September 2011

Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 -- Construction zones

QUESTION

Regarding the CANHR infill project, Facilities Services' "Facilities Matters" web page says: "The use of the [construction] crane will be on the north side of the Arctic Health building from 9-24 to 9-25." Yet returning from lunch break today I noticed the crane swing from south to north over the building's east side as a student stood outside talking on her phone. The idea of working in a fully occupied building with a giant crane swinging overhead makes me nervous. Is this really safe? And most importantly, when will this all be over?

RESPONSE

From Cam Wohlford, UAF Design and Construction

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the contractor for the Arctic Health Courtyard Infill for the Center for Alaska Native Health Research was required to off-load some steel bar joists that were delivered on Koyukuk Drive around 11 a.m. The contractor established a safety zone around the off-load area and the contractor and UAF personnel were present to ensure pedestrians were routed away from the work zone. UAF personnel guided several pedestrians away from the work zone during the 30 minute off load. Between UAF and the contractor, we covered all areas that pedestrians were traveling and felt the safety plan established by the contractor worked well. UAF and the contractor will continue to be vigilant in their safety precautions and we asked that all UAF staff, students, and faculty recognize the dangers present with constructing on campus and raise their awareness levels when traveling around campus. The crane is expected to be on site through Oct. 14.

Friday, Sept. 30, 2011 -- Wi-fi on campus

QUESTION

Will UAF ever have a campus-wide Wi-fi network? Currently, students with laptops, tablets, or smart phones need to have costly data plans in order to use these devices outside of the walls of classrooms and buildings here at UAF. It would greatly enhance the quality of life for students if they could take the learning environment outside, granted, when it isn't too cold. Wi-fi availability is no longer a perk, but a necessity in the world of today.

RESPONSE

From Karl Kowalski, Chief Information Technology Officer

Yes. Each year the Office of Information Technology examines wireless needs around the campus and works to expand existing coverage. As the vast majority of our season confines us to the indoor computing environment, our priority has been to improve wireless throughout internal structures. As we continue to build out our wireless infrastructure, we do plan to take into consideration outdoor learning areas.  Some areas are currently accessible out of doors. One should be able to receive wireless coverage outside of the library in Constitution Park, outside of Wood Center and in outdoor areas between the Arctic Health Building and the West Ridge complex.

While this coverage is by no means complete, we understand that the need for wireless is increasing and will continue to expand our coverage as we are able to commit funding.

Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011 -- Wellness Program funding

QUESTION

Keeping with the WIN for Alaska Program conversation -- with the amount if money that's being spent -- couldn't that money be dispersed equally between each employee, university wide, as a membership to their respective SRC and then the rest of the funds be put towards those SRC's locker rooms, equipment, general operating funds, etc?

RESPONSE

From Beth Behner, SW Human Resources

The Joint Health Care Committee has already reviewed prior inquiries about funding Fairbanks-based employees' memberships in SRC. However, the Wellness Program is for employees throughout the UA System and in some locations there are no university-run facilities similar to the SRC. The JHCC has favored use of wellness incentive money that can be equitably distributed. As a result, if partial reimbursement of SRC fees is considered for Fairbanks employees, other types of reimbursements would have to be permitted so that employees can participate equally regardless of location. It would not be appropriate to use wellness incentive funds for operating expenses or equipment at one campus only.

Any suggestions for changes to the UA Wellness Program should be forwarded to members of the Staff Health Care Committee or Joint Health Care Committee for consideration. Contact information is available online.
 

Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011 -- Dependent audit savings

QUESTION

This morning's news repeated your earlier report about the results of the dependent audit, indicating an estimated savings of $470,000 to the health plan. This is based on the assumption that
the dependents removed from the plan each used the "average" amount of health care, or $4,500 each. However, in most health plans the average cost is driven by a small percentage of users with very high
costs. This makes the mean value you reported misleading, because the majority of health plan members use much less than the "average". Can you please report the median spending level for
health plan dependents, so we can get a more accurate idea of the likely savings?

RESPONSE

From Beth Behner, SW Human Resources

It is true that not everyone will be at the average cost, but we need to use the mean cost per dependent as we don't know if the individuals removed from the plan were above or below the mean. Using the mean dollar cost gives us an approximate cost savings based on the entire population of the university. 

Another important item to consider is that we don't know what ineligible dependents' future costs might have been if they had remained on the plan. Any individual plan member may have catastrophic level claims in the future, even if they have not had them in the past.

Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011 -- KCBF to broadcast hockey

QUESTION

Why was KSUA not chosen to broadcast UAF Hockey? Does Athletics pay KCBF? does the KCBF give money to Athletics? Who gets the money from the ad revenue?

RESPONSE

From Forrest Karr, Director of Athletics

The decision to broadcast all Nanook sports on KCBF was made to maintain, and hopefully increase, exposure for the programs. The Department of Athletics will not pay KCBF, nor will KCBF pay the Department of Athletics to broadcast games. KCBF will keep all ad revenue this year and they will use some of it to contract directly with Bruce Cech to pay his salary. In previous years, the Department of Athletics contracted with Bruce to call hockey games. In many of these years, the UAF Face-Off Club was able to sell enough underwriting spots to reimburse the department for over half of Bruce's salary.

Background
Nanook hockey has been broadcast on KSUA 91.5 FM for 10 years.

Nanook men's and women's basketball games have been broadcast on KCBF 820 AM for around 10 years as well.

Glen "Glenner" Anderson, KCBF Operations Manager and John Hajdukovich usually call the basketball games. Glenner, along with Perry Walley, KCBF General Manager, felt that it was no longer financially possible to just broadcast men's and women's basketball, unless they were able to add hockey to the line-up. They also agreed to hire Bruce as the on-air talent for hockey.

There were other considerations for this change:

  • All Nanook sports will be consolidated on KCBF - 820 AM, a station specializing in sports programming.
  • New Northwest Broadcasters (NNB) has multiple stations, including KCBF, to promote the games and advertise for sponsors.
  • More people will have access to games. KSUA is 3,000 W. KCBF is 10,000 W.
  • KCBF already works with UAF journalism students for Nanook basketball broadcasts and KCBF plans to provide even more opportunities for journalism students with the addition of hockey.
  • Bruce and Glenner have been doing Nanook games for years so fans will continue hearing familiar voices.


Summary
KSUA did a great job over the last decade and was a big part of helping build the hockey program's popularity. We decided to move Nanook hockey to KCBF for the reasons listed above. We truly appreciate the enormous effort that Channon Price and many students put into making sure the KSUA broadcasts were high quality and always done in a very professional manner.

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011 -- Windows in Irving

QUESTION

I was curious about the new windows cut into the Irving Building recently. What was up with that?

RESPONSE

From Brian Barnes, IAB director

IAB paid for three new windows to be installed in Irving I this summer. The windows were placed in two faculty offices that previous had none and we put one in the IAB event room, where we have receptions, coffee, and lunch.

Though the Irving Building is on the West Ridge with potentially marvelous views of the valley, no south, east, or west facing offices have windows; It's our goal to add windows to offices, where staff and faculty work all day, to provide a quality workspace, healthy fresh air and natural light.

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011 -- Employee giving

QUESTION

How much do university employees give annually to support scholarships and other activities at UAF?

RESPONSE

Nearly 600 employees gave more than $229,000 to UAF in FY11.

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011 -- Terrain park

QUESTION

What's the timeline on the Nanook terrain park? I've heard a lot about the outdoor climbing wall, and I can see a couple of mounds where is looks like some jumps will be, but I haven't read an update on when the park will open. It's almost winter! Give me some good news!

RESPONSE

The Nanook Terrain Park is currently under development with the assistance of the United States Terrain Park Council. Representatives of the Council recently visited UAF to assist in the development of the Park. Planning will continue throughout the fall 2011 and spring 2012 academic year - with a tentative opening scheduled fall of 2012.

UAF will seek the USTPC's Smart Parks Certification. Certification is achieved through the implementation of engineering design best practices in the planning, construction, maintenance, management, and operation of terrain park features. Look for updates later in the semester.

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011 -- Proposed power plant

QUESTION

Will the new power plant be able to burn paper waste as well as coal? It seems to me that we could cut some of our fuel costs by burning waste paper and cardboard. Also, what alternative energy strategies is UAF pursuing to lower energy costs on campus?

RESPONSE

Yes. One of the benefits of the new heat and power plant we are looking at building is that it can burn a wide variety of solid fuels, including waste paper and biomass products. While those fuel sources may or may not be more cost-effective than coal, we feel that exploring the use of a percentage of renewable fuels is the responsible thing to do. Our new heat and power plant would also be more efficient and cleaner-burning than the existing plant, which means that for a given amount of fuel, we can generate more heat and power and do so with fewer emissions.  In addition to those efforts with a new plant, we are planning a diversified energy portfolio for UAF's future, including the use of gas instead of diesel for our backup boilers, the installation of solar panels and the potential to purchase wind power as it becomes available.

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011 -- Sun Star publishing salaries

QUESTION

Is there anymore information about the salary release website the Sun Star is putting together?

RESPONSE

From Marmian Grimes, UAF Public Information Officer

The university provided the salary data to the Sun Star and understand that they are currently formatting the data into a usable and secure format for the Web. The paper's editor, Heather Bryant, has indicated that she'd like to have published online before the end of the semester.

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011 -- President's pay raise

QUESTION

8.5% raise?!? Where is that money coming from? If the BOR has funds to give President Gamble that large a raise, why not the rest of us?

RESPONSE

From Kate Ripley, SW Office of Public Affairs

The Board of Regents approved an increase to President Gamble’s pay for two primary reasons: 1) to move the salary closer to current market rates for university system presidents at peer institutions and 2) for exceptional performance.

Even with the raise, the UA president’s salary is 76.5 percent of the market rate. UA historically has used 90 percent of the market median for presidents of peer institutions as a benchmark in setting the president’s salary.

Regents said they offered the president a lower salary when he started last year ($295,000 compared to the previous president’s $370,000 base/bonus total) with the intention of assessing and rewarding performance. A consultant advised the regents that a competitive starting salary for a system president ranged from between $300,000 to $350,000.

Regents believe President Gamble deserves the increase. Completion of the Academic Master Plan in collaboration with faculty, an emphasis on cooperation and teamwork between campuses and chancellors, the focus on a new strategic direction and improved communication were cited as examples of his performance.

UA strives to keep its salaries at competitive levels for all positions, and uses appropriate benchmarks for salary comparisons (similar pay for similar work).

If you believe your current pay for your particular position is not competitive with that of other employers, or that your level of performance is worthy of a merit increase, please discuss it with your supervisor.

The president’s pay increase is funded from the same pool used for all executive salaries (unrestricted funds). A reallocation within Statewide will be necessary.

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011 -- STARS sustainabililty report

QUESTION

I would like to read the STARS sustainability report, but I don't find it anywhere on the web. Are you going to publish it, so we know what we did as an institution to warrant the award?

Please visit our website for more information on sustainability efforts at UAF.

RESPONSE

From Michelle Hebert, Office of Sustainability

The report is online at on the Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System website.

To find out how you can get involved in current sustainability efforts at UAF, visit the UAF Office of Sustainability website.

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011 -- Recycling at UAF

QUESTION

Where does UAF's recycling go, exactly? I know that the university has a partnership with K&K, but what does K&K do with the plastics, glass, etc. collected? Is it sent out of state? Does it stay here? I have also heard that in other places, such as Anchorage, a Dumpster that is "contaminated" (that is, if someone puts #5 plastics in a #4 bin or similar) cannot be recycled and instead those items head to the dump. How is this handled at UAF? I have noticed that the bins often have items in them that don't correspond to the labels on the outside (glass, cardboard, etc.).

RESPONSE

From Michelle Hebert, Office of Sustainability

All the materials at the UAF recycle collection site in the Nenana Parking lot goes to K&K.The glass is crushed and used locally for road sand and horticulture sand. The mixed paper and cardboard is pelletized and burned to make electricity. The steel and aluminum is bailed and shipped out of state for reprocessing. If there is minor contamination it is pulled out by the crew at K&K recycling. The only time a load was not excepted was early in the program when someone had put a large load of dirty diapers. It was felt this put the sorting crew at a risk.

Please visit our website for more information on sustainability efforts at UAF.

Monday, Sept. 12, 2011 -- Cost of university's wellness program

QUESTION

How much is the university paying for the WIN program? The costs of the mailings alone must be high. Is there be a way to spend less on mailings to not only save money but also to help the university’s efforts to be sustainable?

RESPONSE

From Beth Behner, UA Human Resources

The total cost for UA's wellness program in FY11 was $1,879,477. Most of that amount ($1,861,594) was related to programs provided by our primary wellness vendor, "WIN for Alaska."  The amount paid to WIN includes the cost of UA's Individual Health Planning (IHP) program, which in FY11 provided personalized coaching services to employees to improve overall health, manage weight, reduce stress and develop an exercise plan. It also includes other incentive programs run by WIN, such as the  "Get-the-Point" program, wellness breaks offered at numerous campus sites throughout the year, and fitness classes that many employees attend at no cost to them. While individualized coaching and other wellness offerings are expensive, many employees who utilize these services say they have experienced tremendous improvements through UA's wellness program.

UA has not been able to determine a return on investment from these wellness programs because we are not currently collecting and analyzing biometrics of individuals who use UA's wellness program.   Having WIN for Alaska and other health plan providers gather and compile biometric data (while maintaining this data confidentially and inaccessible to any employees of the university) would make it possible to validate that UA employees are improving the state of their health through wellness activities. We would have the ability to tie the reduction in employees' health risks to known cost savings.

In response to your other question, the periodic mailings that come from WIN are included in base program costs. The university is not charged extra for those. We do have additional mailings that are from a company called Personal Best; these are pamphlets containing tips on nutrition and wellness that are mailed to employees' homes bi-monthly. The cost for those services in FY11 was approximately $10,000. Most communications to employees are sent electronically, but  some pamphlets and mailings are sent through the postal service as well, so that they can be read by employees' spouses and dependents. Often an employee's spouse may be the one making decisions regarding health care use  and whether to participate in wellness activities. The university uses a variety of methods to communicate so that if people don't use computers often, they will still receive pamphlets in the mail.

 For more information and to sign up for wellness activities, please see the
 UA Benefits website at  http://www.alaska.edu/benefits/wellness-programs/

QUESTION #2

Is there a way to opt out of mailings from the various programs, including the Personal Best mailings?

RESPONSE

There really isn't.The lists are pulled from Banner reports of eligible and enrolled employees. It's part of the benefits package at the University of Alaska, and you can't opt out of it any more than you could opt out of the basic life insurance or long-term disability plan. You can always delete the emails and recycle the newsletters, but there's good information that can apply to anyone interested in improving their health.



 

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011 -- ORP contributions

QUESTION

When the university steals ORP retirement/pension contributions from employees who work less than the 3-years required for vesting, where does the money go? In many cases, UAF's contributions come from the same external grants that fund the employees' salaries; does UAF return the taken-back funds to the grants' sources, or does UAF "pocket" them?

RESPONSE

From Beth Behner, UA Human Resources

When individuals do not vest in UA's pension or in ORP, the amounts are not spent for other purposes. As required by the IRS, the ORP and pension forfeitures are used to pay ORP and pension contributions for current active employees.

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011 -- Health care and benefits information

QUESTION

I submitted a question about finding the new health plan coverage details in early July and received a reply that they would be posted online. The page I was directed to only had very brief overviews. I am having a complex medical issue and need to look at the full benefits booklet. I still can't find the new health care plan coverage booklet online on the obvious UAF benefits pages http://www.alaska.edu/benefits/health-plan-changes/ or  http://www.alaska.edu/benefits/health-plan/
Am I looking in the wrong places or overlooking the link on the UAF site? Can the University please contact Premera and ask them to post a booklet?

Thank you for your help!

RESPONSE

From Beth Behner, UA Human Resources

The University Benefits office is currently working with Premera to provide an updated Handbook, or Summary Plan Description. There were many detailed changes regarding provisions of Federal Health Care Reform that went into effect July 2011, which had to be defined and included in the Handbook this year. The University has asked Premera for numerous clarifications on documents they provided, to assist with this process.

It may be another few weeks before the Handbook can be posted. In the meantime, for information on UA health plan or coverage, please call customer service at Premera or the SW Benefits office.

There is also a lot of information available on the

benefits comparison chart

that may be useful for you to review.

Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011 -- ConSova audit results

QUESTION

When the employee health insurance audit was announced, we were told that the results would be announced (eg. if it really accomplished anything given the cost and hassle it caused.) Is this  
still going to happen? If so, when? If not, why not?

RESPONSE

From Beth Behner, UA Human Resources

Thank you for the reminder.

This following out on the UA Benefits listserve from me today.

Last winter, the University of Alaska initiated an audit of all Dependents enrolled in the UA health plan as of January, 2011, to ensure that only eligible individuals were covered. Other employers who have conducted dependent audits have found between 5 and 8 percent of dependents to be ineligible.   UA used an external vendor, ConSova, to conduct the dependent audit.

We have now completed the audit. Following the work performed by ConSova and a careful final review by Statewide HR, the University determined that 103 dependents were ineligible to be on the plan. (The University will continue taking verification documents from employees who have not yet submitted them, so this number may change.) Using the amount of $4,563 per year, which is the average cost for dependents’ health care claims using FY10 amounts, the UA health care plan is projected to save around $470,000 in projected claims costs because of this audit.

The 103 ineligible dependents represent less than 2 percent of the 5,590 dependents on the plan, fewer than have been found by other employers who undertake audits. We are pleased that UA employees have done a good job in removing or not enrolling dependents who don’t qualify as eligible. Ineligible dependents on UA’s plan present actual and potential claims costs that would unfairly burden the rest of UA employees and the institution, which pays for over 80 percent of plan costs overall.

The University’s current procedure for enrolling new health care dependents now includes a requirement that employees present verification documents to the campus HR offices for review at the time of enrollment. Benefits managers consider it a best practice to conduct health plan eligibility audits every five years or so, to ensure that divorced spouses and other dependents no longer eligible to be on the plan can be identified and removed. While there are no current plans for another audit, it’s reasonable to assume one will be conducted in the future.

I appreciate the assistance of the Joint Health Care Committee, the Staff Health Care Committee and all UA employees during the completion of the dependent audit.

QUESTION #2

Beth stated anticipated savings are $470,000 over the next year. How much of that savings is going to pay Consova's fee? How many names did Consova provide that, after the university's internal re-audit, turned out to still be eligible?

RESPONSE #2

From Beth Behner, UA Human Resources

The dependent audit conducted by ConSova for UA took approximately five months and cost $67,975.  There were 5,386 dependents of UA employees audited. ConSova found 267 of these dependents to be ineligible in mid-June. This group included dependents who were acknowledged by employees to be ineligible, as well as dependents for whom employees provided incomplete verification information or no information.  

After UA received ConSova's list, Statewide Human Resources conducted an additional case by case review. The UA Benefits office communicated directly to all of the employees with enrolled dependents who were on ConSova's list. UA took this step to ensure that employees had received earlier communications and had every opportunity to participate. The University asked the employees to provide documents if they wished to have their dependents remain on the plan. Employees were reminded of the deadline for providing information. Additionally, UA's Benefits Office reviewed copies of documents submitted to ConSova, to see whether we agreed with ConSova's recommendation of ineligibility.  

Following an additional period of time given to employees to respond, and UA's direct review process, 103 dependents were found ineligible. The estimate of $470,000 in potential cost savings from 103 ineligible dependents (referenced in my memo to employees) was based on the average health care claims amount on a per dependent basis from 2010. Quite a few employees were still gathering and providing documents at that time, and some remain in discussions with UA regarding their circumstances, so the number of dependents ultimately found ineligible may change.


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