COLDWATER (WTVB) Branch County Commissioners met in special session yesterday afternoon to hire a Lansing legal firm that specializes in employee benefits to set up a trust account that will be used for a self-funded pension program for recently retired county employees and future retirees. Those attorneys will also be assisting the county in terminating its long time agreement with pension system manager John Hancock and locating a new firm to handle the county’s program. However, that’s where it could become a bit sticky since the county is required to give John Hancock a six month notice before it can cancel its contract with the company. It’s been a stressful 2012 for Branch County’s pension system because of a combination of factors which took a critical turn in February when there was a delay for several weeks in sending out retirement checks for a number of people who were expecting their first pension payments. The system was shored up before spring but remained under duress as a higher than expected number of county workers decided now was a good time to retire or leave county employment. There are around 600 active employees enrolled in the Hancock program, which also covers the County Road Commission, the Community Health Center of Branch County and the Maple Lawn Medical Care Facility.
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