SEBRING — Numerous staff recommendations supporting the approval of a contract for an employee health clinic failed to alleviate the financial concerns of two members of The School Board of Highlands County.

With School Board Member Bill Brantley absent, the recommended contract with Treasure Coast Medical Associates failed approval by a 2-2 voted with School Board Chair Jill Compton Twist and School Board Member Donna Howerton voting “no.”

According to the contract, the School Board would pay about $600,000 annually for three years. District staff said the money would come from the pool of insurance money already set aside for each employee.

Before the vote, Howerton said there is an uncertainty on how it will work out financially for the district.

School Board Member Jan Shoop said the insurance committee made its recommendation and the board has the information it needs to make a decision.

School Board Member Charlene Edwards said, “I think this is going to be an excellent thing for our employees.”

After the vote, School Board Attorney John McClure said usually the board would approve the insurance committee’s recommendation and then a contract would be developed and considered.

A lot of work went into this and now it is down to the 11th hour, he said.

“Now you are at a position where what? Are you rejecting all bids? Is that what we are doing or does this contract need to be renegotiated further with something better in it?” McClure asked.

Compton Twist said the motion was to consider approval of the contract.

McClure asked if the contract was rejected, will the board be voting on the insurance committee’s recommendation at some point?

He said they have a “huge quandary” in missing a board member who would have had the deciding vote, but it did not pass so he wanted to know what was next.

It was decided to get updated information on the expected savings from a health clinic for presentation at a special School Board meeting at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13.

But, the three-hour special meeting, with only the clinic contract on the agenda, had much more discussion leading up to School Board vote.

The district’s insurance committee recommended Treasure Coast Medical Associates to provide the health clinic services for the district’s employees, eligible dependents and retirees.

Three other clinic vendors, including Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center, had been interviewed by the insurance committee.

Treasure Coast Medical President Mike Adelberg and Senior Director of Sales and Marketing Kelly Adelberg provided detailed information on the clinic’s staffing and services. There would be no copay for School Board employees and eligible dependents and no additional costs for any clinical services.

The objective is to reduce insurance claims and by the third year the district would be saving $3 for every $1 spent on the clinic, they said.

Superintendent Brenda Longshore said initially when the district was looking into having a health clinic, it was not viewed as something to make money, but to provide a great benefit to employees.

She spoke with teachers and the superintendent in Okeechobee County and they said it was a tremendous benefit for them, Longshore said.

“In speaking with teachers from our own district who have been part of this process over months and years it seems like very positive input from them with the hope that we would have a clinic here in Highlands County,” she said. “I definitely do support this contract.”

McClure stressed that the Treasure Coast contract included a 90-day cancellation clause without having to specify a reason for termination.

“I have never seen that ... which leads me to believe that the providers here have great confidence in their ability to be successful,” he said.

Teachers Union Vice President Tim Murphy said he and his peers believe it is the “best thing” for employees.

Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center President and CEO Randy Surber said the hospital could have done a better job with its presentation and asked the board to delay its decision for further review and discussion.

Deputy Superintendent Andrew Lethbridge responded that the district had been in contact with Florida Hospital and the district’s concerns were not addressed.

Ample time and ample information was provided to the prospective clinic vendors, but after seeing all the presentations, the insurance committee was unanimous in selecting Treasure Coast Medical, he said.

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