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Insurance costs force Hall County to limit part-time hours
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on an application for a proposed boat storage facility in a residential area of Lake Lanier when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville.

The county planning commission has recommended that the commissioners vote down the project, slotted for a tract on Mountain View Road in West Hall, largely due to the opposition of neighbors who say rezoning the area to allow for commercial development would change the residential character of the neighborhood.  

Tim Whitmire, the project developer, will get one final hearing on the project that he contends has been misrepresented and misunderstood.

“I feel like it’s a great project,” he told The Times earlier this week.

Joshua Silavent

Hall County will begin limiting part-time employee hours beginning March 1 to avoid health care costs and penalties associated with the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate.

The mandate is set to take effect in January 2015 after being delayed one year.

“We want to make sure we are ahead of the curve,” County Administrator Randy Knighton told The Times.

The new policy will restrict about 300 part-time county employees from working more than 28 hours per week. The ACA requires employers to provide health insurance for any employee working 30 hours a week or more, with stiff penalties for noncompliance.

“That’s why we’ve got to start mandating this now,” Human Resources Director Bill Moats told the board of commissioners during a work session Tuesday.

Moats cautioned that the ACA mandate could be pushed back once more, or even repealed. He’s waiting on additional guidance from the federal government, likely to come sometime this summer, but told The Times it is imperative the new policy be instated now in the event the mandate is applied retroactively.

“This law is so difficult to interpret,” he added.

The ACA calls for a $2,000 annual fine per employee if insurance is not offered to eligible workers. With about 1,200 employees, Hall County could be on the hook for millions of dollars if it violates the law.

Moreover, insurance coverage for a single county employee costs more than $10,000 annually, an expense county officials said they can’t afford to extend to part-time workers.

“These past few years ... where the budget’s been so tight, we don’t have an extra $3 or $4 million,” Commissioner Scott Gibbs told The Times.

The new policy means the county will have to take measures that will provide additional layers of oversight “to ensure that all hours are accounted for,” Knighton said.

Moats said that includes possibly updating the county’s internal technology systems to better account for workers’ time and attendance.