dees for his powerful presentation.

He also spoke on the other event that took place that weekend, the Stop the Violence rally. Stopping the violence in the community is a crucial issue and weighs heavily on the citizens of the community. All the presentations given were extremely powerful. He thanked all the citizens who participated and personally thanked Ms. Wanda Early for her giving and selfless nature toward her community. She was responsible for organizing numerous Community Events at the Fluellen Recreation Center with the support of local businesses which she herself sought after also, to include funds she paid out of her own pocket to fund these events.

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SPECIAL CALL COUNCIL MEETING’S AGENDA:

City Manager Isaiah Hugley began the session by stating this was the second of three meetings devoted to Columbus Consolidated Government healthcare discussions. The following dates are all the scheduled meeting dates for these discussions:
On February 11, 2014, during the business meeting there will be a proposal listed on the City Manager’s agenda for Council’s consideration.

At this meeting the Council will follow the same agenda as the first meeting where Finance Director Pam Hodge will provide a fifteen minute overview, Department Heads/ Elected Officials will provide a presentation as to the impact of their respected Departments and Council will hear feedback from CCG employees who wish to be heard on the topic.

City Manager Hugley addressed referrals/ questions asked at the last discussion meeting for Human Resources Director, Reather Hollowell. Director Hollowell provided a handout with the responses for the questions Council had and is also available for any further inquiries. Councilor Woodson asked for a larger printout of the costs associated with the 2014 proposed healthcare changes to be available at the meeting for the employees present. These boards were provided by the City Manager’s office and set up at the back of the Council Chambers to be made assessable for employees to view during the discussions. Copies of these changes were also made available for employees to take to share with their co-workers, spouses and dependants if they desire to do so.

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Councilor Gary Allen made a referral on discussions and concern of citizens of the Midland area on an overlay of the expressway from Highway 80/ Beaver Run Road to Harris County. He officially requested that the Planning Department begin developing a report for the resolution of this issue and report back to Council. This request was accepted by the City Manager.
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Finance Director Pam Hodge’s Presentation:

Ms. Pam Hodge, Finance Director, came forward to give her presentation on the current financial standings of the CCG budget. The following information was provided by Director Hodge to Council during her presentation:
The average property tax from FY03 to FY09 was 4.6% and from FY10 to FY14 is about 1.7%. The growth in the digest has grown but the property tax rate is steadily declining. 25% of the revenues within the City’s budget are property taxes.

LOCAL OPTION SALES TAX ANDOTHER LOCAL OPTION *Partial years annualized

Another major revenue source comes from the Local Option Sales Tax. Though it grew through 2012, a decline has been seen through 2014.
FY05: Revenues = about $122,000
Expenditures = about $120,000

FY06: Revenues = about $130,000
Expenditures = about $125,000

FY07: Revenues = about $142,000
Expenditures = about $132,000

FY08: Revenues = about $142,000
Expenditures = about $149,000

FY09: Revenues = about $142,000
Expenditures = about $149,000

FY10: Revenues = about $142,000
Expenditures = about $143,000

FY11: Revenues = about $148,000
Expenditures = about $150,000

FY12: Revenues = about $148,000
Expenditures = about $150,000

FY13: Revenues = about $152,000
Expenditures = about $155,000

FY14: Revenues = about $142,000
Expenditures = about $150,000

*Since FY08 Expenditures Exceed Revenues.

Though some of the expenditures were conscious decisions made during the budget process, Reserves can no longer be depleted any further.
Fund Balance as Days of Operating Expenditures

2007: General Fund = about 130 days
OLOST = N/A
Goal = 90 days
Minimum = 60 days

2008: General Fund = about 100 days
OLOST = N/A
Goal = 90 days
Minimum = 60 days

2009: General Fund = about 95 days
OLOST = N/A
Goal = 90 days
Minimum = 60 days

2010: General Fund = about 90 days
OLOST = N/A
Goal = 90 days
Minimum = 60 days

2011: General Fund = about 80 days
OLOST = N/A
Goal = 90 days
Minimum = 60 days
2012: General Fund = about 75 days
OLOST = about 5 days
Goal = 90 days
Minimum = 60 days

2013: General Fund = about 60 days
OLOST = about 10 days
Goal = 90 days
Minimum = 60 days

2014: General Fund = about 50 days
OLOST = about 15 days
Goal = 90 days
Minimum = 60 days

*2014 Undesignated Fund Balance is unaudited.

Starting in 2010, the City began going below their goal of Reserve days. Starting in 2012, the City began including the Local Option Sales Tax in with the Reserve days. This particular chart represents the only the funds that have not been designated for a particular purpose.

Mayor Tomlinson made comments on the Local Option Sales Tax being rolled into the Fund Balance, and that it has been suggested that this decision was somehow done in an un-toured way to inflate the Fund Balance and keep the City above 60 days. As she recalls, in 2011 they had depleted or almost depleted the OLOST money with making good on the promises that were made about Officers and others that were going to get stipends and hired.

She said in the year of 2012, this was the first year that the city had any quantifiable reserve in the OLOST. Instead of spending money because there was money, the city created a reserve for things that may be needed in the future. Mayor Tomlinson asks Director Hodge to explain further so that this cannot be misrepresented or misconstrued in any way.
Director Pam Hodge stated that the Mayor is correct. She said starting in 2009 any collections was either used for a particular purpose during that budget cycle or was set aside in a reserve for the Rollback Requirements that occurred in 2011. In 2009 through 2011 any funding that was available in the OLOST fund was reserved for the Rollback. In 2012 the undesignated reserve was created and not everything that was expected to be collected in that particular fiscal year was budgeted for expenditure.

Mayor Tomlinson stated that the undesignated reserve was a segregated reserve for purposes of the City’s internal purposes, just as the OLOST collections and expenditures are segregated for financial purposes. It was a reserve of excess monies not expended.

Director Hodges responded by saying that the Local Option Sales Tax has two funds. One being for Public Safety, which adds up to 70%; and the other 30%
being for infrastructure. These funds are maintained separately and were only combined for financial reporting purposes. Anything that was for that particular fund stays there and is not transferred to any other funds.
6. CONFUSION OVER FUNDS
The City’s budget has over 50 different funds which are accounted for and reported separately. Each fund is legally required to be used for a particular purpose and cannot be comingled with any other funds.
7. FY15 PRELIMINARY GENERAL FUND PROJECTIONS
Revenues $146.2 M
Expenditures $152.7 M
Deficit ($6.5 M)*

* Roughly 20 jobs per million


8. STEPS BEING TAKEN TO AVOID JOBS OR SERVICE/ PROGRAMS
IMPACT_______________________________________________________

Ms. Hodge said there are programs and operations that are being evaluated by departments, employees and management to avoid any job loss in the future. Some of the money saving points that is being evaluated: services that may be no longer valid that could be eliminated, are there services that could be outsourced more efficiently. The items listed on the slides have already been implemented such as the Worker’s Compensation reform which is expected to have a savings of $200,000 in administrative cost.

Councilor Huff asked how many years the city has been in the present percentage of shared healthcare cost with employees. Director Hodge replied that the present percentages were approved in 2012, making this the second year phase in.

9. PAY INCREASES

Director Hodge said the pension offset was part of the pension reform to ensure that pension benefits to all city employees can be sustained into the future.

10. FY14 HEALTH INSURANCE FUND YEAR TO DATE ACTUALS
(THRU DEC 31, 2013) _

Ms. Hodge said during the last meeting this particular slide showed the financial standing through November with a fund deficit of $1,285,000. Through December that deficit has increased to $1,626,495.
11. IMPACT OF PROPOSED HEALTHCARE CHANGES FOR ACTIVE
EMPLOYEES__________________________________________________
HMO Plan
POS/PPO Plan
Health & Wellness Center

12. IMPACT OF PROSED HEALTHCARE CHANGES PRE-65 RETIREES
HMO Plan
POS/PPO Plan
Health & Wellness Center
13. 2/3 of employees will see either a savings, no change, or less than
$1.50 impact to their bi-weekly pay check for their premiums.
This information is in addition to any changes in employees’ deductibles and co- pays. Most employees will not see much of an impact, if not a savings on their bi-weekly paychecks.
14. IMPACT OF DEFICIT
These budget cuts are substantial to departments and the services they provide.
Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh asked Director Hodge if her department was able to calculate CCG’s fee to Blue Cross Blue Shield. Director Hodge informed her that they had not yet but will supply that information to Council.

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DEPARTMENT HEADS/ ELECTED OFFICIALS’ PRESENTATIONS:

District Attorney Julia Slater:
District Attorney Slater begins her presentation by saying there are some things that Council needs to know while making these decisions. Specifically to the impacts to the District Attorney’s Office Budget which is 96% personnel.

She said last year her office, in an effort to save money in their budget, looked into their operating budget and it was reduced to the minimum. Some of the cuts the office made were the research resources for the attorneys, books and bar membership fees. District Attorney Slater expresses that they have cut all that they can and still be able to function. Therefore, the only thing left is personnel.

She said the truth of the matter is they need more personnel. She has spoken to Council many times about this. It was presented last year that they had hoped for a fast track system to reduce the length of stay for those who are in the Muscogee County Jail. It was a plan that came together with Superior Court Judges, District Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Public Defender in hopes to reduce jail stay times and eventually save money. The downside to this system would be that they would need more staffing to make this possible.

District Attorney Slater said the Legislature has passed a new Juvenile Code and said this has significantly increased the responsibilities of the Office of the District Attorney without any funding from the State to make this possible. With this new code, the Assistant District Attorneys that were serving Juvenile Court were going twice a week and now are required to go six times a week to cover hearings. It is said that District Attorney as well has Juvenile Court Judges will be requesting a person in the future to cover these hearings now that the Juvenile Justice Code has been passed.

She said that she cannot eliminate any of the positions in her office and still be able to protect the citizens the way they deserved to be protected or continue to fulfill her constitutional responsibilities.
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EMPLOYEE FEEDBACK:

Brian Giffin, Columbus Civic Center:
Mr. Giffin states that he has been employed with the City for 20 years, 15 years with Parks and Recreation and the last 5 with the Civic Center. There is a network of employees that have been discussing the proposed healthcare changes.

He said most of the confusion lies in the out-of-pocket expenses the employees will incur when they visit their physicians, go to emergency rooms and their deductibles. These employees would like to see the changes in benefits in past and current years to see how they have changed. Examples: x-rays, certain procedures that are not covered under our insurance programs now. He said they would like to know when this occurred and why weren’t they informed.

Mr. Giffin spoke on the FOP recommendations and how there were many good points but ultimately it’s Council’s decision. He said that so many suggestions have been brought to Council on ways to increase revenues but were rejected by Council. Example being the admission price for community pools was suggested to be raised to $5 per person, but Council elected for it to be brought down to $3 per person.

Another concern of the network of employees’ is the pension plan. Mr. Giffin states in order for him to go to receive his complete pension he has to go to the natural retirement age of 65. At that point, he will have 38 years of employment with the City Government. The benefits of the pension end at 30 years. He asked if the 4% that he will be paying in his last 8 years of employment, is going to go to who since it will not be benefitting him.

Councilor Woodson asked Finance Director Hodge and Human Resources Director Hollowell to answer Mr. Giffin’s questions on the changes in co-pays over the years. Director Hodge said that the information that has been provided only shows 2013 and 2014 but that he was asking about prior years. Councilor Woodson asked for her to get that information to Mr. Giffin.

City Manager Hugley suggests that the network of employees that Mr. Giffin is representing have a meeting with Finance Director Hodge and Human Resources Director Hollowell to directly address any questions they may have.

Councilor Woodson said that she was under the impression that none of the coverage that our insurance plans offer were to change. Director Hollowell responded by saying that none of the coverage has changed.

Councilor Woodson asked the staff to answer Mr. Giffin’s concern on paying into the pension fund for the last years of his employment with CCG until he reaches his natural retirement age. Director Hodge comes forward to say 30 years is the maximum that the pension plan pays out. Any increase in salary that last 8 years also increases his benefit. Your calculation of your pension benefit is number of years of service and your highest 60 consecutive months of your last 120 months. Any salary increase in those last 8 years would increase his pension benefit.

Councilor Woodson then spoke on the recommendations from the Fraternal Order of Police. She said that many of the recommendations are great but will cost money and she is looking forward to the discussion on those recommendations. One in particular, moving a department that is a one man show to another department so that person will not only be responsible for their programs but also programs of this department that it was recommended to be moved to. It would not be possible for this person to take on all those programs especially being so community oriented. She believes that there are some that would be feasible without little or no problems but that it is something that Council will have to look further into. Then there were others that would end up benefitting one department but hurting another.

Councilor Henderson reiterates the only changes that are going to take place in the benefit structure of the plans themselves are the out of pocket deductibles and co-pays. There are absolutely no changes on the coverage or services that our current insurance plans offer. He asked about Dental and Vision plans though they are voluntary and does not affect the city’s budget, it does affect employees’ paychecks. Director Hollowell came forward to say that there is no change for those plans. She did say that the Vision insurance did decrease slightly and the Dental did slightly increase. But there was no change in coverage and services. Councilor Henderson asked for a copy of the changes in these voluntary plans.

Councilor Thomas said to Mr. Giffin and all employees that if they attempt to access any medical services and are denied, do not hesitate to contact the Human Resources Department to insure that you are being told the correct information on the services that your insurance plan covers.

Councilor Davis states that he has had numerous discussions with representatives of other counties who have had to deal with matters that our city has been confronted with. His thought of the Health and Wellness Center was, the more employees you get to participate, the more money that would be saved on healthcare expenses. He has learned that other cities have opened their healthcare centers to all their employees and he is wondering why CCG would not allow any and all employees, regardless of the insurance plans they chose to participate in, utilize the Health and Wellness Center.

City Manager Hugley responded by saying, that most cities that do this are not self-funded as CCG is, and in some cases these cities do not give their employees any other choice other than to utilize their healthcare centers. The larger concern in comparison is that he does not know of many other self-funded governments. They are smaller, whereas Columbus is one of the larger entities because it is consolidated and has around 3,000 employees.

Councilor Davis said that it is his understanding that being self-funded allows you to have more options and flexibility. If the purpose is to have more employees participate in the Health and Wellness Center he asks why the administration would not make the Center open to all employees no matter which insurance plan they chose to enroll in. Councilor Davis then made a referral for the administration to see if this is a possible option.

City Manager Hugley says that the City does do this to a sense. That if an employee is enrolled in the Health and Wellness Center where there is no co-pay or deductable, but you are able to still go to your private physician where there is a co-pay and deductable. He stated that he is enrolled in the Health and Wellness Center and he is able to go see any physician he chooses but there is co-pay associated with those visits outside of the Center. In essence it is described as being the best of both worlds.

Mayor Tomlinson states that CCG does encourage as much participation as possible for the Health and Wellness Center and that option is open to all employees. The reason CCG did not make it mandatory is because many employees preferred to keep their own physicians and own insurance plans. She believes that it would help Council better understand if the entities Councilor Davis spoke with if their clinic were mandatory or not and if their co-use is similar to what is available at the Health and Wellness Center.

Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh said that she and Councilor Baker spoke with Human Resource Director Reather Hollowell before the meeting began and that was one of the points they spoke about. Specifically, that there are some cities that have clinics and allow their employees to utilize these facilities regardless of the insurance plan that they are participants of. Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh reissues the referral originally made by Councilor Davis to Director Hollowell. She also says the questions asked by Brian Griffin could be submitted to either Human Resources or the City Manager’s office to get a response in writing and for this response to be copied to the members of Council.
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Kevin Wells, Public Works, Solid Waste Collection:
Mr. Wells stated that he has met with other employees within his department and they have a concern that the main point they continue to hear is the $1.50 increase to premiums and that some employees’ premiums will be increasing by almost $65. There is nothing being said about the increase in the deductible and other out of pocket expenses that will occur.

He said employees are hoping that Council will somehow compromise on the expenses so that their out of pocket expenses are not quite as much. Mr. Wells refers to the memorandum that he sent to Council which listed some options that the employees had proposed as a compromise with the expenses. Employees understand that the budget is getting tight but they also do not want to continue having money taken out of their pockets. But if CCG can come to a compromise then it would help not only the budget but also the employees.

The next issue that Mr. Wells addresses is the Retirement Plan. He states that he continues to hear about it but can not seem to get any information as to the specifics. He has questions as to the fact that overtime and holiday pay not being counted in the Retirement fund but that employees are being charged 4% to 8% to go toward the retirement fund then why is it not being counted toward it. Employees feel that it should not be taken out if it is not going to reflect on their retirement. The retirement fund was supposed to save the city money but he is not sure where those funds are going.

Mayor Tomlinson told Mr. Wells that Finance Director Pam Hodge will address the questions he has concerning the retirement plan. But she asks which insurance plan premium will increase by $60 a paycheck.

Mr. Wells is referring to the latest chart that he printed with the proposed premium increases. Director Hodge looked at the chart he is referring to and said it is reflecting the monthly increases instead of the bi-weekly.

Director Hodge said that the specifics regarding the retirement fund and overtime or holiday pay has not been discussed as of yet. But, she would expect that anything that your pension is not calculated on is not subject to that 4 or 8%.

Mr. Wells stated that as of right now it is part of the 4% that is taken out of their paychecks. Mayor Tomlinson says that is because it is included right now. Mr. Wells said that it would be nice for employees to see something in black and white to understand what changes are being proposed to their pension.

Councilor Henderson thanked Mr. Wells for coming before Council and the compromises that he proposed. He asked Mr. Wells since he has spoken with other employees in his department if they have given reasons as to why they chose not to enroll in the Health and Wellness Center.

Mr. Wells said that there are some employees that participate in the clinic but that there are some that chose not to. He uses his opinion for an example, the clinic is getting better as far as the operations; but, the physicians that they had in the past, he did not agree with the way they were handling things. Another example being one of his co-workers visited the clinic to have a physical done and it cost that person $50 more because the physician at the time refused to administer a physical. That particular employee was refunded his money after that situation was addressed.

Another concern being that the physicians at the clinic are not able to order any medication or procedures if a patient is admitted to the hospital. Mr. Wells stated that he is not comfortable will the fact that his doctor would not be able to order any tests if he is in the hospital.

Councilor Henderson responded by saying that it varies from doctor to doctor. Even if you go into a physicians office and pay your co-pay, that basically covers what takes place in that particular office. If you were to need a x-ray, if labs were no longer done on site and were sent off to an independent lab or if you required further diagnostic undertaking, that would be part of your deductable where you would pay 90% until you had reached your out of pocket maximum. He appreciates Mr. Wells sharing his options so that it can better assist CCG in getting the Health and Wellness Center to where it is not just a viable options but a preferred option.

Mr. Wells stated that he has a concern that if he were to be involved in an accident and was unable to speak, that the hospital would not be able to access his medical records if he utilized the Health and Wellness Center. Councilor Henderson says that he would be very surprised if the hospital would not be able to access medical histories whether they are enrolled in the clinic or not.

After that discussion, Councilor Thomas thanked Mr. Wells for his interest in these issues and giving Council the information that they need. She stated that Council has not had a discussion on any further changes to the employees’ pension plan. Therefore, the talk amongst employees that Mr. Wells has been hearing is merely rumors since it has not been discussed.

There was a comment that Mr. Wells made that Councilor Thomas felt needed to be repeated and emphasized. After using the figures from the proposed insurance premium increases and decreases, the city is to see $138,000 to $150,000. After seeing the very small amount that premium change was going to generate, she no longer wanted to hear about the $1.50 increase to premiums and wanted to discuss the $1.6 million that will be coming straight out of the employees’ pockets through co-pays and deductibles. She believes that this is a very legitimate concern and is what is driving her to take a closer look at what is being proposed to Council.

Councilor Huff asks Mr. Wells to discuss with his co-workers what increase in co-pays and deductibles that they feel as if they could manage. He asked that Mr. Wells get back with him on the discussion.
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Richard Hillsinger, Public Works, Right-of-Way Maintenance:
Mr. Hillsinger starts out by saying that he has been a correction officer for 14 years. The first question that Mr. Hillsinger asked was how much does the city pay for each individual employee for health insurance? The reason being, he is one of the employees that do not have insurance through the city. He wanted to know if CCG paid for every employee or just the employees that are enrolled in the insurance plans the city offers.

Mayor Tomlinson answered by saying that the city receives bills throughout the year that they literally write checks for. The total amount is about $24,000,000. She does believe that CCG assesses it by how many employees we have for budgeting purposes. But she is not sure if they save money just because some employees opted out. The Mayor asked Director Hodge to further explain what it means to be self-funded.

Director Hodge stated that to be self-funded means that Blue Cross Blue Shield process all the insurance claims for the employer. Then the employer pays what the insurance company has transmitted to the physician. In other words if an employee is not enrolled in the insurance provided by CCG, then they are not paying anything for that employee.
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Eric Gansauer, Public Works, Landscape & Forestry:
Mr. Gansauer starts off my referring to the number of participates in the Health and Wellness Center as looking anemic. As being a participant himself, he asked if the clinic is a sinking boat.

Mayor Tomlinson says that Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh wanted to ask if he was satisfied with the Health and Wellness Center. She believes at first they did have a lot of misinformation and scary stories. She asked what Mr. Gansauer’s personal experience has been.

Mr. Gansauer said that the jury is still out as far as he is concerned. He said that he has seen during a recent visit with Dr. Woods that it is improving. The main problem that he is having personally is communication between the clinic and the Specialists that he and his wife use. He adds that he has been very disappointed with Express Scripts.

Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh asked what kind of problems he is having concerning his specialists.

He said his main concern involves the communication on prescriptions that he is being prescribed by his Specialists that are carried but not available through the Health and Wellness Center when not directly prescribed by one of their physicians. Reason being, they are not a licensed pharmacy.

City Manager Hugley responds to a referral made by Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh on this concern. He begins by saying that it was his understanding that if you are referred to a Specialist and they prescribe a medication, you must fill that prescription at a pharmacy. Director Hollowell agreed with City Manager Hugley and further explains that the only medications that will be dispensed at the clinic are ones that are prescribed by their physicians.
Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh asked Director Hollowell to address this problem, let Council and other employees know so there is no further misconceptions. City Manager Hugley encourages employees to contact Human Resources with any concerns or questions they may have. Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh says that she wants to ensure that employees know that their issues are being addressed and not just listened to.

Councilor Henderson said he finds it disturbing and hard to believe that they have never had this issue come up before, unless this is the first clinic they have ever done. The fact that CCG was not proactive on informing employees on the specifics concerns him. He believes that in the future Council should revisit the administration of the clinic and discuss some of the misinformation that has come up during this process.

Councilor Barnes said that when you sign up for the Health and Wellness Center that your primary care physician should contact any specialists you see for your conditions. At that point it is professional courtesy to allow that patient to fulfill their ongoing prescriptions at the clinic.

There is further discussion between City Manager Hugley, Councilor Davis, Councilor Huff and Councilor Thomas on the contract, number of participants and financial standings of the Health and Wellness Center. After this discussion it was decided to delay the renewal of the clinic’s contract until April after the one year mark so that the performance and savings of the center can be evaluated.

Mr. Gansauer then continued his presentation by saying the Director of Public Works, Pat Biegler, asked the employees to come up with innovative ways to save money within their department to propose to Council. It was said that not only do we have to find ways to cut the budget but also there needs to be ways to increase it. He believes that the city could generate money by charging fees to companies that put up signs and billboards because ultimately they are cutting down property of Columbus to make room for there advertisement.
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Councilor Thomas then takes a moment of personal privilege to say that this whole process has been rather disturbing because of the great impact that it will have on their employees. Then you pick up the newspaper and see that the Fire and EMS answered a call on Friday, January 17th, and saved a young girl who was inside of a burning home. There were eleven people in this home when the fire ignited and the girl was asleep in her bed. She recognized that Chief Meyers and Chief Futrell were present. She experienced her appreciation of their service.

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FOP Recommendations:

Mayor Tomlinson said they will call on the City Manager and Finance Director to speak on this. The good news for the citizens is, when this first came up, a lot of people were saying, “wow, this is a great idea.” The city has been doing this for many, many years. All CCG departments do long-term strategic planning. She refers to a disc that all departments with the exception of some elected officials that provide this to administration with their strategic plans and prioritized budgets.

City Manager Hugley said that the Strategic Action Plan was done in 2008 to 2014 and the current one is 2015 to 2025. A disc is provided to each of the Councilors.

Mayor Tomlinson said that they have an Executive Committee Meeting once a week, General Government Meeting once a month and an all Department Heads Meeting once a month. During these meetings their strategic plans are discussed, processed and feedback is given.

Finance Director Pam Hodge explained that all Department Heads prioritize within their budgets. So they are prioritizing their allocated funds for specific activities. During the annual budget process they meet with departments to discuss the priorities for their department. She said that priority budgeting is a part of their daily activities in CCG.

City Manager Hugley went into detail about the meetings he has with department heads to go over specifics with their budgets, and said that Finance Director Hodge is always present at these meetings.

Director Hodge starts by saying that CCG is required by State and Local law to have an annual budget process. She said that we could have a bi-annual budget but by law we would have to adopt an annual budget.

City Attorney Clifton Fays added that it is required by the Charter as well as State law that the city has an annual Operating and Capital Budget. These budgets have to be written and passed by Council each year.
This would entail relocating the dispatch operations of the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office and the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office into the 911 Center located within the Public Safety Building.

Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren starts by saying that his department does priority budgeting every year and basically every time they have a staff meeting,
they constantly look at ways that they may be able to improve their operations, save money and better serve the citizens.

Major Stan Swiney takes the podium to respond to the recommendation. He said from his understanding of what each department is responsible for there would be little savings, if any at all. The personnel and equipment would have to be relocated to the dispatch center. These costs would be frontloaded and he is unsure what these costs would be. Then the whole of that dispatch person that is also responsible for covering non-dispatch duties would have to be covered by another employee.

Mayor Tomlinson spoke specifically on warrant information being needed at the different departments and the trouble of getting that information if the dispatch operations were combined. During a recent Public Safety head meeting, there was much concern on this recommendation because it would yield to be extremely less efficient.

Major Swiney said that the day to day operations of the departments are very different. Councilor Thomas and Major Swiney went further in depth into the calls each department may receive. Major Swiney stated that the dispatch center was designed to dispatch Fire, EMS and Police to emergency calls.
This would entail eliminating all operations of the DARE Program within the Columbus Police Department and the Muscogee County Marshal’s Office. This program has been reviewed and studied at all levels of government and has been found to be substandard in the reduction of crime and in some studies may be counterproductive amongst it’s targeted demographic. The elimination of this program would allow law enforcement personnel to either be reassigned to other crime prevention programs or to standard law enforcement functions within their respected agencies.

Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh commented by saying that her thirty-five year old son still talks about Officer Williams who taught the DARE program when he attended Dawson Elementary School. She said this program leaves a lasting impression pertaining to Police Officers with these children.

Chief Boren agreed and said he is curious to know what the person who wrote this particular recommendation’s definition of substandard is. He said that his department does not do anything in a substandard manner. Everything that they do is in a professional manner. This program makes a lasting impression on the children involved. He too, has children that went through the DARE and GREAT program who still asks about the officers who instructed these programs. These programs help the children, the adults and the teachers within our community.

Major Wanna Barker-Wright takes the podium and stated that the DARE and GREAT programs are the most proactive programs that the Columbus Police Department offers. She said these programs are servicing over 2,100 students in 29 schools. The officers who instruct these programs are proactive with decision making, bullying and gaining the trust of these students. There have been students who have come to give information to the officers on issues that they may not feel comfortable in informing others. The teachers find it more comforting with the presence of these officers in the schools. Major Barker-Wright encouraged Council to talk with the students and parents to see the positive impact these programs are having.

Mayor Tomlinson said she hears many accolades when she visits schools, she hears many students speak on these programs and how much they enjoy them. She asked what would be the cost savings be if these programs were eliminated and how are these programs funded.

Major Barker-Wright responded by saying that there are 4 officers that were assigned to these programs from patrol. She says that if these officers are on the street, they would be getting calls to respond to the schools. In this case, there would be no cost savings.

Mayor Tomlinson said that after the school tragedies all over the country, they received many calls from concerned parents to have more police presence in the schools and this is one way that this can be accomplished. These programs allow a natural interaction between officers and the children without the schools looking like a military zone.

Councilor Allen asked how often the officers attend these schools. Major Barker-Wright says that in most cases they are in the schools twice a week. This all depends on the number of fifth graders enrolled in these schools.

Councilor Baker pointed out that there is no cost to the city for these particular programs. Major Barker-Wright confirms this and adds that the only cost to CCG is associated with the officers’ salaries.

Finance Director Hodge added that there is no operational expense related to these programs in the General Fund. However, there is an allocation for them in the Drug Alcohol Treatment and Education Fund. This Special Revenue Fund comes from fees that are assessed for court cases.

Mayor Tomlinson summarizes by reiterating that if CCG was to eliminate the DARE and GREAT programs it would not benefit the General Fund.


5) (PS3) The transfer of all Crime and Fire Prevention Programs to the Office of Crime Prevention
The Office of Crime Prevention would absorb the costs of any crime and fire prevention programs offered within the Columbus Consolidated Government and could establish a network of retired Public Safety professionals and citizen volunteers to operate these programs.

Crime Prevention Director Seth Brown responded by saying that this would not be a cost saving solution. If they were to take on the programs, the retirees involved would expect some compensation for their work. Therefore, would establish additional cost for CCG. Director Brown explains that there are no personnel in his department other than himself. With the paperwork that these programs involve, plus the calls that are generated from the schools, he would have to have at least one employee or a part-time assistant to handle this. The most crucial point is the officers that run these programs are POST Certified. Retirees are not. It is required that these programs be run by active POST certified officers.

Fire Chief Meyer said that for years his department has gone to schools teaching children about fire safety in hopes that they would then take it home to their families. This education is administered by their Operations Division. Therefore, there would be no cost savings with the relocation of this program. It is also an accreditation requirement for the Fire Department to provide.

Police Chief Boren said the other programs that the FOP is referring to is: The Neighborhood Watch, Crime Stoppers, and Self Protection Awareness for Women, Traffic Safety Awareness, Crimes against the Elderly, General Safety and McGruff the Dog. These programs cost very little to the budget but the dividends that CPD draws in return as far as information and volunteers is in no comparison.

Mayor Tomlinson asked what the operational cost of these programs and how does it affect the General Fund. Chief Boren said that this is a service provided by CPD and it does not directly affect the General Fund other than the cost of manpower.

Councilor Barnes spoke on the dedication of the persons involved in these programs. He describes them as the eyes and ears of the community.
These positions are P.O.S.T. certified Peace Officer slots and should be located within a law enforcement agency. By moving these positions into the Columbus Police Department these investigators would be allowed access to more investigative resources and training. Fire Chief Meyer responds by saying, the Arson Investigators have all the resources needed to perform their investigations. He said that he has not heard or seen any other public safety departments come together quite like here in Columbus. There are many employees of Fire/EMS that are POST certified to include him. He explained that if the first responders to a fire can not without a doubt conclude on the cause of fire, the investigator is called to the scene. Last year there were 180 fires that were investigated in Columbus. The findings of these investigators are also the way their department forms their fire prevention education programs based on the trends in the community. The investigator also plays the role of the fire inspector within the city. Mayor Tomlinson said that there are ongoing discussions between the Public Safety heads and her on open cases. They come together once a month for meetings and discuss how each department can do their part in helping to solve these cases. ------------------------------------------*** *** ***-----------------------------------
The City Attorney requested an Executive Session to discuss matters of litigation. Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh made a motion to go into Executive Session. Seconded by Councilor Woodson and carried unanimously by those nine members of Council present, with Councilor McDaniel being absent for this meeting. Council went into Executive Session at 8:35 p.m.
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The City Council Meeting was called back to order at 9:02 p.m. after a brief Executive Session. Mayor Tomlinson pointed out that the Council meet in an executive session to discuss matters of litigation, but there were no votes taken.
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With there being no further business to come before the Council, Mayor Tomlinson then entertained a motion for adjournment. Councilor Allen so moved. Seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Turner Pugh and carried unanimously by those nine members of Council present, with Councilor McDaniel being absent for this meeting, with the time of adjournment being 9:03 p.m.

Tiny B. Washington, MMC
Clerk of Council
The Council of Columbus, Georgia