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County employee clinic a success after a year

Catoosa County officials say its employee health clinic has essentially paid for itself following the first year of operation.

The clinic, which is located in the Remco Business Center off Boynton Drive, opened in October 2017 in an attempt to offer county employees medical services while also saving the county a significant amount of money on insurance costs.

County Manager Alisha Vaughn presented a one-year update on the clinic to the Board of Commissioners on Oct. 16 explaining that the clinic has surpassed expectations.

"This is awesome. In one year, the clinic has paid for itself, which is almost unheard of," Vaughn said. "I do think this is a pretty amazing thing that Catoosa has. This is an amazing benefit to the employees."

The clinic operates with one medical assistant and one nurse practitioner and is available to the employees 20 hours per week

Vaughn says the county's insurance premium was set to go up significantly last year, but that having the clinic available halted that hike in costs.

"It was going to increase by six percent because we are not self-insured. We buy insurance from an outside company," Vaughn said. "That six-percent increase would have meant an approximate $300,000 increase in cost. However, due to utilization of the clinic, we were able to provide documentation to United Health Care. That's who we purchase our insurance from, and because we have the clinic, we were given a rate pass or discount. That discount equaled about the cost of the clinic, around $300,000, so basically it was a wash. ... The clinic was able to pay for itself in the first year."

When the clinic opened last year, County Chief Financial Officer Carl Henson explained that the clinic's budget equated to $25,000 per month or $300,000 per year. That number included $17,500 per month to provider One to One for the management fee and personnel cost, $1,800 per month for rental of the building, and approximately $500 per month for utilities.

As far as the treatment employees are receiving at the clinic, Vaughn says a number of employees have been able to have health issues detected early.

"The clinic has been able to diagnose several diseases before they became serious," Vaughn said.

Vaughn pointed out cases where employees were diagnosed with hypertension, severe anemia, pre-diabetes, thyroid disorders, cancer, pneumonia, and hyperglycemia.

Overall, Vaughn said 1,598 office visits were made, with 980 prescriptions written, 521 labs taken, and 90 doctor referrals.

Vaughn also explained that when the numbers are analyzed a little closer, there's actually additional savings being had.

"For every dollar that we spend on the clinic, we get that whole dollar, so that all goes to the employee's benefit," Vaughn said. "When we spend a dollar on health insurance outside of the county, the insurance company gets a profit off that so we lose about 25 cents for every dollar that we spend, so even though we save $300,000 on the insurance, it's really more like $375,000 due to that."

Vaughn and Commissioner Jeff Long both pointed out that the clinic is also saving the amount of time employees have to take off work to attend doctor's appointments.

"They can get back to work faster instead of having to take half a day off to go to the doctor. ... We all know doctor's appointments can take a long time," Vaughn said.

Although Vaughn's oneyear update on the clinic's progress indicates a worthwhile endeavor, resident George Battersby has repeatedly voiced his criticism of the clinic in several recent commission meetings.

"It's a huge waste of money that's happening every month," Battersby said in during the Oct. 1 meeting. "I pass there three or four times a day and never see anybody in there except the two employees that we're paying for. It's wasting approximately $400,000 a year and you all continue to do nothing about it. It's a disgrace, a waste of money, and I'm not going to get over it until something is done."

Despite Battersby's claims, Vaughn sees the clinic as a benefit to employees and hopes to it utilized more than it already has been.

"Hopefully our participation will continue to grow," Vaughn said. "We broke even this year. Hopefully, in years going forward, we'll actually see it saving money for your insurance costs."


County plans TSPLOST
Transportation sales tax expected to go to vote in March

Catoosa County officials will present a 1-percent transportation sales tax referendum, designed to pay for road projects, to voters in a special March election.

The TPLOST (Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) as it's called, is essentially an extra tax charged when residents and others make purchases in the county.

The money collected is then used to cover the cost of future transportation projects instead of having to commit part of the county's budget to the work.

The tax will have to be placed on a referendum and approved by voters next year. Walker County voters approved the same type of tax last fall, while voters in Dade County voted "no" on such referendums last fall and in May of this year.

Catoosa County commissioners, along with officials from the cities of Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe, held an intergovernmental work session and meeting Monday, Nov. 5, to discuss the matter.

During the meeting, County Manager Alisha Vaughn explained the county's desire to have the tax on referendum in March, and also proposed a 70-20-10 split of the profits from the tax between the county, and the cities of Fort Oglethorpe and Ringgold, respectively.

Ringgold City Council member Sara Clark stated in the meeting that she would be reluctant to pitch the tax to voters without having the numbers finalized beforehand.

For now, the three sides will continue to prioritize roads and projects, with the plan to hopefully have some kind of split agreement in place before the end of the year.

Late last year and on into January, the three had trouble deciding on a three-way split of the SPLOST tax.

The boards ultimately worked out a $39-$13.5-$7.5 (Catoosa County/Fort Oglethorpe/Ringgold) million split of the projected $60 million profit from the tax over the life of its five-year cycle.

During Tuesday night's (Nov. 6) Board of Commissioner's meeting, resident Phyllis Williams claimed the public wasn't giving much notice about Monday's (Nov. 5) intergovernmental meeting.

She also vowed to dedicate her time to monitoring details of the tax if it's approved.

"These roads didn't get this way over night," Williams said. "If this TSPLOST is voted in and we bring in like $3 million a year, y'all can't just spend it wherever you want. This is going to be a brand new tax and y'all need to get me a bed down here because when it starts coming in, we're going to keep up with every penny."

After the night's agenda was addressed, Commissioner Ray Johnson and Chairman Steven Henry pointed out that the public is always invited to meetings and work sessions.

"This TSPLOST is for the roads and we can't use it for anything but the roads," Johnson affirmed. "There will be some meetings that we'll be having before long to explain more about it. It is coming. ... It's not being hidden from nobody."

"Every meeting we've had about the TSPLOST has been an open meeting that everybody has been invited to," Henry added. "We don't do anything closed doors. Everything's open."


Midterm election: Totals in Catoosa for state, local races

OVERVIEW

Ballots cast: 23,800

Registered voters: 40,513

Voter turnout: 58.75%

STATE RACES

Governor Brian Kemp (Republican): 18,855 (79.48%)

Stacey Abrams (Democrat): 4,580 (19.31%)

Ted Metz (Libertarian): 287 (1.21%) 23,722 total votes cast

Lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan (Republican): 18,285 (80.08%)

Sarah Riggs Amico (Democrat): 4,547 (19.92%) 22,832 total votes cast

Secretary of state Brad Raffensperger (Republican): 18,262 (78.19%)

John Barrow (Democrat): 4,591 (19.66%)

Smythe DuVal (Libertarian): 502 (2.15%) 23,355 total votes cast

Attorney general Chris Carr (Incumbent) (Republican): 18,713 (80.34%)

Charlie Bailey (Democrat): 4,580 (19.66%) 23,293 total votes cast

Commissioner of agriculture Gary Black (Incumbent) (Republican): 18,923 (81.35%)

Fred Swann (Democrat): 4,339 (18.65%) 23,262 total votes cast

Commissioner of insurance

Jim Beck (Republican): 18,216 (78.16%)

Janice Laws (Democrat): 4,446 (19.08%)

Donnie Foster (Libertarian): 645 (2.77%) 23,307 total votes cast

School superintendent

Richard Woods (Incumbent) (Republican): 18,974 (81.22%)

Otha E. Thornton Jr (Democrat): 4,387 (18.78%) 23,361 total votes cast

COUNTY RACES (all unopposed)

Solicitor of state court

D. Woodruff (Incumbent) (Republican): 20,408 (100%); 20,408 total votes cast

County commission, District 2

C. Harris (Republican): 5,156 (100%) 5,156 total votes cast

County commission, District 4

C. Stephens (Republican): 5,359 (100%) 5,359 total votes cast


'Tribute to America': Honoring Catoosa, Walker outstanding veterans, citizens

Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga

Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk

On Saturday, Nov. 3, dozens of elected officials and local citizens gathered at The Colonnade in Ringgold to honor the contributions veterans and others in Catoosa and Walker counties have made to improving their communities and the world.

The "Tribute to America" event, conducted by the Catoosa Citizens' and Veterans' Memorial, opened with an invocation by Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson, then a posting of the colors by the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Color Guard.

Ella Snider sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" and Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Earl Gray led the audience in the "Pledge of Allegiance."

Yvonne Morgan and Susan Tankersley, co-chairs of the Memorial, presided over the event that awarded special plaques to eight honorees in four categories after recognizing Sen. Jeff Mullis, who was in attendance, as well as the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 203, American Legion Post 214, American Legion Post 40, VFW Post 3679, Rolling Thunder TN II, and the Ringgold Flag Committee, which placed nearly 1,700 flags around Ringgold for Veteran's Day.

This was the fifteenth year the Catoosa Memorial Committee has presented these special awards to local veterans and citizens.

Here is a list of this year's winners:

Catoosa County

Heritage Middle School: Youth Patriotism Award, presented by Yvonne Morgan

Jonathan Connell: Patriotism Service Award, presented by Catoosa County Commission Chair Steven Henry

DeWayne Morgan: Patriotic Citizen of the Year, presented by Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk

Ronald Strickland: Veteran of the Year, presented by Catoosa Commission Chair Steven Henry

Walker County

Ridgeland High School ROTC 2018: Youth Patriotism Award, presented by Susan Tankersley

Charity Gibson: Patriotism Service Award, presented by Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson

Jason Shattuck: Patriotic Citizen of the Year Award, presented by Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson

James Scott Thompson: Veteran of the Year, presented by Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson

A special printed tribute was provided honoring United States Army veteran Richard Allen Simpson, who died in April of this year.

In addition to elected officials who participated in the event, Catoosa County Probate Judge Jeff Hullender and Fort Oglethorpe Councilwoman Rhonda James were in attendance.

The event closed with a benediction by Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk.

The Catoosa Citizens' and Veterans' Memorial is maintained by an all-volunteer board.

The board and other volunteers will be replacing the flags representing all branches of the United States military the second week of October.

Susan Tankersley and Yvonne Morgan, co-chairs of the Memorial board, say that people are invited to visit the Memorial at the entrance of Benton Place Campus in Ringgold to reflect on the sacrifices and service of those who work to keep America safe and secure.