Council Passes Early Retirement Incentive

City Administrator Glenn Rodden presented an Early Retirement Incentive plan to the City Council at their meeting last night. Council members questioned the meaning of many parts of the plan and what the impact would be on the city budget.

The question was asked if this plan would be a permanent policy in the years to come or just for the coming year. Administrator Rodden said the way the policy was written at the present time if would just be for this coming year but it could be changed if the council decided that was what they wanted to do. This could be decided at a later time, he told the council.

The policy would provide an early retirement incentive for current employees who qualify for retirement under KPERS, but do not yet qualify for health care coverage under Medicare. The policy would allow a current employee to retire and stay on the city's health care plan for a period of time that is linked to their number of years of service to the city. Rodden said he has had a few city employees tell him during the past month they would submit to early retirement if this plan were to be adopted.

Some of the Council members felt the policy wording is too long and it was hard to understand the meaning of what is actually said. Some questioned the notice to employees telling them to review and understand the effect of the document before acting on it. It was also suggested the employee should consult an attorney and financial or tax advisor before signing it. It gives a timeline of until 5 p.m. on February 1, 2013 to return this General Release Agreement, signed and notarized.

The incentive Pay and Benefits section says the employee may elect one of two options offered by the program. Option 1 is for the employee to opt to continue coverage under the City's retiree health plan. One hundred percent of the employees eligible accrued sick leave would be paid at the employees base hourly rate of pay.

Option 2 is for those employees retiring and opting not to continue coverage under the City's Retirement Plan. 100 percent of the employee's eligible accrued sick leave would be paid following the employee's retirement date. In lieu of receiving continued health benefits the employee would receive a one-time lump sum payment equal to $500 for each year of service. This is in addition to the payout of accrued sick leave.

Rodden said this would allow the city to replace the higher paid employees with employees hired at a lower pay level. It would also allow the city to wait to replace anyone to a position until a later date if they opted to do this. They could possibally do more cross training so employees could to work in multiple departments. This is something they need to look at when figuring a budget for the coming year, he said. After much discussion Mayor Tom Naasz called for a roll call vote on the issue, which resulted in a 6 votes for with two councilmen voting against adopting this policy as it is written.

In other formal actions the Council voted 8 to 0 to approve the applications for Cereal Malt Beverage for the seven applications received which included: Casey's Retail Company (East and West), Pump Mart, Shamburg Oil, Inc., Beloit Bowl, El Puertos, and the Solomon Valley Eagles Club.

The Council approved the low bid received from Kriz-Davis Co. in the amount of $6,700 for Nordic 3 equipment for the Systems Operations Department to use for the Kohler project and part of the North Campus project. The Council approved this bid 8 to 0. The Council voted 8 to 0 to approve the low bid from Boettcher Supply for 4 inch PVC Conduit in the amount of $6,520. This will also be used for the Kohler project and part of the North Campus project.

The Council voted 8 to 0 to approve granting the city employees a full day off on Christmas Eve this year since Christmas Eve falls on Monday and Christmas Day falls on Tuesday the Council felt it would be prudent to give the employees the entire day off on Christmas Eve. The Council voted 8 to 0 to approve hiring Barry Schoen to the Beloit Fire Department as per Chief Steve Rugg's recommendation.

Administrator Rodden told the Council they have been running the power plant to supply needed power for the power pool and because they are cleaning out the drainage area near the cooling towers. Rodden also said they have closed out the Grant with NRCS that was used to stabilize a riverbank in Chautauqua Park.

Under Council Reports Councilman Matt Otte read a letter from Harold Heidrick, a member of the Board of Directors, asking for support from the City of Beloit for Solomon Valley Transportation. The City has to date contributed a total of $500 to SVT through the Administrators discretionary authority. Heidrick asked for a letter of intent from the City of Beloit to contribute $10,000 every year. "They need your support because it looks bad to new investors that the city it benefits the most is not contributing and without the ongoing support of private investors this program with begin to shrink," Heidrick said. No action was taken. Mayor Naasz said they would check on the available funds in the budget and discuss it at their next meeting on December 18th.

During the work session, Doug McKinney, Executive Director of the North Central Kansas Planning Commission, and Heather Hartman, Community Development Director, presented an update on information about the Community Development Block Grant, Downtown Rehab Program, that was presented to the council during their November 27 meeting work session. McKinney and Hartman reported they have had four different structure owners contact them about being interested in this program.

A stipulation of the Grant is that structure chosen would be a key downtown commercial building and can't be located in a flood plain. The grant funds would cover 75 percent of the funding with a minimum match requirement of 25 percent of the project cost. Matching funds must be firmly committed by the owner of the building. The maximum amount of funds that can be applied for is $250,000.

One of the four inquiries was for a building located in the flood plain and so is not eligible. The second one is out of the downtown area so it can't be considered for program either. The other two inquiries are located on Main Street and are adjoining businesses with an adjoining wall between them. Both business owners are serious about doing this restoration and have already hired a building contractor to draw up a detailed cost estimate.

The owners intend to use these improvements to enhance their businesses and increase the services they can provide. These are existing businesses and will be creating more jobs as the program specifies. The owners are willing to put up the 25 percent match.

McKinney said as soon as the Council gives their consent he feels they need to move forward with this project as the deadline for the grant application to be turned in to the Department of Commerce by February 1, 2013. They need to be ready for a public hearing at their January meeting since it must take place 20 days before the application deadline and an architect-based cost estimate must be available at the time of the hearing. Councilman Otte asked if the window to apply for this grant is closed. McKinney said it would have to be in the near future if we are to meet the grant deadline. This is a discussion item only and will be put on the agenda at the December 18 meeting.

The final item on the work session schedule was the Wage and Salary Survey. This was a proposed plan for updating the city's wage scale based on a statewide wage survey as compared to second-class cities across Kansas. Administrator Rodden said the survey demonstrates most of the city's employees' fall within the wage range in the plan the city adopted three years ago.

Councilmen Lloyd Litrell and Bob Peterson disagreed with the amounts presented on the wage scale and asked how they came up with these pay ranges. They did not feel they were accurate. Councilman Otte asked why they couldn't just use the cost of living rate as specified by the State of Kansas. Many thought this was a good idea. No decision was made as this was a discussion only item.

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