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Grundy committee votes to change insurance brokers

Final decision goes to full county board next week

MORRIS — The Grundy County Personnel Committee overwhelming favors switching the county's insurance broker from Morris-based Northern Insurance Group to Rockford-based Williams-Manny Insurance Group.

After hearing presentations from both insurance representatives during Thursday's meeting, the committee voted 6-1 in favor of hiring Williams-Manny. Ken Iverson was the only committee member to object to the switch.

"I've been consistent to a fault for giving preference to local companies, and to that extent, this is not a wash," Iverson said Thursday. "So I vote no."

The hiring of Williams-Manny will go before the full county board in a special meeting to be held next week.

Although he does not vote, Grundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland told the committee Thursday he had "serious issues" with the proposed Williams-Manny contract, and said it will need more review before it is passed to the full board. Helland did not elaborate on what those issues were.

The committee meeting marked the second time this week county board members heard from the brokers. The committee meeting had more than 10 audience members present, most of whom appeared to be employees of the county.

Northern sent a new face to address the personnel committee following allegations by committee members that Northern's previous representative was unprofessional in his communication with the county throughout the last month.

"I've been put in this meeting to start from scratch," Northern Insurance's new representative Doug Bruyn told the committee.

At multiple public meetings, personnel committee chairwoman Vicki Geiger, other personnel committee members and Human Resources Director Debra Johnson have claimed Northern Insurance is lacking in communication and service.

Johnson said she began looking for a new broker in the middle of March after failed communications with Northern as she was trying to evaluate the county's current insurance plan.

"We hire an HR manager six or seven months ago and we ask her to go do her job," committee member Chris Balkema. "But, she hasn't been able to do her job with the current broker."

The previous Northern representative disagreed with the allegations at Tuesday's full county board meeting, claiming the personnel committee and Johnson were rushing the process to switch without giving Northern a chance to mend their relationship.

Northern has been the county's broker for five years.

"What we've done so far, there's been right things and there's been wrong things," Bruyn said Thursday. "But we've worked very hard ... and I feel in my heart that you guys have a fantastic group health plan."

As of now, there have been no moves to change the county's insurance plan, which is through Blue Cross Blue Shield, but Geiger and Johnson expressed interest in re-evaluating the current plan with the potential new broker to explore cost-saving ideas.

"I know a lot of the employees have been fearful of losing different parts of their policy," Geiger said Thursday. "But, actually, there were conversations of spending the same amount of money, but giving you more. We think there are things we can do to improve your policy."

A selling point for the personnel committee members was Williams-Manny's comprehensive report, which included third-party analysis and several detailed cost comparisons.

Northern provided a Blue Cross Blue Shield report. Bruyn said only the Blue Cross Blue Shield report was provided because the company felt it was the most cost-effective plan when it shopped the market.

"I just brought the Blue Cross and Blue Shield reporting form with me today, but like I said before, we can still go back to Blue Cross Blue Shield and do more negotiating with them," Bruyn said.

The switch would not cost the county more money as Northern and Williams-Manny both charge about $35,000 for their services, according to information presented at Thursday's meeting.

A special Grundy County Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday so the full county board can vote on the switch.

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