NAUGATUCK — Police Chief Christopher Edson will remain at the top of the Naugatuck Police Department for another two years.
A divided Board of Mayor and Burgesses approved a two-year contract for Edson at a special meeting Aug. 17.
The vote was 5-4 in favor of the contract. Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess and burgesses Robert Burns, Dorothy Hoff, Kathy Donovan, and Rock Vitale approved the deal. Deputy Mayor Robert Neth and burgesses Carl Herb, Laurie Taf Jackson and Pat Scully voted against it. Burgess Donald Wisniewski was absent.
The contract is retroactive from July 1 and runs through June 30, 2018. Edson, 59, will receive a 2 percent raise each year. His salary will go up to roughly $112,575 this year and increase to about $114,825 in the second year of the contract.
Under the contract, Edson will be switched from a PPO healthcare plan where the borough was paying 100 percent of the deductible to a $2,000/$4,000 high deductible health care plan with no borough contribution.
Hess said with changes to benefits offered to officers he anticipates a number of retirements at the upper levels in the next two years as officers take jobs in towns that offer better health care plans and pensions. The police union contract was recently switched to high deductible health care plans and 401(k)-type retirement accounts instead of traditional pensions.
Hess felt giving Edson two more years will provide stability at the department.
“In the next two years, because we are ahead of the curve in health care and the elimination of the defined benefit pension plan, the borough will be faced with many retirements and a loss of manpower, especially at the top,” Hess said. “I believe this two-year contract with Chief Edson is appropriate, makes sense for the borough, and that he can help us get through this difficult time period with his education, experience, and skills.”
Edson will oversee a department that has funding for up to 58 officers. Currently some officers are at the training academy and some are out on workers’ compensation.
Edson was hired as chief in 2007 after working 23 years with the Milford Police Department. At the time he was hired, Edson was a captain in the Milford Police Department. He replaced former Chief Dennis “Ned” Clisham.
Naugatuck Police Commission Chairman Stephanie Savoy spoke highly of Edson’s work in a letter to the board.
“Since taking over the Naugatuck Police Department Chief Edson has worked tirelessly to ensure this department is the most professional, dedicated, and well trained force possible. The residents of Naugatuck, and the officers of this department, are well served having Chris Edson as their chief of police,” Savoy wrote.
Edson said he was grateful to have his contract renewed by the borough.
Some who voted against the new contract felt it was time for a change.
Neth said Edson did a good job in the past, but he thought it was time for the department to go in a new direction. Neth added he has heard from some retired officers who expressed concerns about low morale on the force.
“I think at the time he came in, back in 2007, that was the right time for the right person because he was an outsider and we had issues at that time. So I think that over his last few years he has done a fairly decent job and I think he gets a lot of credit for that. But I think there are current officers, and officers that are retired, who have done a very good job in making the department move forward. And they need to be credited also. My point is that we are in a youth movement, we have a lot of young officers. I think we need to have somebody that’s new and local,” Neth said.
Neth was also concerned about the financial impact renewing Edson’s contract will have on the borough. He said Edson will be eligible for a pension next year. Over 20 years, the pension could have an impact of $500,000 to $700,000 on the borough, he said.
Scully echoed Neth’s financial concerns.
Scully said he has voted against every contract offered to Edson because he was offered a pension rather than a 401(k)-style retirement plan. Scully said at the time the Board of Mayor and Burgesses agreed to not offer any more pensions.
“I refused to vote for it [in 2007] and I refused to vote for it now. I can’t change my mind over a nine-year period,” Scully said. “I like the guy. That was my main reason for voting that way.”