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County approves medical contracts for jail, correctional institute
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners has unanimously selected Northwest Plan Services, based out of Washington state, to replace GebCorp and Nationwide for management services related to 401a and 457 retirement plan accounts.

Human Resources Director Bill Moats said having two vendors is confusing for employees, increases overlap and redundancy and makes management of accounts more difficult.

Moving to a single vendor, he added, helps reduce fees, improve education, employee participation, compliance and customer service.

Moats said bringing Northwest on board could cut costs for account management services from about $350,000 annually to less than $200,000.

Northwest is expected to take over the retirement plans by Jan. 1, 2015.

The change in vendor impacts about 1,300 full-time county workers.

Northwest will be responsible for managing about $67 million in retirement plan assets.

Changes to the retirement plan design are next, and could include the types of investment funds used and whether new employees should be automatically enrolled, among other things.

Joshua Silavent

Despite concerns about rising costs and how to pay for them, the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday to approve contracts for medical services at the jail and correctional institution.

Commissioner Craig Lutz cast the lone dissent.

“The problem I have is that this funding could potentially be coming from our reserves,” he said. “One of the primary reasons I didn’t vote for the budget to begin with is because I felt like it was leaning too heavily on our reserves.”

The adopted 2015 fiscal year budget includes the use of about $3.2 million in reserve funds to cover shortfalls.

Meanwhile, increases in the costs of providing medical and nursing care to inmates were not approved in the budget.

Most of the approximately $70,000 in additional expenses is related to the jail, which has beds for about 1,100 inmates. The correctional institution, meanwhile, houses fewer than 300 inmates.

Warden Walt Davis said expenses for the correctional institution would go up only about $2,600 over the next year.

“Barring some major catastrophe, I have (the money) in my budget to make up the difference,” Davis said.

Sheriff’s office officials also said they could potentially cover the increases at the jail within their approved budget, but added medical expenses can be fluid, depending on the number of inmates and their health issues.

Much of the cost increase is associated with a 10 percent raise for Dr. Linwood Zoller, who took a voluntary 5 percent pay cut in recent years as budget deficits plagued the county.

The correctional institution contract for Zoller is worth about $35,000.

The total cost of providing medical services at the jail is about $792,000.

According to law enforcement officials, it costs Hall County about $3.50 per day to provide medical care for each inmate. The average cost in the state is more than $7.

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