No more free rides for health insurance in Chicago Ridge

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The controversial policy of free lifetime insurance benefits for part-time elected officials is coming to an end in Chicago Ridge.

Trustees agreed at Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting to send letters to the vested retirees now getting the taxpayer-funded insurance benefits, advising them of changes being made to the program.

Trustee Sally Durkin said that the retirees will be given the choice of opting out of the program, or accepting the changes being made.

As of July 1, all retirees who remain in the program will be required to pay 40 percent of their health insurance premiums and 100 percent of life, vision, dental and Medicare premiums. Any spouses of deceased retirees will have to pay 100 percent of premiums for any of the insurance policies they wish to retain.

A committee made up of Durkin and Trustee Frances Coglianese with attorney Burt Odelson, held several meetings in recent weeks to determine the best way of resolving the issue. The program had been in place for more than 15 years, but many residents only became aware of it this year and it turned into a major issue leading up to the April 7 election. Durkin said she and Coglianese had discussed the latest move with Odelson before bringing it the full board for discussion in the executive session before the meeting.

“We are drafting an ordinance (detailing the changes to the policy),” said Durkin. She said the changes will affect six or seven people, including retirees and the surviving spouse of a retired trustee.

Trustee Bruce Quintos, now midway through his fourth term, is the only current board member qualified to receive the insurance benefits, which he said he has been doing for four years.

“We took a cold hard look at what everyone was paying, and I think we did an excellent job resolving this. I think it is fair,” he said.

In other business, the board also tightened the existing restrictions on watering lawns and gardens, following advice on water conservation from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Watering lawns and gardens is now limited to alternating days, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., and 7 and 11 p.m. year-round.

Therefore, people with odd-numbered addresses may water between those hours only on odd-numbered calendar days, while those with even-numbered addresses will be allowed to water on even-numbered calendar days.

The current ordinance limits the watering restrictions to between May 15 and Sept. 15, but Trustee Jack Lind said he wanted to make it year-round, and the others agreed.

“It is just simpler,” he said, adding that it will be make monitoring it easier for law enforcement.

Quintos agreed, after ensuring that the ordinance would state that lawns less than three months old would be exempt from the restrictions.