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Special meeting called to introduce pension ordinance

By Staff | Jan 5, 2011

Another special meeting has been scheduled by the City Council to introduce an ordinance that will formally adopt modifications to the General Employees Retirement Plan. And like the last special meeting on Dec. 15, public comment will not be allowed.

During Tuesday’s first gathering of the council in 2011, the Findings and Order of the City Council, detailing the results of the meeting between the city and representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3228 — representing 67 city employees — during which a settlement was reached, was officially signed by Mayor Kevin Ruane.

As part of the signed agreement, the modifications to the pension plan include:

• Reducing the multiplier from 3 percent to 1.68 percent for future years of service.

• Maintaining the employee contribution at 5 percent.

• Reducing the cost of living provisions to provide for a 2 percent cost of living after five years of retirement.

• Modifying the early retirement provisions to provide for early retirement at age 60, and an adjustment for early retirement of 5 percent for each year of service under age 65.

The council had originally intended to have the first reading of the ordinance prepared in time for this week’s meeting. Because the legislation was not ready before Tuesday, councilors voted to add a special meeting in order to stay “on track” for a second reading — and adoption — at their Feb. 1 session.

According to the city’s by-laws, no public comment is allowed during the first reading of an ordinance. However, commentary during the second reading is permitted.

Ruane also hinted that the city was considering making an adjustment to the pension plan multiplier. During their Dec. 15 meeting, Peter Pappas suggested that the multiplier be reduced to 2 percent. His motion did not receive any support at the time, but there were indications that that figure might be adjusted.

“We couldn’t lower the figure from 1.68 percent, to say, 1.67 percent. Is that correct?” Ruane asked City Attorney Ken Cuyler, who nodded in agreement. “But we could raise it to 2 percent.”

No other business is expected to take place during the special session, however, public comment on matters other than the pension plan will be allowed.

Resident Karen Storjohann requested that the council assemble a citizen’s committee to consider compensation issues as they relate to the General Employees Retirement Plan and increase the multiplier to 2 percent.

“We set the standard and the bar very high,” added fellow islander John Carney. “Please treat your employees with honor and respect.”

Ruane noted that the three most important factors that went into settling the pension plan were salaries, turnover and investments.

“This has been a complicated subject,” he said. “As someone who has probably spent more than 100 hours working on this, I will try to embrace your comments.”

In other business, councilman Jim Jennings requested that the city look further into the possibility of establishing Lighthouse Park as an appropriate telecommunications tower site. But following a brief discussion on the subject, the suggestion received no other support.

Vice Mayor, who had originally seconded Jennings’ motion to direct staff to contact the federal government and the Department of Environmental Protection regarding the possibility to add a cell tower on the site, which was acquired by the city in early 2010, later withdrew his second.

Last month, Verizon Wireless announced their intention to install a 149-foot telecommunications tower at the Donax Street Wastewater Reclamation Facility. More than two dozen citizens, a majority of which were residents of the neighborhood adjacent to the proposed site, spoke out against the resolution on Dec. 14.

“What it comes down to, in most cases, is ‘Not in my back yard,'” said councilman Marty Harrity, who noted that the city had previously determined the Donax Street site appropriate for a cell tower. “I thought this was a done deal.”

The proposed telecommunication support structure includes an equipment shelter to house a Base Transceiver Station, connected via cables to the antenna arrays, an emergency power generator and a 25-foot by 75-foot fenced-in area to contain the tower and ancillary equipment installed on city-owned land located at the Donax Street facility, which previous councils had approved as “a telecommunications tolerant site.”

Because the application has not submitted all required final engineered construction plans and certifications, the city’s Planning Department staff recommended 36 conditions which must be met prior to approval of the development permit.

Verizon Wireless representatives were seeking the easternmost site on Sanibel, which is currently the Donax Street facility. Jennings had suggested Lighthouse Park as an alternative.

“There’s gotta be somewhere on those 44 acres to put a tower that people could live with,” said Jennings before his motion was withdrawn.

The matter will be brought up for discussion again at the council’s Feb. 1 meeting.