RV Watts

R.V. Watts has been the chief of the Monroe Police Department since January 2019.

In a continuing effort to recruit and retain public safety personnel, the Monroe City Council will consider amending its pension program for firefighters and police.

Last week councilmembers discussed the proposed amendments to Monroe’s ordinance regarding benefits for public safety service. This would include amending vesting requirements and prior service credit buy-back.

A first reading of the proposed amended ordinance was held when the council met Oct. 12.

Les Russell, Monroe Human Resources director, informed city officials that amending the pension plan would help with recruiting and retaining firefighters and police officers. Russell said Monroe is competing with other municipalities for skilled public safety workers.

If the council approves the changes, Monroe would have a better pension plan for police and firefighters than nearby Conyers, he said.

The projected cost to the city would be $45,000 for fire and $58,170 for police, according to Russell.

“The plan as written today provides retirement benefits after 55 years of age and 25 years of service,” Russell said. “The challenge in today’s environment is that while this continues to provide a solid benefit, the added stress of public safety positions has made this goal hard to reach. To encourage length of service and as an enhancement for recruiting public safety personnel, the city should adopt an ordinance that allows public safety personnel the ability to earn retirement benefits with 20 years of service and eligibility at age 50.”

If approved, the changes to the public safety pension would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Russell also recommended that public safety personnel be allowed to purchase credit for service performed prior to being employed by the city.

“Currently any employee who has served in the military or in another government agency is allowed to purchase credit equal to that prior service,” he said. “This is allowed after the 5-year vesting plateau with the city and must be complete within 5 years of that date. The request is to remove this time barrier and allow service credit purchase to be at anytime after vesting in the plan, during the open enrollment period in November of each year.”

Russell said the prior service credit buy-back would not create an added expense to the city’s budget. The employee would be responsible for the cost of the service credit purchase, he said.

“It only facilitates the ability to execute the process when it is financially feasible for the employee,” he said.

Monroe Mayor John Howard had pledged during a September council meeting that he would work with council and city staff to raise police officers’ salaries for the 2022 fiscal year.

Police Chief R.V. Watts informed council members last week that the department had hired five new officers, three of them women, to fill nine vacancies in the department.

Fire Chief Andrew Dykes said two experienced firefighters were recently welcomed to the Monroe Fire Department.

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