City considers moving police, fire pensions to state system

The Pine Bluff City Council’s Ways and Means Committee will meet at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, in the mayor’s conference room at the civic center to discuss possibly transferring administration of the local firefighter pension and relief fund to the Arkansas Local Police and Fire Retirement System (LOPFI).

A proposed ordinance calling for the city to enter into an “irrevocable agreement” with LOPFI was pulled from the agenda for Monday night’s council meeting after city Finance Director Steve Miller announced that LOPFI Executive Director David Clark would be available to meet with the committee and answer questions.

LOPFI is a statewide retirement system for paid and volunteer police officers and firefighters. Created by the Arkansas General Assembly and in 1981 and operative since 1983, LOPFI is overseen by a seven-member board of trustees. Each member is appointed by the governor. An executive director is appointed by the board and administers the system in a manner consistent with law and board policy, according to the organization’s web site.

Before 1983, local governments managed pension funds for their uniformed public safety employees. New hires have since been required to join LOPFI.

Pine Bluff was advised in late 2011 that its firefighters pension fund was projected to become insolvent within a decade. In 2012, voters approved a millage increase to a full mill for the fund. The original firefighters pension fund was established here in 1947.

In a second public safety matter addressed at Monday’s meeting, the council — minus Alderman Wayne Easterly, absent because of an illness in his family — by a 6-1 vote endorsed an ordinance granting an exclusive, five-year ambulance franchise to Emergency Ambulance Service Inc. Southern Paramedic Services Inc. had also vied for the award.

Making the recommendation for EASI was an independent committee composed of Jefferson County Deputy Coroner John Lawson, Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department Deputy Chief Ernest Jones, DeWitt Hospital Emergency Medical Services Director Tricia McElroy and Jefferson Regional Medical Center Trauma Medical Director Dr. Michael Southerland.

Alderwoman Thelma Walker drew support from Alderman Steven Mays for her suggestion that EASI restore an annual membership arrangement in which families and individuals may purchase agreements that would lessen service charges should they require an ambulance. Mayor Debe Hollingsworth pointed out that the franchise agreement does not allow the city to set policy, although it can make recommendations.

In other business Monday, the council unanimously adopted three more ordinances and six additional resolutions.

The ordinances directed the:

• Amending of previously enacted legislation regarding event centers during the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s annual homecoming week activities; and

• Closing and vacating of certain streets and alleys located east of Apple Street and north of West 34th Avenue, and south of Pullen Street and east of Sycamore Street (separate proposals).

The resolutions:

• Declared certain houses, buildings and/or structures as nuisances and ordered their abatement (as amended);

• Maintained respective, established millage rates of 1, 1, 5 and 1.6 for the police relief and pension fund, firefighters relief and pension fund, general purposes, and library operation and maintenance (separate proposals); and

• Authorized the mayor to contract with Cobar Contracting for work regarding King Street drainage improvements.

The council also followed a recommendation of the administration committee in disapproving a proposed two-day paid suspension of inspection and zoning department employee George Hunt.

Mays called for the city to look into establishing a memorial for Monroe Isadore, a 107-year-old resident killed in a recent police-involved shooting incident.