Victoria Building Mugs

The outside of the Victoria County Courthouse building.

Victoria County will offer optional critical illness and long-term disability insurance coverage for its employees beginning in 2020.

County commissioners voted Monday to add the two voluntary coverage options to employee benefits. The decision comes after recent feedback to the county’s human resources department, said County Judge Ben Zeller.

“They’ve become commonplace among larger employers, and I think this would keep us in line with what’s available with other employers,” he said.

Laura Gwaltney, with insurance agency Walker and Associates, which works with the county, said other counties and cities offer these types of supplemental coverage purchased by employees.

Typically, long-term disability coverage is viewed like income replacement, Gwaltney said. The policy covers an employee until age 65, replacing about 60% of their income, which can be a “huge benefit to people who are deemed unable to return to their job,” Gwaltney said.

The critical illness coverage is designed to help employees with “catastrophic, expensive illnesses” such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease or AIDS, Gwaltney said. Essentially, the coverage replaces what employees would pay out of pocket on care, including deductibles, treatments and transportation.

The new optional coverage will come at no cost to the county. If an employee wants to take advantage of either one, the employee will pay for it.

Zeller said the county may consider paying for these new options in the future, rather than the cost falling on the employees, but he said it’s been the court’s focus to keep employee premiums from rising. He said the court has been offsetting the increase in insurance expenses so premiums haven’t been raised for employees in nine years.

“There are instances and there are folks for whom (the additional coverage options) could be a big benefit because even with the best insurance program around, when there is a catastrophic illness, cancer for example, there’s a lot of expenses not covered by medical insurance,” he said.

Also, the court discussed a survey that will be sent to all employees to ask for feedback about all county benefits. Because preferences and priorities of employees change, Zeller said, it is important to ask what people need.

“We do have a real competitive benefits package, but we do want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to stay competitive to continue meeting the needs of our employees,” Zeller said.

The surveys are expected to be sent to employees this week and reviewed before budget hearings begin in August.

Also Monday, commissioners received bids for tackling the mold in the Victoria County Jail, a step in the county’s jail remediation plan.

The plan was produced after the jail was deemed consistently not up to standards regarding the health and safety of people who work and are detained there. According to the timeline, the jail should be ready for re-inspection by the end of October.

The court read three bids Monday: a bid from Gerloff Company in San Antonio for $76,039.42 with a timeline of 47 days of work, a bid from ServiceMaster Restoration by Century in San Antonio for $109,539 with a timeline of 30 days and a bid from SERVPRO of Northwest San Antonio for $214,000 with a timeline of 60 days.

A fourth bid was kept closed Monday because it was submitted after the deadline.

Zeller said the bids were encouraging to the court because previously the court received a quote from a Louisiana-based company that estimated the work would cost about $500,000.

The proposal selection committee – which includes Zeller’s special assistant, Caitlin Weinheimer; facilities manager Kelly Hubert; County Commissioner Gary Burns; Capt. Charles Williamson, of the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office; Mayor Rawley McCoy; and Meagan Ramirez, a project manager and licensed mold consultant with Clean Environments Inc. – will review the bids and bring a recommendation to the court at the next meeting.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter

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Local Government Reporter

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter.

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