CUMBERLAND — After 38 years of public service as a Cumberland firefighter, Chief Deputy Fire Chief John Cline will retire at the end of this month — now that the city has agreed to a proposal that he will pay 6 percent of his health care costs in his post-retirement years until he reaches Medicare age of 65.

The mayor and City Council voted Friday to accept the proposal as written but with some discussion as to how much future retirees should pay in health care costs. The original proposal called for Cline to pay 6 percent, but during Tuesday’s council meeting the idea surfaced that maybe he — and future management retirees of the city — should pay 20 percent of the healthcare costs upon retiring.

After Friday’s 8 a.m. public meeting, Cline said, “I’m appreciative that the mayor and council has approved the proposal that we had agreed to prior to last Tuesday’s council meeting. I will now retire based on the decision made today by the mayor and council.”

The amount of cost savings to the city by Cline’s retirement remains to be seen, in light of the department’s current SAFER grant that recently brought eight new firefighters to the department.

If an employee of the Cumberland Fire Department retires during the three-year performance period of the grant, the city is required to replace that position — unless the city receives a waiver from the SAFER program that would allow the city to not fill the position. The city reportedly will now seek the waiver.

If the city is granted the waiver, the city would save more than $200,000 between Cline’s personnel costs over the next three years and the cost of the retirement package.

Should the city not be granted the waiver, the city will have to replace the position left by Cline’s retirement with a new firefighter. Then the savings would drop to just over $34,000 over three years.

City Administrator Jeff Repp said Friday the issue of a “uniform” policy for retirement may be addressed at a later date.

“I advised them that to adopt any policy regarding providing health insurance to retirees before Medicare age has significant financial implications not only in the real cost but also in the financial rules that require that post retirement medical benefits is reported on the city’s audit that all ramifications must be looked at,” said Repp, who will be ending his 17-year career as Cumberland’s city administrator at the end of this month.

Under current city policy, when an employee reaches the age when Medicare is available the city’s obligation ceases, according to Repp.

Contact Jeffrey Alderton at jlalderton@times-news.com.

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