BEACON FALLS — The possibility of providing health insurance for the only full-time position at Beacon Hose Company No. 1 is under consideration by town officials.
The administrative assistant is the company’s sole full-time position. The rest of the department is staffed by volunteers.
The insurance plan would cost $7,600 a year and would be split between the town, Beacon Hose, and the employee, said First Selectman Christopher Bielik during the Board of Selectmen’s Nov. 14 meeting. He said the town’s cost would be covered by money Beacon Hose receives from responding to ambulance calls.
Under a current agreement between the town and Beacon Hose, the department is allowed to have an account of up to $50,000, funded through ambulance calls, as a rainy day fund to pay for any unforeseen emergencies, Bielik explained. As long as the department has $50,000 in that account, all money made off of the ambulance calls is divided with 80 percent going to the town and 20 percent going to the department.
The department reached $50,000 last year and still has that amount in the fund, Bielik said.
“If we agree to this proposal obviously the impact would be a lowering of the amount of excess, above the $50,000, in the amount of whatever the health care program would cost,” Bielik said.
The administrative assistant salary is also funded with this money, according to officials.
The position would be under the same plan as the town’s insurance, which is pooled with the Region 16 school district, Bielik said.
The main issue raised by the board was whether providing the insurance would set a precedent for the position.
“There becomes a possibility in the future that whoever comes in behind that person, as the next person hired to do that position, can say, ‘Well, you gave that person health care benefits. In order for me to get the job I have to get health care benefits too,’” Bielik said.
Selectman Michael Krenesky said the board could cancel the plan, if it didn’t want to offer insurance to the next person.
Bielik disagreed, saying it’s “very difficult to remove a benefit once it has been proffered.”
Bielik said the town had offered the option of a salary increase in the amount needed to pay for the insurance instead of offering insurance. The idea was not approved by the department, he said.
“They came back with the opinion they wanted to pursue the health care option as opposed to a straight salary increase,” Bielik said.
The board took no action and referred the matter to the Board of Finance for its recommendation.