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Jasper Mayor Paul Evans

JASPER, Tenn. – City employees banded together last month and proposed the Jasper Board of Mayor and Aldermen fund a $1.477 million "longevity bonus" to help them with retirement.

The city has been finalizing procedures to switch its retirement plan with Nationwide Insurance to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System over the last year, and many employees are frustrated with the lump sums they are set to receive from the Nationwide plan.

At the board's May meeting, Ed Freeman, Jasper's water and sewer superintendent, asked if the board had made any headway on last month's proposal.

"We haven't heard anything," he said.

According to the proposal, six Jasper workers who have been on the job for 30 or more years would get $100,000 each from the town.

Employees with 20 to 29 years of service would get $75,000 each, those with 10 to 19 years would get $50,000 each, and those with less than 10 years would get $1,000 for each year worked.

Mayor Paul Evans said he spoke with the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service and the state comptroller's office last week, and those organizations are supposed to send City Attorney Mark Raines "some information he can use" on the matter.

He said Raines recommended forming a committee to study that information.

"One thing is for certain," Evans said. "We cannot borrow any money to do this. None whatsoever."

If the board approves the longevity bonus, it would set a precedent, he said.

"It's there forever," Evans said. "That's what MTAS says. You can't just do it one time, and it goes away. It'll be there forever. You have to do policy and all of that."

If so, he said the board would have to fund a bonus every year moving forward.

Raines said there could be options to avoid that, though.

"Once we get this information from the comptroller's office, then we want the committee to take a look at it and study it and see if there's some flexibility that the board might have to pay some longevity pay without being tagged with that recurring cost every year," he said.

Raines said spreading out the payments over multiple years could be one way to do that.

"But that's why we need it studied, and we need to come up with the proper terminology so the comptroller doesn't consider it to be a recurring payment every year," he said.

Committee members will include Alderman Paul "Mac" Bumpus, Alderman Jason Turner, Freeman, and Linda Mason, Jasper's municipal court clerk.

Once city leaders receive the requested information from the state, officials said the committee will set its first meeting date.

The committee will eventually make a recommendation to the board concerning the proposal.

"We'd just like to get something moving on it," Freeman said. "It seems like it's at a standstill and not going anywhere."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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