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WFD gets 10 percent pension raise

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news Wadena, 56482
Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson, P.O. Box 31 56482

Wadena firefighters have something extra to look forward to since the city council approved an increase in their pensions at the Feb. 12 meeting.

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The increase to $2,175 for every year served on the department is an approximate 10 percent jump from the previous payout factor of $1,970 per year served. Wadena Fire Chief Dean Uselman said the increase would go far in encouraging firefighters to stay on in Wadena.

"This is just a little way, a thank you, for those times over the years that you serve as a firefighter that your family had to sacrifice," Uselman said.

The city of Wadena won't have to pay extra money for the pension increase, as long as the Firemen's Relief Association pension fund can pay out pensions, Uselman said, adding that the Association takes care to make low-risk investments so the fund isn't as subject to the whims of the stock market.

Firefighters pay dues in order to be members of the Association, and they also participate in a calendar fundraiser, which has proceeds that go in part to the pension fund, Uselman said.

The increase initially was met with scrutiny from council members, who were concerned about potential shortages in the pension fund brought on by economic trouble or too many firefighters retiring at once. Council Member Toby Pierce was apprehensive about the financial risk to the city, should the Fireman's Association find itself unable to pay for the pension increase in the future.

"It's very important what you do. Nobody's arguing with that," Pierce said. "If we increase it, you're asking taxpayers to basically back you up in case something goes wrong."

Mayor Wayne Wolden said he was troubled by the city's inability to set the pension payouts back down to a lower level in the event of trouble with the economy.

"I don't question at all the rationale for the request," he said. "The only concern that I have is the volatility of the market, the bonds, everything else like that ..."

Despite the questions they posed to Relief Association members, the council approved the measure to increase pensions by a vote of 4-1. Wolden later explained that the Relief Association's preparations for any potential financial troubles swayed him toward raising the pensions.

"My initial concerns obviously are for the liability of citizens of Wadena; the tax base," Wolden said. "I asked those challenging questions, and between (the Relief Association) and their financial advisor were able to give the response that, 'It's factored in.'"

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