STOCK_HAMMOND

Stock: Hammond City Hall

John J. Watkins

HAMMOND — Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said, except for rare circumstances, he does not plan on replacing employees who opt for the early retirement program that may be offered by the city.

An estimated 34-35 municipal workers meeting certain age and employment targets would be eligible for the program the council will vote on at its Oct. 10 meeting. The meeting has been rescheduled from its normal date because of the Columbus Day holiday next Monday.

Qualified employees age 55 and older would have until Oct. 24 to sign up for the program.

Police and firefighters are not eligible for the voluntary program. McDermott said at Monday's City Council Finance Committee meeting that the number of police on the streets has been increased through shifting some of the officers who worked in the city jail into patrol spots.

Employees taking advantage of the program, if approved, would receive an award of $1,000 for each year of employment completed prior to retirement.

"We are asking you people to do this so we can downsize," McDermott said at Monday's Finance Committee meeting.

He said the only instances where he would be likely to replace a person who takes the retirement package is if it is a vital position, such as a department head.

The city's Sanitary District is offering a similar program that an estimated 14 employees will be eligible to participate in.

The city offered a similar program two years ago, and at that time officials said it would not be offered for at least another three years. Councilman Dave Woerpel, D-5th, said it was being offered again this soon because of the phasing out of the city court.

The proposed city budget also calls for a 2 percent across-the-board salary increase for employees, although McDermott noted he has given a few employees who have moved to new positions a larger increase through executive orders this year. He added he is trying to find positions in other areas of city government for employees adversely impacted by the phasing out of the city court. 

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Ed has been with The Times since January 2014. He previously covered government affairs for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida. Prior to Scripps, he was with the Chicago Regional Bureau of Copley News Service.