Hilliard Northwest News

City officials mull early retirement plan for dispatchers

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Some Hilliard police dispatchers could have a safety net when their positions are eliminated by the Jan. 13, 2014, transfer of all emergency-dispatching services to the Dublin Division of Police.

Fire and medical calls will switch Oct. 1, but some dispatchers will remain to handle police calls from landlines until Jan. 13.

Some dispatchers have sought other employment, but for those remaining, the city will offer voluntary early retirement to those who are eligible.

Human Resources Director Gerry Edwards introduced an ordinance adopting the early retirement plan Sept. 23 at the Finance and Administrative Committee meeting.

Edwards said he and other city administrators met with representatives of the Ohio Labor Council, the union representing 13 employees in the safety department. Afterward, Edwards approached the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System to discuss an early retirement plan.

The eligibility requirements will be based on years of service or age of the employee, Edwards said.

Currently, city officials believe three of the 13 safety department employees will be eligible to apply for the incentive, Edwards said.

Edwards said the city anticipates one employee to accept the early retirement incentive, which would allow the employee to achieve 30 years of service and the associated retirement benefits.

As part of the incentive, the city would buy out one year of service for the employee, picking up that employee's share of contributions to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.

If all three known eligible employees were to accept the buyout, it would cost the city a maximum of $37,226, Edwards said.

The plan will be provided for only one year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2014.

"That means the employees will have only 13 days to decide," said Edwards, although the eligible employees are aware a plan is being made available. "We think it's a good plan and something the city should do."

City Council will be required to adopt the ordinance as an emergency as its next meeting Oct. 21 to provide OPERS with the time it requires to adopt the policy and have it in place by Jan. 1.

In a related matter, City Council members voted 6-0 to formally enter into the contract with the Dublin Division of Police to provide fire and emergency-dispatching services.

City Council members had supported the measure in two previous readings.

There was no discussion among council or administration prior to the Sept. 23 vote. Councilman Jim Ashenhurst was absent.

Two residents again spoke in opposition of the switch.

Eli Bowen, whose wife is a Hilliard dispatcher, reiterated his concern for the consolidation of emergency services and criticized the city's treatment of dispatchers.

Marc Barraco, a former City Council candidate, questioned the projected savings the merger is said to provide, and shared Bowen's concern of placing too many dispatching responsibilities in the hands of a single provider.

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