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Village Board votes against ending health benefits — again

George Hubbard

For the second time this year, the Greenport Village Board has voted down a plan to end healthcare benefits for elected officials.

During Thursday’s meeting, the Village Board voted 3-2 against a proposal to end benefits currently available to the mayor and trustees, both part-time positions, as well as anyone elected to the board in the future. The rejected proposal also called for setting aside money otherwise used for the benefits to pay for new hires and capital improvement projects.

The three elected officials that currently accept the benefits — Mayor George Hubbard, Trustee Mary Bess Phillips and Trustee Julia Robins — cast dissenting votes.

Deputy mayor Jack Martilotta and Trustee Doug Roberts, both teachers that confirmed at the meeting they receive health insurance through their employers, voted in favor of the proposal.

In April, Mr. Martilotta and Mr. Roberts sponsored similar legislation to end health benefits for Village Board members. That measure also failed by the same 3-2 split vote.

Earlier this year, board members said that while they’re currently taking the village’s offer, which has been available since 1992, they would likely be switching to different plans soon.

Prior to Thursday’s vote, Mr. Hubbard said he’s purchased his own plan and will no longer take the village’s benefits as of Nov. 1. Ms. Robins said she plans to reduce her coverage Dec. 1 from a family plan to a single plan, which costs $9,800. The move would result in a $12,000 savings, she said.

After the meeting, Mr. Hubbard said Village Board members haven’t received salary increases since 2007 since they were receiving health benefits.

When asked by a reporter why he voted against the resolution even though he’ll stop receiving village benefits before the end of the year, Mr. Hubbard said he opposed establishing a deadline.

“Trustee Robins said at the April meeting that she’s going from family plan to single plan — their resolution would have taken that away from her,” the mayor said. “Myself, I said what I was going to do and I did it.”

He and Ms. Phillips said although they agree with the resolution’s theory, they voted against it because they object to the way Mr. Martilotta and Mr. Roberts have pushed the issue.

In particular, Mr. Hubbard said he took offense to comments Mr. Roberts made on Facebook stating that the village has failed to prune trees in the last eight years because board members take benefits.

According to his Facebook page, Mr. Roberts wrote on Tuesday: “We haven’t trimmed trees around some of our power lines in eight years. During that time, the budget included almost $1 million in compensation for Village Board members. Does that sound right to you?”

Prior to the vote, Mr. Roberts described the resolution as a “formality” since his fellow board members committed earlier this year to end benefits.

“This is not personal,” Mr. Roberts explained. “Jack and I didn’t come up with this. We walked around the village and knocked on everyone’s doors … You have no idea how often this came up.”

“This shouldn’t be such a big deal,” he continued. “You’ll have to explain to everyone if you don’t vote for it.”

Ms. Phillips said she didn’t take benefits for the first four years she was in office and described Mr. Roberts’ comment about the village not accomplishing anything in eight years as a “personal attack.”

“There are many people in the community that know I’ve been very nose to the ground,” she said. “Yes, I hope there will be a change, but it’s not going to be with this resolution.”

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Photo: Greenport Village Board Mayor George Hubbard at Thursday’s meeting. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)