By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Employees of the Belknap County Sheriff's Department, who earlier this year switched to the Teamsters Union to represent them in contract negotiations, have approved a contract with the county.
Belknap County Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) said that the contract is similar to that approved earlier this year by the Belknap County Corrections Department. That contract provided a 1.4 percent pay raise in each of the two years as well as step increases, which could increase total compensation by 4.4 percent each year for eligible workers.
It also provided for health insurance changes from an HMO plan to a "site of service" plan.
Taylor told his fellow commissioners when they met Friday at the Belknap County Complex that he thinks the contract which was agreed to is a good deal for both the workers and the county.
The contract was approved by the commissioners, who now will bring it to the Belknap County Delegation for approval.
Commissioner Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton) pointed out that members of the delegation have been critical of recent changes in health insurance plans which have resulted in employees no longer paying a portion of premium costs. Taylor said that issue could be looked at again in three years if the proposed contract wins approval.
Both Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Taylor have said that the cost savings to the county from the change from an HMO plan to a site of service plan outweigh the added costs to the county of paying the entire premium. Current health insurance plans require employees to pay between 5 and 6.5 percent of the total health insurance premium.
Commissioners approved acceptance of a $22,395 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Education for the Belknap County Corrections Department. The funds will be used for the purchase of laptop computers for a female inmate computer programming class ($15,395) and to pay for instruction ($7,000).
The commission also approved using funds within the Belknap County Nursing Home budget to provide wireless internet access at the home for seven residents at the home who have who have laptops but no access.
Country Administrator Debra Shackett said that residents at the home have expressed displeasure with losing a service which was previously provided. She said it will cost $280 a month for a temporary fix with Verizon, which would set up a "hot spot" for free to provide access. She said that the county should look at installing a fiber optic system for $15,000 which would provide wireless network access for the entire county home.
She said that the change would double the county's internet costs from the current $600 a month to $1,200.
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