Manager: City staff safety emphasis has saved Lebanon big bucks

The city of Lebanon’s safety record has improved over the past few years, saving the city nearly $80,000, City Council members learned last week.

The city had five workers’ compensation claims last year, compared to 18 in the 2013-14, according to Steve Uerlings, of Barker-Uerlings Insurance.

“Overall, you’ve had a great history with workers’ comp,” Uerlings said.

He presented the annual risk report which includes an overview of the city’s coverage and premium history as well as workers’ compensation information at the Nov. 8 Lebanon City Council meeting.

“Your losses had been higher Rewith (Citycounty Insurance Services) but when we got SAIF involved, they helped turn you around,” he told the council.

City Manager Gary Marks credited employees and the safety program.

“I think in the last four years we’ve had one case where we had lost work time because of a workplace injury,” Marks said. “That mentality came about because of the culture we’ve built around our Safety Committee, training we’ve provided to our employees and the fact that everyone kind of gets it on the staff and we’re looking out for each other.”

He said their efforts are reflected in the fact that the city has had so few claims over the last four years.

“That pays off in the financial way that is really important,” Marks said. “If you look at the premium we were paying in 2014 compared to now, it’s $47,000 less. In addition to that, we’re going to be receiving a dividend from SAIF of a little over $30,000. When we say that safety pays, it really does, to the tune of about $77,000 this year.”

He added that more than the financial benefit is that employees can go home to their families at the end of their shifts and “enjoy that part of their life without having to deal with work related injuries.”

Regarding the city’s properties, Uerlings said it has been stable the last few years but it is due for a reappraisal this year. He expects to have new replacement values determined before the July insurance renewal.

Excess cyber coverage was added three years ago in case, for example, the city’s computers were hacked into and utility patrons’ information was compromised, he said.

Tort liability losses have been primarily in two departments: police and public works, Uerlings said.

A total amount is not yet available, as there are two claims pending.

The city’s insurance has two public official bonds – one for the city manager and one for the finance director.

The finance director position has been open since Dean Baugh abruptly resigned in July.

Tina Huff, the assistant finance director, has been acting as interim but she is covered under a separate part of the policy.

In his city manager’s report, Marks said the city is still looking to fill the finance director position.

An interview committee did not select any of the candidates that were interviewed in October.

“Since that time Debi Shimmin (human resources generalist) and I have reviewed the job description and determined an adjustment to the compensation package was warranted in light of newly published population growth numbers from the Portland State University Center for Population Studies,” Marks said. “The position was readvertised during the week of Oct. 23.”

He hopes to make an interim appointment soon, he said.