The Metro Council gave quick final approval to a buyout program for Metro workers, in what was an otherwise relatively uneventful meeting Tuesday night.
The council’s final meeting of the year began with a moment of silence for the victims of last Friday’s elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Councilman Sean McGuire led a prayer for the victims families.
The buyout program, proposed by Mayor Karl Dean last month, passed on a voice vote with no opposition. Nearly 2,600 Metro workers will be offered $700 for each year of credited service with the city, meaning a 25-year employee would receive $17,500.
The mayor has estimated that incentive payments for the program will total between $5 million to $7 million.
When Dean filed the legislation, he billed the program as a chance for department heads to “reassess personnel needs and look for savings” in an effort toward a streamlined, more efficient Metro government. So far, approximately 150 employees have expressed an interest in the program.
The council also advanced Councilman Phil Claiborne’s new bill pertaining to health benefits for former council members.
Claiborne was the sponsor of an earlier bill that would have done away completely with the council perk, which offers two-term council members the ability to continue buying into Metro’s health insurance plan for life. That bill was ultimately defeated.
The new proposal would change the premium payment schedule for former two-term council members, to align it with that of future retiring Metro employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013. Under Claiborne’s proposal, council members who have served 8 years would contribute 75 percent of their premiums, with Metro covering 25 percent.
The plan would not affect former or current council members.
“I did, however, hear a couple of voices last month who were very strong in their opposition based on the fact that they would be voting for something that would affect other people and wouldn’t affect themselves,” Claiborne told council members before the vote. “That possibility seemed hypocritical to them. In an effort to be accepting of that point of view, this bill allows those persons to voluntarily include themselves in the provisions laid out for future council members.”
The comment drew laughter from several in the room. The bill was passed on second reading by a vote of 25-13. It will face a final vote at the council’s next meeting on Jan. 8.
In other council action:
• A zoning bill that would have allowed for the construction of a 4.5-story building in southeast Davidson County’s Nashboro Village. The bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Karen Johnson, said the proposal was a fair compromise because “it does not make the community happy and it does not make the developer happy,” but it was defeated by a vote of 18 to 20.
• As expected, At-large Councilwoman Megan Barry deferred her bill that would allow home recording studios under Metro’s codes. Barry has said she’ll be arranging a meeting to give all interested parties a chance to talk out any concerns about the particulars of the proposal. The bill will appear at the council’s Jan. 15 meeting.