Council OKs $500 penalty to get city workers to quit smoking

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : March 2, 2014

By David Webb
Monitor Correspondent

GUN BARREL CITY–The high cost of smoking tobacco will get even more expensive in 2015 for Gun Barrel City municipal employees who refuse to quit smoking.
The City Council approved a measure Feb. 25 that will penalize city employees who smoke to the tune of $500 per year. Smoking employees will see that amount of money deducted from their paychecks in 26 installments, according to the plan presented by City Manager Gerry Boren.
“It’s a great incentive,” Boren said.
Boren said the money collected from the smoking employees will go to help fund an employee wellness program.
Employees who smoke will be required to view a smoking cessation video in 2014, then in 2015 all employees will be required to sign affidavits under oath stating whether they smoke, Boren said. All employees who answer yes will be assessed the $500 fee, and anyone making a false statement would be subject to the penalties of making a false statement on a government document, he said.
The prohibition will not apply to the electronic vapor cigarettes many people are resorting to in an effort to quit using tobacco, Boren said.
“We believe it is very important to begin a process to encourage our employees to become healthier through a wellness program,” Boren said. “A healthier workforce is a more productive workforce as well.”
Boren said employees now pay $25 per month toward their group health insurance coverage, and that figure will rise by an amount equal to a 10 percent increase in premiums anticipated to be charged by the insurance carrier in the next fiscal year. Employees who participate in the wellness program designed to encourage more exercise, healthier eating and regular medical checkups will be refunded the 10 percent increase in insurance premiums the city plans to pass on to employees, he said.
In other action, the council:
• gave final approval to the Economic Development Corp.’s incentives agreement with HomeTown Cinema to reopen the Heritage Park theater after a second reading of the resolution. Boren praised everyone who participated in bringing about the theater’s planned reopening.
“This took team work, not only from the Economic Development Corp. but the council as well,” he said. “Thanks to everybody for the teamwork and getting everything done.”
• passed an ordinance prohibiting the overnight parking of big transportation trucks and trailers on city streets. The prohibition will not apply to private parking lots, where the owners of the property are responsible for parking restrictions. Signage will be installed at entrances to the city to notify the drivers of transportation rigs about the parking ordinance. “We want to stop this before it gets into the residential areas,” Boren said. He noted big trucks and trailers are now being parked overnight on business side streets, and that will no longer be allowed.
• rejected two bids for drainage improvements in the Church Street Development Area because both exceeded the city’s $90,000 budget. One was for $245,000 and the other was for $130,734. The proposed improvements will be redesigned in an effort to decrease the cost, and they will be undertaken in two phases instead of one.
• heard a second reading of the voluntary annexation of 61 acres of land owned by the city’s Economic Development Corp.
• proclaimed April as Fair Housing Month in connection with Texas Community Development Grant Funds requirements.
• accepted the city’s racial profiling report that showed no violations.
• conducted the first reading of the Town Center Development project by the Economic Development Corp. that will make improvements to Heritage Park and Harbor Point. The project will be limited to $60,000 in expenditures.
• learned that the City Park improvements met guidelines established by the Texas Wildlife and Parks Department and the city’s $25,000 retaining fee for the park improvement grant would be returned.