Letters to the Editor – January 27, 2011

Former commissioner sets the record straight

Alex Belz‘s opinion column regarding the Marquette County Commission’s actions concerning the rehiring of retired employees has several factual errors.  As one of the two commissioners who lost their bid for reelection in November, I know a little bit more about this issue.

The Michigan Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) is an independent non-profit public corporation which administers a statewide retirement plan and tax-qualified trust that municipalities may adopt for their employees.  Until recently, MERS allowed employees of local units of government whose age and time on the job qualified them for the pension they had earned, the opportunity to retire and, after a minimum of 30 days, apply to be rehired by that unit of government without risk to their retirement benefits.  Under IRS rules, there could be no prearranged agreement to rehire the employee.  However, under union contracts in place for Marquette county government employees, if the position remained open and the retiree was the best qualified applicant for the position, they could be rehired with their former seniority.

County government would pay the salary set by the union contract and not pay any additional retirement benefits – a savings to the county.  What the commission should have considered when the retire-rehire policy was first approved is a limit on the length of time a retiree could remain on the job.

In Marquette County, commissioners have only three direct employees (county administrator, health officer and county assessor). Hiring qualified employees is an administrative, not a political, function.

Harvey Wallace, Ph.D.

Professor and head

department of HPER

Students welcome at luge competition

NMU students, faculty and staff are very welcome to view luge competitions and to participate in U.P. Luge Club activities.

Local students, including NMU students, have trained and competed at the Lucy Hill Luge Track in Negaunee, in Lake Placid and in Europe.  A local youth became the World Luge Champion in 1993 and another won Olympic medals in luge in 1998 and in 2002.  Several have achieved National Team status.

The USOEC hosted a Natural Luge Track World Cup Competition in 1995.  While athletes have been temporary residents at the USOEC for a few competitions, generally the USOEC has supported USA Luge’s programs by housing coaches and officials.

There are opportunities for those in the NMU community to try luge at the Lucy Hill track and to become involved in officiating, coaching, program administration and track maintenance.  Check out www.negauneeluge.freehomepage.com for details.

John Porter

USOEC Luge coach