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MW approves hazardous duty retirement for new officers

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By Mallory Bilger

MOUNT WASHINGTON — After months of debate, discussion and disagreements, the Mount Washington City Council approved an ordinance Monday evening that, if approved by the state, will make hazardous duty retirement benefits available to all of its officers.

According to state regulations, as of Sept. 1, 2008, any state agency wishing to designate a new-hire’s position as hazardous duty must petition through the state to have that position approved.

The legislature approved a stricter definition of what positions could be classified as hazardous duty, leaving it up to individual agencies to convince Kentucky Retirement Systems’ Board of Trustees which employees should have the special designation. Employees hired before Sept. 1, 2008, that were already classified as hazardous duty under the state will continue to receive those benefits without petitioning.

Mayor Joetta Calhoun stated multiple times in the past that she believed hazardous duty pensions would be too costly for the city to support. She said it would be impossible to know from year to year what contribution rate the city would be responsible for, as the rates are determined annually. She also didn’t support any vote that would leave taxpayers responsible for an undetermined amount of money.

But she had little to say prior to the vote Monday.

“I feel confident everyone knows my opinion,” Calhoun said. “I have no further comment.”

Her feelings were apparently only shared by councilman Barry Armstrong, who was the lone vote against the ordinance.

“I’m not opposed to hazardous duty pay for our police department. I’m opposed to this ordinance because no one on this council can tell me how much this is going to cost the city taxpayers,” Armstrong said.

Council members Dennis Griffin, Dale Walter, Larry Porter, Lloyd “Shot” Dooley and Gary Lawson all voted in favor of the ordinance.

Lawson had previously stated he would not vote in favor of the ordinance because he did not have enough information, but over the last several weeks, he said he had heard enough information to form his opinion.

“It was finding out what the children and the spouse get extra by having the hazardous duty,” Lawson said, adding that the education of an officer’s child would be taken care of if the officer was killed in the line of duty.

“It’s hard to vote the right way when you don’t get all the details,” Lawson said.

Griffin — who has been perhaps the most vocal councilman in insisting that all officers receive hazardous duty benefits — said it was time the council reached a decision.

“As long as we keep a competitive pay scale, we should be able to keep officers now,” he said.