Revised Old Lyme retirement plan for volunteer firefighters, ambulance workers to go to town meeting

Old Lyme — At the annual budget meeting on Monday, residents not only will vote on next year's proposed budget but also on the revised retirement plan for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers.

The town meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium.

Members of the Old Lyme Fire Department and Old Lyme South End Volunteer Ambulance Association are eligible to receive a deposit into their pension once they meet criteria set by each organization, as an incentive for volunteers, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said.

But Reemsnyder said the retirement plan needed to be amended and restated, with the town recently reaching an agreement with the organizations for a rewritten plan.

"We now have a plan that is acceptable to everybody, that meets the IRS code and will serve the volunteers in our community for many years to come," she said. She said an executive session was held to discuss the plan, so she declined to elaborate on the specific reason it needed to be restated.

At the May 21 town meeting, residents will vote on authorizing the first selectwoman to sign the revised plan and also will vote on appropriating up to $80,000 to cover the town's unbudgeted expenses in amending the plan, according to the agenda.

Reemsnyder said the town had expected it could absorb the costs of amending and restating the plan but ended up having expensive, unanticipated legal fees and disbursement fees beyond what was in the budget. In addition to the town attorney, an attorney specializing in pension plans worked on the restatement of the plan.

A new third-party administrator, PASI, a Connecticut-based firm, will manage the retirement plan, Reemsnyder said.

The requirements of the plan — a length of service award plan, a retirement plan typical for volunteers — have been explained to the firefighters and ambulance workers, she said.

The rewritten plan differs from the older one, not in terms of how the amounts are calculated, but in terms of some of the rules, including for withdrawals, she said.

About 60 to 80 people are eligible to participate in the plan, but the number depends on the point system established by the volunteer organizations and varies each year, she said. Volunteers have to qualify each year.

She said without the community's volunteers, the town would be paying a lot more for services.

“We value our volunteers," Reemsnyder said. "They are a very important part of our community and provide tremendous service to all of our residents, so it really is the right thing to do to pass this appropriation and make sure the plan is correct and we have the right third-party administrator and there is no loss to the volunteers for both the ambulance association and the fire department."

"This is really a statement of support for our volunteers," she added.

Representatives from the fire department and the ambulance association said a lot of work went into making the plan right.

"I want to commend the town and everybody in their efforts in making it right," said Claire Haskins, the ambulance association's president.

Old Lyme Fire Chief Tom Risom said that if the plan "works out and it leads to retention, or new members, that's what it's there for."

Before voting Monday on the retirement plan and appropriated the $80,000, residents will vote on the proposed 2018-19 budget that, including both education and town government, stands at $36,301,175, a slight decrease over the current year's $36,355,031 spending plan.

Residents also will vote on a twice yearly payment schedule for real estate and personal property taxes.

k.drelich@theday.com

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