Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance:
Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Monday night:
• Approved the sale of remaining lots in the Amber Meadows Rural Housing Incentive District to Keller Real Estate and Insurance Agency Inc.
They had requested to purchase lots 2261, 2320 and 2321 on Prairie Rose Drive under the same terms as used in prior sales.
• Approved the purchase of a Great Bend Police Department vehicle from the Kansas Highway Patrol for $28,450.
The department budgeted for a new K-9 vehicle this year, but due to a narrow ordering window, this did not happen, said Police Chief Steve Haulmark.
However, they found a used vehicle available from the KHP that has only been used by one individual, he said. This would become the training/spare vehicle, and the current vehicle used for that purpose being used for the K9.
• Approved the 401a profit-sharing retirement plan for public safety personnel.
• Approved proceeding with the new Police Department building as envisioned, despite the a report that it could be over budget by about a $1 million.
• Heard a report from City Administrator Kendal Francis. He focused on the state’s Axe the Food Tax bill that was signed into law and the Quality of Life Committee’s public survey.
• Approved a cereal malt beverage license requested by Greg King with the Sunflower Shrine Club for the beer garden during June Jaunt June 4 in Jack Kilby Square.
• Approved a tree trimmers license for Charlie Roberts, Roberts Tree Service, of Larned.
• Approved abatements for trash and refuse violations at: 2534 Lakin Ave., McCord Property Mgt. LLC.; and 1017 Odell St., Bert Jr. and Ida Marie Luse Revocable Trust.
• Approved abatements for faulty weather protection violations at 1423 2lst., McCord Property Mgt. LLC.
• Approved abatements for motor vehicle nuisances at: 1114 Holland St., Stanley and Kreigh; 1318 Frey St., Petra and Jose Aldredo Garcia; 1213 4th St., Hebert Zuniga; 2811 21st St., Anthony Robinson; and 1311 Holland St., Marina Chavez.
Following the recommendation of a mayoral committee, the Great Bend City Council Monday night approved the city’s long-awaited profit-sharing plan for uniformed first responders. A special sales tax approved by voters last November funds the plan that came in response to complaints from emergency personnel about their retirement options.
However, the approval was not unanimous: Council members Lindsey Krom-Craven of Ward 1, Kevyn Soupiset of Ward 2, Cory Urban of Ward 3, Davis Jimenez of Ward 3 and Brock McPherson of Ward 4 voted for it; and Alan Moeder of Ward 1, Jolene Biggs of Ward 2 and Natalie Towns of Ward 4 voted against it.
First, City Administrator Kendal Francis walked the council through the plan details as agreed upon by committee members:
• Quarterly, the funds received will be divided by the total base salaries to determine a percentage. Then each employee will receive that percentage of their base salary, divided equally per pay period.
• Only uniformed police and fire personnel would be eligible. Civilian positions within both departments will not be included.
• The city will provide long-term disability insurance through Hartford. Cancer and critical illness coverage will not be provided.
• Employees become fully vested after 10 years. The current system is five.
• If an employee becomes permanently disabled, whether work-related or not, the employee automatically becomes 100% vested.
• There are executive level positions for which the city might hire employees knowing they are not likely to remain long-term (such as Police Chief Steve Haulmark and Deputy Fire Chief Brent Smith), knowing they bring their experience and leadership here. As a recruitment tool, the positions of police chief, police captain, fire chief and deputy fire chief will become fully vested upon their date of hire.
• Employees become eligible for the Profit-sharing Plan the 1st day of the new quarter following their hiring.
• The contribution rate for uniformed police and fire employees will increase from the current 4.5% to 7.15%. This reflects the rate they would have contributed had the city joined KP&F, the Kansas Police and Fire plan offered through the Kansas Public Employment Retirement System.
• The employer contribution rate will decrease from 9.5% to 8.5%, to match the contribution rate for all other employees.
• All Profit-Sharing funds for an employee who terminates employment before vesting will be returned to the plan’s forfeiture fund. Those funds will then be equally redistributed to employees one-time annually.
• The new 401 Profit-Sharing Plan will start Oct. 1.
• The long-term disability coverage begins Jan. 1, 2023.
• The changes to the existing 401 money purchase plan become effective with the Feb. 24, 2023, payroll.
“I have some objections,” councilwoman Towns said.
First, she saw the employee contribution requirement as potentially being a hardship for staff members, especially as the cost of living continues to rise.
Second, “we are already treating them differently,” she said. She appreciates their service and realizes the jobs are dangerous, but said “we may be going overboard.”
Towns felt there should be a cap of the city’s contribution percentage and it should be held closer to that of other city personnel.
“The citizens of Great Bend voted for that and we need to honor that,” councilman Moeder said. But, “I think we need to back down a little.”
Although only 2,000 residents voted for it, everyone had the chance, he said.
“This isn’t final,” Mayor Cody Schmidt said. The council can always come back and revisit the matter.
Francis said those on the committee, which included police officers and firefighters, signed off on the plan.
Schmidt named the committee on March 7 to develop the specific plan details.
The committee included: Schmidt; council members Alan Moeder, Cory Urban and Kevyn Soupiset; City Administrator Kendal Francis; City Clerk Shawna Schafer; Human Resources Director Randy Keasling; Police Chief Steve Haulmark; GBPD Sgt. Ryan DeYoung; GBPD officer Christian Rivas; Fire Chief Luke McCormick; firefighter Chad Burroughs; and GBPD Cpt. Matt Peterson.
The council in March rejected two options for bolstering uniformed first responders’ pensions because council members feared both were unsustainable using only the sales tax and could lead to property tax hikes. Instead, they opted for using the sales tax money to create an in-house profit-sharing plan for firefighters and police officers.
The tax amounts to .20% and there is no sunset. The estimated revenue comes to $755,504 per year.
On the table were three options. These included: Switching to Kansas Police and Fire through the Kansas Public Employment Retirement System; augmenting the current Mission Square money purchase plan; or creating the new Mission Square profit-sharing plan.
Until the change, the city provided a 401K retirement plan for all employees, including police officers and firefighters, through Mission Square since the city is not a part of KPERS.
Now, the non-uniformed staff members in the Police and Fire departments, along with all other city personnel, remain on the original city plan.
The KP&F was passionately endorsed by emergency personnel. They said it would make the departments more competitive and help eliminate the rapid turnover that plagues both. It would also offer a guaranteed pension for retirees, something not addressed by Mission Square.