Fire Relief Association considering change to PERA retirement

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The Chatfield City Council heard from Luke Thieke of the Chatfield Fire Department Relief Association during the Monday, June 10, meeting. Thieke presented information regarding a transition from the relief association handling all of the firefighters’ retirement funds to using the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) to manage investments and annual contributions.

Thieke reported that numerous area departments use PERA to oversee their retirement arrangements and the Chatfield firefighters responded positively to the prospect of having PERA as an option.

“We’ve heard from all the departments that have joined PERA, and the fire department voted to apply to join. You get 120 days after you decide to join to change your mind,” Thieke explained.

He then shared a video about PERA that explained how the organization manages funds from departments, including that a fire department may choose to maintain its relief association while a member – maintaining a general fund, specifically and updating bylaws to include that PERA is part of the association. Benefit levels are still set by departments and municipalities, and departments can return to not being enrolled if they so choose.

Thieke commented, “Everybody’s onboard. The nice part is they manage your money for you…it reduces our payroll so we don’t have to be bonded, it streamlines things for us, will save us a lot of running around, and it eliminates the awkward situations between friends or people you’ve been on the fire department with for a long time when you decide to take your funds in installments or a lump sum, depending on the tax implications. It’s just between you and PERA.”

The councilors voted in favor as Thieke stated he would be making annual appearances for approval of PERA relief association terms.

Maintenance report

The council went on to hear a report from city maintenance supervisor Brian Burkholder regarding the streetlights that are being replaced as part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Highway 52 project currently underway.

He stated he wanted to install LED lights on side streets to match the lights being put in to replace the ones that have served Main Street travelers since the last MnDOT project in 1991.

“There are seven lights that are the same condition and age, and I’d like to replace them with new fixtures that are LED,” he said. The quote he received stood at $10,850, and the councilors obliged with a vote.

Burkholder then outlined his street maintenance budget, relating that he spends approximately $35,000 yearly for chip- and crack-sealing the streets. He stated this year’s priority list encompassed streets overhauled during the 2015 street improvement project at a cost of $10,753. He said rough spots on Twiford and Spring streets would receive attention with the removal and replacement of asphalt through a mill and overlay project with an estimated bid of $33,000, for a total of $44,164. The councilors passed both into action.


Mayor Russ Smith spoke about traveling to Rochester with the Highway 52 detour in place, as motorists are being diverted to County Road 7 south of Eyota and barricades have been set on Highway 52.

“They’re going to start doing culverts soon. Highway 52 will be a lot of work. If you’ve been on it, you’ve seen the section to County 7. The blacktop, how smooth and nice it’ll be. Traffic will be going a lot faster on that, but people still need to be safe and observant,” Smith said. “It’s going to be nice to get back and forth on it to and from Rochester.”

City Clerk Joel Young updated the council on census information and upcoming events. “The state demographer estimated in April 2018 that there are 2,881 people in Chatfield, with 1,142 households.”

He added that the Chatfield Brass Band will host its 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday, June 29, in Potter Auditorium.

Councilor Mike Urban gave the personnel committee report next, registering Chatfield Police Chief Shane Fox’s request for hiring a part-time county deputy to fill in extra hours on the Chatfield schedule. Urban told the council that interviews for a part-time deputy clerk are going to begin soon.

Councilor Paul Novotny’s report was about the chip-sealing and mill and overlay projects that Burkholder had planned.

At the meeting’s close, Urban thanked deputy city clerk Beth Carlson for her work at the swimming pool’s soft opening last week. “It was a long process getting people in there, but the people who helped worked like rock stars,” he said.

Councilor John McBroom informed the rest of the council that he and his grandchildren had already tried out the two-story waterslide and they enjoyed it. He turned toward Smith, saying, “You’ve got to try it. Russ, get your Speedo on.”

Finally, the council approved pay estimates for the new swimming pool – the first for Benike Construction at a total of $154,325, and the second, for Ricchio Construction at $356,325.