Last Thursday evening, the Heber Springs City Council passed an ordinance to move the administration of the Heber Springs Local Fire Pension and Relief Fund (Local Fund) to the Arkansas Local Police & Fire Retirement System (LOPFI). This action is to change the administration only and not the benefit program.
    The ordinance authorizes the Chief Administrative Officer to “enter into an irrevocable agreement, using a twenty-five (25) year amortization period” with LOPFI. The cost of this move is a total of $33,000 over the twenty-five years or $110 per month.
    “Basically, it comes down to the fact that they don’t have enough money in their retirement fund to be able to pay out all the projected pensions for the life of the members,” explained Alderman Paul Muse, who represents Ward 2. “There were several options presented by LOPFI, but I absolutely hate it that I can’t recommend the option with the cost of living allowance (COLA), but it’s a drastic difference between the $33,000 option we’re going with and the twenty-five-year COLA option.”
    Unlike the policemen’s retirement fund, the firemen’s pension fund is not funded by a city millage rate. The city is still paying .3 mills to the policemen’s pension fund, which is taken over by LOPFI two years ago. Additionally, unlike the firemen’s pension fund, the policemen pension fund does pay an annual COLA of 3%.
    David Gibbs, City Treasurer explained that LOPFI had recommended that the monthly payments included the COLA.
    “The total payout was $400,000,” said Gibbs. “They did say that if we wanted to make a one-time payment, we could get the actual fund now at a good funded amount, which would be over $200,000.”
    “We did ask if we could make a deal and make a loan and we did the math,” Muse pointed out. “It would be about $26,000. We made that presentation, but they turned it down.”
    Muse also made the point that the Local Fund board could come back to the city council and ask for a benefit increase. Section 1 of the ordinance states, “Such transfer shall mean the administration of the Local Plan only and not a change in the Local Plan’s benefit program unless a benefit increase is approved by the City of Heber Springs, Arkansas.”
    “I thoroughly encourage them to come to the city and ask for, and this will be my recommendation, for dedicated millage, to fund that increase,” Muse stated. “I could not, in good conscience recommend that we fund the increases right now.”
    Voters would have to approve a millage increase for an increase to the Local Fund. Muse encouraged the Local Fund pension board members in attendance to request an increase later.
    “I think it’s only fair since they haven’t had an COLA increase ever,” remarked Muse. “If they were to get a .1 increase, that would give them another $10,000/year to give back to LOPFI. The way we figure this, it would be dedicated revenue.”
    In new business, the city council unanimously voted to waive the building permits for the water department to begin building a water storage tank located next to the current location.
    “They will be building onto the west side of their office,” explained Mayor Jimmy Clark. “Two houses will be torn down for them to build a tower with a small building structure, which will be for the plumbing of this water storage tank. They will also be putting up a chain-link fence.”
    Clark further explained that the storage tank won’t be anything like the water department built across the street for the office building. The new storage tank will be a short tank, no more than 30 feet in height.
    October city events were announced before the meeting was adjourned. After Dark in the Park is scheduled for October 28th.
    “It’s the Saturday before Halloween,” stated Alderwoman Rebecca Prince, Ward 3. “We’ll be having the Zombie Parade again. We will need Trunk or Treaters, so we will be calling on local businesses to step up and participate. They can call the city office at 362-2580. We really had a lot of fun last year.”
    Mayor Clark announced that The Ozark Trail Festival is coming up on October 13th-25th at Spring Park. “It will stretch from Spring Park to the County Court House,” said Clark.
    The city council also schedule their first budget meeting for October 17th at 5:00pm. City Council meeting the third Thursday of every month.