Four Mehlville fire district employees accept board’s early retirement incentive offer

Hilmer lauds professionalism of three rehired by fire board on ‘interim basis’

By MIKE ANTHONY

Four Mehlville Fire Protection District employees have accepted an early retirement incentive offered last fall by the Board of Directors.

Accepting the early retirement incentive were: Fire Marshal Ed Berkel, Deputy Chief Jim Hampton, Deputy Chief Dave Waser and Capt. Mike Ellis.

Berkel, Hampton and Waser since have been rehired by the Board of Directors “on an interim basis,” according to Chairman Aaron Hilmer.

Hilmer, Treasurer Bonnie Stegman and Secretary Ed Ryan voted unanimously in late October to approve a resolution offering an early retirement incentive to up to 10 employees with 25 years or more of service to the district who applied in writing before Dec. 1. The incentive included a $15,000 bonus, $1,000 for each year of service and 19 percent of gross wages for 2007 placed into the fire district’s 401(a) defined-contribution pension plan.

“Once we extended this offer to all the employees, three of the administration started inquiring into it (being rehired),” Hilmer said. “Well, we only have seven people in the administration, so when 40 percent of your staff is talking about potentially leaving on retirement, that put us in a real quandary. And then the discussion was brought up of: ‘OK, say you took the retirement. Would you want to come back to work on an interim basis for your old salary, but you would not receive any more pension contributions from the district?’ And all three people in the administration thought they’d want to do that.

“If it worked out for them, then it’s obviously a good deal for the district, too … Our backs would have really been up against the wall if those three guys would have just got up and left — just from we wouldn’t have enough people to staff the admin and then also all the costs, the hiring process, the recruiting process and obviously the training process. So it really worked out well and also we kept a lot of continuity by retaining their experience.

“So now when they do decide to leave, we’ll have more of an advance notice and it will work out a lot smoother.”

Total payments received by the four retirees — including a lump-sum payout from the district’s defined-benefit pension plan, accrued vacation and sick-leave benefits, $1,000 for each year of service and the $15,000 bonus — were:

• Berkel — $684,508, including a lump-sum pension payment of $590,627. His 19-percent contribution into the 401(a) defined-contribution pension plan totaled $34,536.

• Hampton — $820,664, including a lump-sum pension payment of $701,681. His 19-percent contribution into the 401(a) defined-contribution pension plan totaled $43,881.

• Waser — $614,823, including a lump-sum pension payment of $503,503. His 19-percent contribution into the 401(a) defined-contribution pension plan totaled $41,740.

• Ellis — $686,489, including a lump-sum pension payment of $580,121. His 19-percent contribution into the 401(a) defined-contribution pension plan totaled $36,673.

Regarding the lump-sum payments, Hilmer said, “Those are amounts they accrued under the old defined-benefit plan … Obviously, that’s one thing Bonnie and I wanted — and we have reformed or are continuing to try, and while we may not agree with those amounts, that’s something that was due to them as of a certain date that was accrued underneath a different board and a different plan. Whether we agreed with it or not, I mean that’s what they had going before we showed up.”

He also praised the professionalism of the three administrative employees.

“One other thing I’d like to point out about these three gentlemen we retained is when the voters mandated reform in the fire district in April of 2005 and Bonnie and I instituted them, these three people, they never complained about it even though it affected them. They just carried out what the board asked them to do and I think that’s a mark of a true professional and I’m glad those three are still working for us on an interim basis,” Hilmer said.