The Brenham City Council has approved the creation of an early retirement program for city employees.
The council at its meeting today (Thursday) approved a resolution amending the city’s human resources policy manual to allow for the implementation of the program. Human Resources Director Susan Nienstedt said the program is designed to reward employees for their longevity at the city and provide medical insurance for a smoother transition into retirement.
City Manager James Fisher said the program will be offered every five years, with eligible 30-year employees being given the option to exercise the program any year within a certain timeframe. Eligibility will be defined according to the city’s Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) plan provisions of 20 years of service at any age, or five years of service at age 60.
The program will consist of options that include a combination of buying back a percentage of the employee’s accrued sick leave, and/or providing medical insurance for a time period of either three months, six months, or one year. Nienstedt said this will not only allow employees to ease into retirement by providing compensation for a percentage of their years of earned sick leave, but also let them choose to continue medical insurance for themselves, and if needed, their dependents.
Fisher believes the program does more to recognize long-standing employees than “the proverbial gold watch”.
Fisher said through this program, the city will put an emphasis on filling any position that comes open with an internal candidate, even if the candidate comes from a separate department. He said this will be done to help the city’s employees grow from the knowledge of retiring employees and become better qualified for any position that comes open.
The city will hold informational meetings with eligible employees this month to go over the details of the program and answer questions they may have.
Councilmember Susan Cantey said she thinks this is “a fabulous program”, with words of support also given by Councilmembers Clint Kolby and Albert Wright. Upon passage of the program, Fisher thanked the council on city employees’ behalf.
During Fisher’s COVID-19 update to the council, he stated that, starting tomorrow (Friday), the Blue Bell Aquatic Center’s leisure pool will be opening on weekends to 25 percent capacity and limited hours. The pool will be open on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.
Fisher also announced the Nancy Carol Roberts Memorial Library will open up on June 23rd to limited occupancy, but only on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors will only be allowed to come in for 30 minutes at a time, and they are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
Fisher also said the city is targeting June 15th as the date when it will reopen playgrounds and sports courts, including putting the nets back up at the sporting areas. He said the city is planning to install hand sanitizing machines near the play areas, but those details are still being worked out.
Fisher also brought up the city’s seeking of COVID-19 relief funding from the state through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). At the council’s last meeting, it approved the submission of a funding application through the CRF, a program created as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide financial resources to state and local governments. He said it will be challenging to receive any of the roughly $195,000 it is eligible to receive from the state, and does not believe the city will receive as much as it had hoped for.
Fisher said the city has been approved for a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to extend the nature trail at Hohlt Park, but due to the TPWD needing to perform various studies, the city will not receive the funding until next spring.
Also at today’s meeting, the council:
- Accepted the bid of J&D Construction of Bronson for $170,464 for sanitary sewer and gas extension work along Burleson Street.
- Approved a temporary closure of state right-of-way and a noise variance in connection with the Hot Nights, Cool Tunes summer concert series. Fisher said the city still intends to have the concerts downtown, but is figuring out how to hold them while still maintaining social distancing requirements.
- Approved a specific use permit request from the Washington County Healthy Living Association to allow additional parking as an accessory use for the Margaret E. Blizzard Senior Activity Center.
- Approved a zoning change for the Brenham Market Square development on South Market Street from mixed residential use to commercial, research, and technology use.