- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) - The Columbus City Council has decided to extend health insurance coverage to pool staffers and maintain morning hours at the Columbus Aquatic Center, despite the costs.

The council voted for the measure this week after discussing staffing changes and cutting hours, the Columbus Telegram said (http://bit.ly/1c8lfDF ).

The city must offer health coverage to full-time city employees, including the two full-time workers on the morning shift that runs from 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. But the insurance could run from $14,000 to $36,000 annually, depending on the plan the workers chose, and this cost estimate prompted questions about whether the pool should be open in the morning.

Public property director Doug Moore said an average of 40 swimmers use the Aquatic Center every morning, so the city must have at least two lifeguards on duty.

Columbus City Councilman Jim Bulkley said he favors having recreational facilities, but that at some point there must be discussions about the services the city offers.

“Where do you draw the line?” Bulkley asked.

The discussion on cutting costs included reducing the pool hours and adding another worker to share the hours, thus making all three part-timers who wouldn’t qualify for health care coverage.

“We do spend at awful lot of money at the Aquatic Center, and we should try in every way to cut expenses as we can,” said Mayor Mike Moser.

The council voted 6-1 to extend coverage to the two full-timers and retain the morning hours.

City Administrator Joe Mangiamelli said questions about staffing may be raised again after the Columbus Community Hospital’s new health and wellness center opens. He said the facility will include space for the Columbus Family Y and a swimming pool. That could draw away swimmers from the aquatic center, Mangiamelli said, thus reducing the city’s staffing requirements.


Information from: Columbus Telegram, http://www.columbustelegram.com