New retirement plan could help Ferry employees save money

MARTINS FERRY — Employees of the city of Martins Ferry now have another way to save money for retirement, thanks to the adoption of the Ohio Public Employees Deferred Compensation plan by City Council on Wednesday.

Council already was slated to consider adoption of a related resolution but first heard from Tom Tornabene, account executive with the program.

City employees are not required to take advantage of the plan just because council approved it. Tornabene said it does not replace a worker’s existing Ohio Public Employees Retirement Plan but is an extra option. People can start out contributing as little as $15 per pay or $30 per month, if paid monthly, he said.

“Just like a 401(k) in the private sector supports your Social Security, the deferred compensation, also known as a 457 plan, is a way to bolster your PERS. … We have the third largest plan in the country next to New York State and New York City. We have over a quarter of a million accounts. We have been around since 1976. We have over $14 billion in assets,” Tornabene said. “We are not part of the legislative or executive office of Ohio. We are our own entity.”

After hearing Tornabene’s presentation, Councilman James Schramm said he has used the plan for years and would recommend it. Councilman Robert Hunker said he also has used the plan and has had “no issues with it.”

Tornabene said the money is deferred directly from employees’ paychecks on a pre-tax basis. The money is put in a trust in the worker’s name. Once they retire, no matter what age, they can have access to the money with no penalties.

“I’m on salary. There are no commissions. There are no sales charges. A participant does not pay any fees until they reach the $5,000 mark. At that point, they pay 0.14 percent or $7 a year on $5,000,” he said. “The reason we have such low expenses is that we are so big.”

Later during the meeting, council approved a resolution allowing city workers, part-time and full-time including council members, to enroll. Participants can pick their own funds to invest in or go with a pre-planned investment plan. Workers can enroll online or get a one-page enrollment form at the city auditor’s office.

In other business:

∫ A couple of residents from the 900 block of Hughes Avenue, Bill Jones and Maureen Predragovich, each complained about issues on their street, mainly a large pothole, a nearby hillside slip, issues with a culvert pipe and the street sweeper not visiting frequently enough. Mayor Robert Krajnyak said the city would try to address the issues as soon as possible.

∫ Councilman Bruce Shrodes said recent work by city employees to repair a section of Alumni Road already was getting torn up by large trucks hauling supplies for Ohio Department of Transportation projects in the area. Shrodes said signage to stop heavy trucks needs to be installed as soon as possible.

∫ Service Director Chris Cleary said a new DuraPatcher, jointly purchased with the village of Bridgeport, has come in three weeks ahead of schedule. He said the company is a little behind on training its new customers because of the high demand for the machines. In the meantime, the Ohio Department of Transportation has offered to train city workers so Martins Ferry and Bridgeport can start using the machine soon. The machine is being stored at the city garage.

Cleary also said sewer department workers will be doing some nighttime work to repair catch basins along city streets. This will allow them to do the work more safely by avoiding daytime traffic. He also said engineer Jeff Vaughn is evaluating several deteriorating metal pipe culverts for replacement across the city.

∫ Police Chief John McFarland told council the department is in need of new body cameras and some new safety equipment, mainly bulletproof shields. He said he would bring back prices to council’s next meeting. Krajnyak asked McFarland to pass along council’s and residents’ thanks for the work the police do. The mayor noted this is National Police Week.

∫ Larry Deaton, Martins Ferry Park Board president, said the city swimming pool will be open in a couple weeks. He also noted that until summer workers from the Belmont County come in, the grass at the city park may not get cut frequently because of a lack of manpower. He said in the past there were more people required to work for their welfare benefits, but because of changes to the law, most of the welfare workers who come to the Rec Center to work have medical problems and can only do so much. He said he recently taught the pool manager, Bobby Howard, how to drive the tractor and that she is helping cut grass. Krajnyak said he would have one of the cemetery grass cutters come and help.

Deaton noted the Rec Center’s air conditioning units are not working. He got one fixed, but the other needs replaced. He estimated the installation would cost $6,500. Council later approved that amount of money for a new unit to come out of the Permanent Improvement fund. The Rec Center’s second-floor gymnasium is often rented for weddings and other events.

∫ Also, because of the Independence Day holiday, council voted to change its regular July 4 meeting date to 6 p.m. July 11 instead.