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Law enforcement retirement program nixed by city

Offering members of the Jamestown Police Department the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System Law Enforcement plan failed on a 2-2 vote at the Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee meeting Thursday.

Offering members of the Jamestown Police Department the North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System Law Enforcement plan failed on a 2-2 vote at the Jamestown Finance and Legal Committee meeting Thursday.

Councilmen Dan Buchanan and Charlie Kourajian voted in favor of the plan while Mayor Katie Andersen and Councilman Steve Brubakken opposed. Councilman Ramone Gumke was absent.

The law enforcement plan within PERS offers earlier retirement options with penalties and requires a 2 percent less contribution from the employee. Both are important, Jamestown Police Chief Scott Edinger said. The city offers all its employees the standard North Dakota PERS plan.

"From discussions with officers the penalty is irrelevant," he said. "The reduction of the contribution they are making helps level the playing field."

Edinger said there are 15 areas where Stutsman County offers better benefits than the city of Jamestown. This includes a 7 percent employee retirement contribution for Jamestown police officers compared to a 2 percent contribution by Stutsman County Sheriff's Office deputies. Other areas include cellphone allowances and accumulation of paid time off.

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The Jamestown Police Department has lost three officers in the past two months who have taken employment with Stutsman County. Edinger said the differences in benefits is great enough that the take-home wages of a starting law enforcement officer for Stutsman County can be as much as $7,800 per year greater than the take-home wages for a starting Jamestown Police Department officer.

Andersen said she would like to take a more comprehensive look at the entire compensation package rather than act individually on the retirement issue.

"Is it really the law enforcement PERS or the employee contribution to it (that is the issue)?" she said.

Buchanan said law enforcement officers with the city deserve the law enforcement PERS retirement package.

"The fiscal impact is $50,000," he said. "That's chump change in what the city works with. That is a red-herring argument."

In other business, the Jamestown City Council met in a special meeting to review and submit its project list to the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

The City Council unanimously agreed to submit the same list as last year with the intent of changing the list in the future. The current list includes updating four locations along the U.S. Highway 281 corridor through Jamestown in 2017. It does not include a 2016 project.

"It may be amended if we choose to add projects from the LUTP (Land Use and Transportation Plan,)" Andersen said.

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Adding a project from the LUTP to the project submittal list would be contingent on the city arranging funding for the project, she said.

Related Topics: JAMESTOWN
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