Frankford discusses pensions, park, resident’s concerns

Date Published: 
September 12, 2014

The Frankford Town Council continued its discussion of potential pension plans earlier this week.

Trena Giddings, a human resource specialist from the State of Delaware’s Office of Pensions gave the council a presentation on the State’s county/municipal police and firefighter plan on Sept. 8.

Giddings told council that the State offers a defined benefit plan, wherein an employee contributes 7 percent of base compensation and the employer contributes 14.18 percent. The employer contribution rate given was based on the 2015-fiscal-year rate, and Giddings said it could change.

“Those contributions — that 21 percent — that goes up and down each year, right?” asked resident Marty Presley, who has 30 years of experience in the financial field.

“That is correct. They can change,” responded Giddings. “I can tell you, since I have been employed with the Pensions Office, which has been six and a half years, it has been 7 percent for the police plan. That, for the employees, has not changed. The fluctuation in employer costs? Yes, that has changed.”

Presley asked Giddings to confirm that once the Town signs up for the State’s pension plan they would not be able to withdrawal from it.

“That is correct. The only way that it would lay dormant is if they had no employees. Then they would not have to pay anything,” she said. “It is an irrevocable action. Once they come in they cannot get out.”

Presley asked what the biggest factor would be for the council signing up for an irrevocable plan when the future costs are unknown.

“That’s something they would have to take a risk on,” she replied.

Another resident asked Giddings if there were other county or municipal agencies that were not involved in the State’s plan.

“Very few,” said Giddings, adding that the Town of Smyrna is not in the plan.

Resident Greg Welch asked if the Town’s police department could enter the pension plan without having town administration employees enter the plan.

“Yes,” said Giddings.

If the Town joins the State plan, employees would be vested in the plan after five years of consecutive service. Pensions are calculated based on years of service and the amount of money the employee made while in the plan.

“The highest 36 months of compensation and years of service is how your calculated pension is done,” she explained, adding that overtime and special payments for extra duties are not included in the calculation.

Giddings said once a municipality, fire department or police department enters into the State’s pension plan, there is mandatory participation.

“Once the decision is made to enter our pension plan, it’s all or nothing. You can’t pick or choose, as far as police are concerned. You pick one individual, they all have to join.”

Resident Albert Franklin told the council he was not in favor of having the Town enter into the plan.

“How much more do you think the Town of Frankford can stand before we go under?” he asked.

Council President Joanne Bacon said the council had yet to vote on pensions for employees and that they would do the best job they could for residents.

Shelton aims to silence council critic Smith

Councilman Charles Shelton, who joined the meeting late, addressed council and the audience regarding a letter to the editor from resident Jerry Smith about the council.

“There was an article in the paper… something that Jerry had wrote about me and everybody else. He said I don’t make the meetings, I’m this and that. I don’t care what he said about me, I have things to do. For the record, I want everyone to know, the last meeting we had, Jerry called me outside and wanted to talk to me and the words he said to me… He told me that us blacks need to stick together.

“He said, ‘You didn’t shut those white folks up when they were making their comments. Why are you shutting me up?’”

Shelton said that a resident can say anything they want about a council member, attack them personally, but he wanted others to know Smith had called him a racist.

“He said me, Pam [Davis], and all the blacks that represent the town need to stick together,” said Shelton. “That’s a racist comment. When you tell me we need to stick together because we’re black? I’m not here for the blacks, for the whites, the greens, yellows, whoever. I’m here for the people of the town.”

Smith said he did speak to Shelton after the August council meeting; however, he said he believes what he said was misunderstood.

“What I said to Charles was, one of the biggest problems we have… is that perhaps African-Americans are the most devalued people in this entire country. That’s probably not a secret,” he said. “When we were talking last month at that meeting, Charles singled me out, out of everyone in the room.

“He said, ‘Jerry, I don’t want to hear anything else you have to say. You were talking about this four years ago. Everybody over there — I want to hear what they have to say, but I don’t want to hear what you have to say.’ What I told Charles was that is embarrassing for me.”

Shelton also said that it’s not right for Smith to complain about the Town and its council, when Smith has a delinquent garbage bill that has gone to collections.

“It’s not right for all of us to pay, and certain other people not pay. It’s not right. If you’re going to criticize about this and that, you need to pay your bills.”

“I have not had trash service with the Town since 1993. The Town entered into an agreement with me, saying that I could remove my own trash,” responded Smith. “The fact of the matter is the Town has not picked up any trash from my house since 1993. The Town can’t say I owe them for a service they have not provided. We will take all that up in court.”

Dudley pooh-poohs public pooping in park

“We are still having problems at the park,” said Police Chief William Dudley reported at this week’s meeting. “For whatever reason, people continue to tear one of our signs down.”

Dudley said the police department also recently found that a human had defecated in the park.

“That’s not a cool thing,” he said. “We can’t afford to have human people defecating in a public park like that. It’s absolutely disgusting, and it’s unacceptable.”

Dudley said that if the vandalism does not stop, he will recommend the council have the park closed when David Ward, the town’s maintenance employee, goes home at night.

Dudley said that the word has gotten out that the town has a nice park, with great basketball facilities. As a result, he said, over a recent weekend a large group of about 50 visitors were using the court but did not clean up before they left.

“At the end of that you could tell — there was trash everywhere. We had bottles lying all over the place. We had alcohol cans, torn signs down… They just made a mess of it.”

Councilwoman Cheryl Workman said she has also noticed that people have been riding their bikes on the path specifically designated for walkers.

“People walking on the path are having to get off because these kids who aren’t supposed to be riding on the path are going in every direction.”

Dudley said he’s working on identifying those responsible for the vandalism and hopes that, with school now in session, it will become less of a problem.

“Hopefully, that’ll curb the problem and we’ll be able to identify who the culprits are.”

In other town news:

• At the start of the meeting Workman motioned to delete a second citizens’ privilege segment from the agenda, noting that “It got out of hand last month a bit.”

Workman stated that she had agreed to add the second citizens’ privilege; however, she felt it was not a productive practice.

“I just don’t think it’s benefiting us. I think it’s lashing out, rather than getting any problems solved,” she said.

“I believe we need to listen to our public. They are citizens. They are taxpayers,” said Bacon. “I do agree it got out of hand,” she added.

Bacon and Pam Davis voted to keep the second scheduled citizens’ privilege on the agenda, while Councilman Jesse Truitt and Workman voted against it. The second citizens’ privilege was held.

“Let’s keep it smooth sailing,” said Workman.

Presley told council the citizens’ frustration came from having to discuss the same issues over and over again with council.

“The citizens of the town feel like those questions are never being answered,” he said. “Why don’t we take the pertinent issues, why don’t the council update us as far as what the council has done to address those issues? Maybe that’ll shorten some of the back-and-forth.”

Before the start of the second citizens’ privilege, Jesse Truitt left the meeting room, which upset some residents.

“He should stay here,” said Franklin. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

• The council unanimously voted to retroactively approve the Town employees’ Christmas bonuses from 2013.

“It has been determined that that, for lack of better words, council made a mistake,” said Bacon. “It is not an employee’s mistake. It was a mistake by council.”

The bonuses were approved with a vote of 4 to 0. Jesse Truitt recused himself from the vote, as his wife is a Town employee.