OTTAWA — It won’t fix all La Salle County’s insurance problems, but the county board did vote Thursday to eliminate a low-deductible health plan — at least for new, non-union hires.

The county board voted 22-4 to change its health coverage for employees outside the collective bargaining agreement hired after Aug. 1. The upshot is new hires, once eligible for deductibles as low as $250, now face deductibles of $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 for families.

“This is a huge step in the right direction,” said board chairman Jim Olson (D-Seneca), noting the change helps phase out a pay-as-you-go approach that was “just killing us.”

Four members opposed the increase. Mike Kasap (D-La Salle), David Torres (D-Oglesby) Steven Tuftie (R-Earlville) and Lou Ann Carretto (D-Ottawa) variously argued it will make county jobs less desirable and that it won’t make much of a dent unless union employees agree to increase premiums.

Olson acknowledged getting the collective bargaining agreement modified was no sure bet, but the county’s outlays are so out-of-control as to threaten the county’s credit rating.

“We need these savings and we need them immediately,” he said.

Allen Erbrederis (R-Somonauk) agreed, saying the low deductibles available to new hires were making the program as a whole “unsustainable.”

“If we don’t do these reforms now,” he warned, “we’re going to be at a point where insurance will be unaffordable for everyone.”

Road work

Separately, the board approved the following at the request the highway department:

  • Approved $30,000 to improve safety at County Highway 5 and Route 23, north of Streator;
  • Granted the use of $190,000 for engineering services for the proposed widening of County Highway 15 (Nate Fleming Road). County engineer Larry Kinzer said the actual widening will be a federal project to be funded later;
  • Approved $203,727.82 for engineering services for the proposed replacement of the Sandy Ford bridge near Leonore. The project enters the design phase. Bid letting is targeted for 2020.

Tom Collins is the NewsTribune Senior Reporter. He can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or
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