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Committee votes to overturn mayor’s decision to drop NACo

Members of the Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee will recommend the Commission overturn Mayor Dan Eldridge’s decision to not renew Washington County’s membership with the National Association of Counties.
“I talked these folks into not canceling us through the end of February, and I think we need to make a decision tonight,” said CIA Chair Mark Ferguson during the Feb. 7 meeting.
NACo is the only national organization representing county government. It is headquartered on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., with a professional staff of more than 60 employees. NACo’s consolidated family is a group of corporations organized to provide services and products for county government elected officials, administrators, employees and residents.
“The membership was sold to Washington County based on the buying discount,” Eldridge said just days after the CIA meeting.
When the county received an invoice to renew the $2,144 annual membership in September, Eldridge said he talked with Willie Shrewsbury, Director of the Washington County Purchasing Department.
“Willie said they have never come across anything NACo offered at a better price than what they were already receiving.” Eldridge said. “It all adds up to real money, and right now, we don’t have $2,000 to spend frivolously.”
NACo lists several reasons on its website for membership, including its lobbying efforts on behalf of counties; financial services center programs; a NACo prescription discount card program; and its service as a grants clearinghouse.
Ferguson distributed a handout during the CIA meeting that referred to the benefits of the NACo prescription discount card, which is a partnership with CVS Caremark to offer to residents who are uninsured or underinsured. The program began in 2004 and provides savings by passing along the Caremark-negotiated discount rates to individuals with little or no prescription benefit coverage.
County Attorney John Rambo said the cards were given to pharmacies, members of Ruritan Clubs and county commissioners to distribute to residents who do not have insurance coverage.
Eldridge said he is unaware if the cards are still being given out. “Only 68 cards have been used,” he noted.
Another program Ferguson referred to was the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program. PILT are Federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable Federal lands within their boundaries.
The Department of the Interior administers the program and is responsible for making payment calculations according to the formulas established by law and distributing the funds appropriated by Congress.
During 2010, Washington County received $11,955 in PILT payments. These funds would have been received regardless of the county’s membership in NACo.
Commissioner Greg Matherly was concerned about the possible loss of access to the Section 457 Deferred Compensation Program. In this case, NACo has partnered with Nationwide Retirement Solutions to offer county employees the option to voluntarily contribute a tax-deferred portion of their wages to a special account and direct these contributions to one or more investment options.
Despite NACo’s recommendation of Nationwide’s services, counties and their employees are free to choose other providers for their deferred compensation program.
Commissioner Ken Lyon offered twice to make some calls, get to the bottom of the issue and make a report during a called meeting on Feb. 21, which was scheduled to hear a presentation from Humana about insurance benefits. His offers were ignored.
Ferguson made a motion to reinstate Washington County’s membership in NACo. Commissioner David Shanks seconded. Richard Shadden and Matherly voted in favor of the motion. Lyon abstained.