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Safety Harbor fire chief to retire again

SAFETY HARBOR — Fire Chief Jay Stout, who retired seven years ago but returned to the job a month later to collect a salary and pension, is retiring again.

This time, he selected a window of time when lucrative pay incentives were being offered to employees who voluntarily left to help prevent layoffs.

Stout, 60, is among 11 city employees who accepted a retirement/separation package. His last day is May 29.

Deputy fire Chief Joe Accetta will take over Stout's job and the deputy position will be left open.

"It's helping out the young firefighters,'' Stout said. "We're trimming the organization and it's a good way to preserve street-level staffing.''

Because Stout has served the city for more than eight years, he will receive six months salary, nearly $50,000 and a year of health insurance coverage for he and his wife costing the city $15,410. Plus, he will get the 8 percent of his gross salary the city contributed per pay period to his 401(a) plan in his second stint with the city, totaling $51,200.

Stout first retired on Nov. 30, 2002, after 29 years on the job. But he returned 33 days later, making the same salary he did before his departure: $76,482 per year.

At the same time, Stout began receiving pension checks from the Florida State Retirement System which, with regular increases, now totals $4,903.11 per month, including a $150 per month health insurance subsidy.

His annual salary rose through the years and is currently $99,798. He still draws the pension checks, which means he brings in $158,634 per year before taxes.

Bill Cropsey, the city's personnel director, said that in 2002, Stout "retired as far as FRS is concerned'' but he "wasn't considered retired from the city.''

He said city officials knew Stout would be back and he "kept his sick and vacation balances.''

"As far as the city is concerned, he is retiring now,'' Cropsey said.

Earlier this month, Stout told the St. Petersburg Times "I do not consider myself'' a double-dipper.

On Wednesday, Stout said Accetta is educated, well qualified and will "preserve the culture of the department.''

Accetta, 47, who will be paid $87,000 annually, has been with the Safety Harbor Fire Department since 1981 and was promoted to training chief in 2004.

Of the other 10 employees who accepted the retirement/separation package, five are from public works, three from leisure services, one from the fire department and one from planning and zoning.

Some have already left, but most will work their last day today, leaving the city with 173 full-time employees.

The program was offered to employees of all ages.

"We are thinking outside the box in an attempt to trim city expenditures and avoid layoffs while continuing to provide quality services at an affordable cost during these tough economic times,'' said Mayor Andy Steingold.

Vacated positions will be frozen indefinitely and will be evaluated for future funding or departmental restructuring.

"The result will be a cost savings of up to $620,000 next year,'' said City Manager Matt Spoor.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Safety Harbor fire chief to retire again 04/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 30, 2009 8:24pm]
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