City Commission discusses changes to pension and retirement plans

Winter Garden commissioners heard the first reading of two proposed ordinances relating to pension and retirement plans for both general employees and firefighters and police officers.

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The Winter Garden City Commission heard the first reading of two proposed ordinances relating to pension and retirement plans for both general employees and firefighters and police officers at its regular meeting Thursday, Feb. 10. 

Assistant City Manager of Administrative Services Frank Gilbert said the ordinance proposes two basic changes to the general employee pension plan. 

The first proposes the Board of Trustees term to change from serving for two years to serving for four years. Gilbert said the change is based on the amount of education and training needed for one to become a member of the board. 

The second falls in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. The ordinance suggests increasing the period of participation from 36 months to 60 months. Gilbert said this would allow the city to retain critical employees with the most experience for an additional two years, which in the current labor market, would be helpful in retaining some of the institutional knowledge the valuable employees have accumulated over the years. 

Gilbert went on to discuss the similar ordinance relating to changes in the firefighter and police pension plan. 

The ordinance mirrors the general employee pension in relation to the change of term length and D.R.O.P.

In addition, the firefighter and police pension plan changes reflect key modifications required by the Internal Revenue Code, including changes for required minimum distribution aid from 70-and-one-half to 72 years, and allowing members to purchase prior police fire and related service time at no cost to the city. 

Gilbert confirmed there would be no impact or change in the valuation of the plans based on the proposed ordinances. The second reading and public hearing for both ordinances is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 24. 


Community Development Director Stephen Pash presented the City Commission with a recommendation to approve a Code Enforcement lien reduction and removal at 1104 S. Park Ave. 

Pash said the property was approved for the construction of 24 townhouses in 2004. 

He said the property was purchased during a “big boom,” and the owner installed all the proper infrastructure before the economy worsened. 

Pash said none of the homes was built.

Pash explained since 2007 there have been multiple code violations that continued into 2021. Multiple liens were placed on the property, and as of February, the liens with accumulated interest were at $54,410.45. Pash said a large portion of the amount is because of a lack of lawn maintenance on the large property. 

Now, the owner, who lives in South Florida, is attempting to sell the property and requested a reduction after not keeping up on the maintenance and ignoring repetitive warnings for years. 

Pash said the staff recommended reducing the rate to $20,000, which would cover all the city expenses and the utility bill, if the owner paid the amount by March 11. 

District 2 Commissioner Ron Mueller questioned why the commission should give the owner a break. 

“There were opportunities multiple times in the last 14 years to rectify this … and they haven’t,” he said. 

Mayor John Rees asked Pash if he knew of any extraneous circumstances in the situation, to which Pash said he knew of none or of any hardship. 

Rees flipped the argument, asking the commission, “Do we want it to stay like that, or do we want it to improve and put something there?”

District 4 Commissioner Colin Sharman suggested cutting a 10% break to the owner. 

City Manager Jon C. Williams said one of his concerns was the deal could be shut down and the city could be stuck again.

Sharman revised his proposal to reduce the amount to $35,000 if paid by March 11. If the owner declines, the sum will go back to the full amount. 

The motion was approved unanimously.


  • The City Commission heard a second reading of an amendment city’s Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget. Commissioners approved the amendment unanimously. 
  • City Manager Jon C. Williams announced the previously discussed East Winter Garden annexation, which the commission approved at its last meeting, received unanimous approval from Orange County Tuesday, Feb. 8. 
  • The City Commission unanimously approved two upcoming events to support local small businesses, including Shop, Dine and Stroll all day Saturday, March 26, and the Downtown Boutique Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 24.
  • The city confirmed its involvement in the Healthy West Orange Trails Connection after a brief presentation from Barbara Giles with Bike/Walk Central Florida.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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