April 01, 2020

Council OKs removal of retirement funds > Some employees eligible at age 701/2

BAR HARBOR – Town councilors approved a plan Tuesday that will permit some active town employees to withdraw funds from their retirement accounts after they reach the age of 701/2 years.

The decision will affect about half the town’s employees, those who chose the deferred compensation plan – known as ICMA 457 – over a more traditional retirement plan for state employees, said Stan Harmon, Bar Harbor’s finance director.

Under the deferred compensation plan’s current bylaws, employees must retire before they may draw benefits, regardless of age. However, adding an age-based right to withdraw funds is permitted under Internal Revenue Service law, provided the plan is officially amended by the town’s governing body, according to a memo written by town attorney Lee Bragg.

“It’s allowed by the IRS, and there really isn’t any budget impact,” Harmon said.

Bar Harbor simply neglected to add the provision when it set up the deferred compensation plan about 15 years ago, he added.

Councilors unanimously passed the amendment.

In other business:

. The council voted to sell a 1998 Ford Expedition formerly used as a police cruiser to help defray the cost of the new $30,000 Expedition recently purchased by the police department for $2,000 more than the budgeted amount. The minimum asking price for the used sport utility vehicle is $9,000.

. Councilors revised the process to be used for submitting land use ordinance amendments for consideration at the May town meeting, determining that a public hearing is necessary before the finalization of any wording of zoning amendments.

In recent years, residents have been frustrated because the wording of ordinance changes was locked in before residents had an opportunity to debate the issues.

“It kind of makes sense from this side of the podium,” said Bar Harbor resident Ellen Dohmen. “If the community’s feedback is not going to be implicated, why collect it?”

A draft timeline created last week by town Planning Director Jim Campbell did not provide for such a hearing. The original planning department timeline included only the April 17, 2001, public hearing for debate and approval of the full town meeting warrant.

Councilor Lou Blancato said a number of residents felt “slam-dunked” last year when their suggestions could not be implemented after the public hearing; “We get into one of those situations where you [a resident] can come spout off, but there’s nothing we [the council] can do about it,” he said.

. Council members unanimously requested that a revised timeline, including an initial public hearing before the council’s March 6, 2001, final adoption of items for the town meeting warrant, be submitted for approval at the next council meeting.

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