The Conway City Council will keep looking at how to avoid a 28-percent hike in city employee health insurance premiums.

Rates are going up largely because of the city’s loss ratio — or the amount paid out in claims in relation to the amount generated in premiums. Currently, 137 percent more is being paid out than is going in, the council heard, and another large claim is pending.

The city pays a large percent of its employees’ health insurance premiums, and the increase would hit the city’s the general fund. With 88 percent of the general fund already dedicated to personnel, Mayor Tab Townsell told the council, the increase in rates as proposed would either eat into either reserves "we worked so painstakingly to rebuild and did rebuild just recently" or into operating budgets.

Alderman Andy Hawkins said that he would be in favor of an employee wellness plan being a part of whatever action is taken.

"Here’s the long and the short of this: We’ve got to do what we can do to help our employees, whether it’s checking blood and seeing iF we’ve got people with diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure — and we’ve got to somehow get hold of this problem because this is an $800,000 [expense] that we didn’t look at in next year’s budget," Hawkins said.

The city will continue to look at options with current carrier Blue Cross/Blue Shield that would lower premiums but raise co-pay and deductible amounts paid by employees, as well as the possibility of the city creating a self-funded insurance plan.

The council also voted to create a Central Business Improvement District, which would levy a new tax on downtown landowners proportional to the assessed value of their property and the location of the land in relation to areas of downtown improvement. The tax is expected to raise about $100,000 per year to maintain and further "streetscape" downtown. The creation of the district also allows property owners to get a tax credit for renovation or new construction projects.

Downtown property owners Ray Kordsmeier, George Covington and Elwood "Turk" Smith spoke in favor of the district, with Smith suggesting  to the council that a public restroom downtown would be at least as beneficial to downtown as a Christmas tree.

The council also approved a conditional use permit allowing the planned Chick-Fil-A on Prince Street to get a drive-through window.