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VOL. 36 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 21, 2012

Nashville hopes to reduce workforce with incentive

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Nearly half of Metro Nashville's firefighters are eligible for a city employee buyout program, aimed at reducing the size of government.

The program applies citywide, but the fire service has a lot of employees who have been there for many years.

According to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/YtuZ8B), city workers who take the early out will receive $700 for each year of service to the city. Nearly 2,600 workers are eligible for the incentive, but only 655 of those would get full city pension benefits. The rest would get a reduced benefit for early retirement.

The Metro Council voted on Tuesday to approve Mayor Karl Dean's "voluntary retirement incentive program."

Those who accept it will receive the payment, based on their years of service, and agree that they cannot take another fulltime city job.

The deal was enough for fire Capt. Ray Mundy. At the age of 54, Mundy has been with the fire department for almost 27 years. He wants to spend time with his wife, son and infant grandson. Mundy will leave with full retirement.

"I was looking at retiring anyway," said Mundy, who oversees the department's air supply equipment. "It's really a young man's job."

In an interview last week, Dean said it was time to review city operations.

"I value the employees who have been here for many years," he said. "But it's just natural for any organization to stop and think about the way it's doing things."

While the fire department may be top-heavy with longtime workers, over at public works, interim director Randy Lovett doesn't expect the buyout to bring a lot of turnover.

"My instincts tell me we're not going to have very big numbers here," Lovett said. "I wouldn't want to mislead you to think we're going to overhaul the department."

Only 14 workers in the public works department are eligible to take the buyout and receive full benefits.

Citywide, just percent of employees quality to leave now with full benefits, but that figure is 44 percent in the fire department. Fire service employees work 24 hours on, followed by 48 hours off. The schedule allows them to pursue side business or work elsewhere. City officials say that can be a hard schedule to give up for early retirement.

The Metro schools won't be in the program.