Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Board says no to FD pension increase

GREENWOOD TOWNSHIP

Jodi Summit
Posted 11/16/16

GREENWOOD TWP- The third time was not the charm as the town board once again refused to raise the fire department pension amount from its current rate of $1,900 per year of service. The fire …

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Board says no to FD pension increase

GREENWOOD TOWNSHIP

Posted

GREENWOOD TWP- The third time was not the charm as the town board once again refused to raise the fire department pension amount from its current rate of $1,900 per year of service. The fire department had been asking for an increase to $2,100.

Supervisor Jeff Maus noted that as the pension plan is moving to the state-governed PERA system, the pension amount cannot be changed for at least five years.

“We know that this amount is higher than for the Breitung or Tower Fire Departments,” he said. “We know it is as much as two to three times higher. We are not arguing the math.”

Maus said the pension is a crucial tool for fire department recruitment and retention.

“Getting volunteers is an issue nationwide,” he said.

Maus said the department’s pension fund is still healthy and solvent at the higher amount, even without any additional township contributions over the next five years.

A motion by Gene Baland to increase the pension failed for lack of a second. The board approved a resolution to move the pension plan to PERA, and to set the pension amount at $1,900. Maus abstained from the resolution, because he is a fire department member.

The board took no action on the newly revised fire department bylaws and paid on-call guidelines, which are currently being reviewed by the township attorney, who has said changes need to be made.

The board questioned Chief Fazio about his appointment of a new assistant chief. Fazio noted he had appointed long-time department member Howard Ankrum to the post, which was formerly held by Pat Trancheff, who recently retired due to health issues.

The board questioned whether this position would assume the same three-year contract as previously, as well as if the candidate fit the qualifications of the job description.

The board noted that the department has the right to promote from within, and does not need to advertise. Bassing also noted that another department member with more experience had inquired about the position.

Maus noted that right now the department did not have an assistant chief, and the only other official is the safety officer, Ed Borchardt, who does not live in the area over the winter. The board also asked if they were paying Borchardt his monthly salary when he was not able to perform his duties. Fazio noted the township had paid a fire department official in the past who was out of the area part-time.

Fazio told the board he wanted to promote Ankrum, not another candidate.

Supervisor Randy Kladivo noted the board is currently working on new personnel policies for all township employees, and said he felt they should hold off making any decision until the new policies are approved.

The board tabled any decision on appointing an assistant chief.

The board approved paying fire department members $20/hour for driving trucks to and from maintenance appointments. This job was formerly done by the maintenance supervisor, who has been out on extended sick leave.

Maus noted he had been told by Ed Borchardt that three town board members had already agreed to this amount, but it hadn’t come before the board. He noted that this was not proper procedure, and such issues need to be discussed at the board meeting.

Kladivo said he would prefer to have board approval for such payments only after the receipt of a voucher detailing what had been done.

New playground?

The board again refused to approve a request from the Greenwood Community Recreation Board to install a playground structure near the new pavilion.

The board did vote to put the idea up for a vote at the next annual meeting in March. The Rec Board would raise all the funds needed for purchase, site preparation, and installation of any playground equipment that is approved. They are looking at a wooden system from Rainbow Play Systems with a total current cost of around $17,000, though they noted the cost would be higher in 2017. The playset comes with a 10-year maintenance free warranty, but since it is made of wood, would eventually need repair and re-staining.

A motion to approve the request as long as there was no additional cost to the township was voted down, 3-2, with Gene Baland and Jeff Maus voting in favor, and John Bassing, Carmen DeLuca, and Randy Kladivo voting against.

The main area of disagreement was a lobbying attempt, by an unnamed person on the recreation board, who was calling supervisors and then relaying information on how other supervisors said they would vote on such a measure.

“I know their heart may be in the right place,” said Chairman John Bassing, “but that comes close to being a serial meeting (something which is illegal due to the Open Meeting law).”

The issue of the response to a question on the community survey was also discussed. The question had a majority of township property owners saying they were against further recreational development at the town hall. But Baland noted that 37 percent of the year-round residents wanted more recreation development, as did 63 percent of seasonal residents.

“In total,” Baland said, “Eighty percent of landowners with road access agreed.”

In the past it has also been noted that some of the questions that were part of the community survey were vague and open to opposing interpretations.

The board also asked the recreation committee to work on dimming or removing the green lights placed along the pavilion’s roof edge.

Comprehensive Plan

The board gave formal approval to the long-range comprehensive plan that was developed over the past year and a half. The plan is now basically moot, they noted, because St. Louis County has taken over planning and zoning responsibility in the township. Formal approval was required for the township to keep a $6,500 grant it had received from the IRRRB to help fund the plan.

Supervisor Jeff Maus publicly thanked all those who had worked on the plan and given comments.

Supervisor Gene Baland said the board should look closely at the plan and comments submitted, to see what things the board itself could do to further the priorities the plan outlined.

In other business the board:

‰ Heard from long-time treasurer Delores Clark who will be retiring at the end of her term in March 2017, after more than 20 years in township government. Clark said she wanted to give others time to think about running for the opening.

‰ Clerk Sue Drobac said the computer in the clerk’s office required major repairs, at a cost of $836. “It had the blue screen of death,” she said.

‰ Approved calling for quotes for the installation of a fire alarm/detection system in the town hall and fire hall buildings. The specifications for the project were created by the Otto Maki Design Group, which will solicit three to four quotes on the system. The board will still need to approve the actual installation. The system will include manual pull stations, smoke detectors, heat detectors, and alarms for those with vision and/or hearing impairment, that will automatically call an alarm company along with a township contact. The system is estimated to cost around $20,000. There would also be a monthly charge or between $30-$40 for the alarm company service.

‰ Passed a resolution approving a snowplowing contract with Vermilion Snow Management, which is owned by Supervisor Randy Kladivo’s son TJ. This was the only quote the township received, and it was for $100/hour. Randy noted he has no financial interest in the company, but does occasionally drive the plow. Randy abstained from the vote.

‰ Noted that filings for township offices will be open from Jan. 3-17, 2017. There will be at least two supervisor seats, and the treasurer seat on the ballot.

‰ Will sell the old International fire engine, as is, through Do-Bid. The truck will not pass a DOT inspection, they noted.

‰ Noted there were 535 voters on Nov. 8, with 751 registered prior to election day. The township registered 62 new voters on election day.

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