Editorial Notebook: Sept. 22

Council wise to invest in healthy workers

The Urban County Council on Tuesday took an important step toward both controlling the city's medical costs and improving the health of employees.

The council agreed to pay Marathon Health $1.3 million to open, furnish and staff a clinic that will provide city employees, their families and retirees with free preventive health care like routine exams, vaccines, flu shots, weight management and smoking cessation programs.

The idea, simply enough, is that it costs less to keep people healthy than to treat them when they're sick. And, if they do get sick, it costs less to treat them early.

Chattanooga instituted a similar program in 2006. That city has about 6,400 employees compared to Lexington's 6,000.

The director of risk management there told the council the program is saving the city about $5 million a year, making it reasonable that Lexington expects to recoup the cost of the wellness center in savings.

This is a bold move to take control of health care costs. Accountability, though, will be the final test of success. The council must keep a close eye on the bottom line and ensure the city and its employees are getting the most for their money.

Visionary architect working her genius here

Lexington had every right Tuesday to bask in the reflected light of Jeanne Gang, the Chicago architect who was recognized with a MacArthur genis grant.

She was recognized for her "striking yet functional designs."

That's just what she offered in June for the CentrePointe block downtown. Gang described the thoughtful process she and her colleagues followed to develop their concepts, studying the history, culture, climate and built environment of our area before they put pencil to paper.

The result was a refreshing proposal that almost miraculously transformed three years of acrimony over the project into a lovefest among developer The Webb Cos., Mayor Jim Gray — once their loudest critic — and the community that in 2008 was bitterly divided over the initial proposal for the block.

With no construction yet on the site, the story is far from over. But Lexington can take pride in forming a partnership with this talented, visionary woman and her firm to help us reimagine our community.