Shores retains veteran Public Works administrators by rehiring its retirees

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 6, 2012

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — The Shores has found that hiring retirees is a way to trim administrative costs.

The most recent department heads hired by the city, Public Safety Director John Schulte and City Manager Mark Wollenweber, are both employees who don’t need typical benefits packages because they already have them from previous employers from which they retired.

And now the Shores is applying that concept to existing department heads as a way to retain knowledgeable veteran employees while reducing expenses.

Public Works Director Brett Smith and Public Works Supervisor Harold Michaux each had about 25 years of service to the city when they “retired” in July, but after a 30-day break in service, both men have been rehired for their former positions. The City Council unanimously approved contracts with Smith and Michaux Aug. 21.

Mayor Ted Kedzierski said the Shores would experience a substantial savings because Smith and Michaux would no longer be receiving the benefits package that had been theirs in previous years. Smith’s new annual salary is $65,000, while Michaux’s is $48,000, he said.

City Council member Kay Felt said the contract calls for certain benefits, including vacation, sick days, professional memberships, a 5 percent contribution to a 401(a) plan — a deferred compensation plan — and $50,000 in life insurance while the administrators are working for the city. Still, Kedzierski said the city was able to eliminate other costly benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, disability and pension contributions.

“What was putting us in a deficit situation was the benefits,” Kedzierski said.

The mayor called retaining “valuable employees” like Smith and Michaux a “win-win for the city.” He said the offer made to both men was similar to the one given to Schulte, who formerly worked for the Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Department.

Smith was a semi-truck mechanic before he started working in the Shores, and Michaux had been a seasonal employee.

“We need someone like Brett here,” said Wollenweber, noting that the seasoned Smith could be counted on to find solutions to problems the city faced because of his years of experience.

Finance Director Rhonda Ricketts, who retired in early August after 25 years with the Shores and 11 years before that with other communities, is expected to be offered a similar package after her 30-day period of separation from the city. The City Council is likely to be voting on a contract with Ricketts in September.

The retirements of Smith, Michaux and Ricketts are expected to save the city more than $80,000, Wollenweber said.

With these retirements, Kedzierski said there would only be three non-union employees left in the city’s pension plan, at a reduced multiplier of 2 percent. Finance Director Rhonda Ricketts said the old pension multiplier for non-union employees was 2.5 percent. Under the new system, she said it’s 2 percent for the first 25 years of service, and 1.5 percent for each year after that.