NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck fire marshal’s office is currently behind by more than two years on inspections of multifamily buildings, businesses and municipal properties.
In an effort to curb that problem, Fire Chief Ken Hanks has proposed $71,000 in his budget plan for next year to add a third inspector in the fire marshal’s office.
The Board of Finance, however, is not sure it wants to spend that money, some of its members said Monday night at Town Hall when Hanks presented the board with his budget proposal for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Instead, the board discussed a plan to possibly hire a clerical worker for the office at a lower cost. That person could help file paperwork, which takes up a lot of time for fire inspectors currently, Hanks said.
“That would certainly help,” he said. “The best plan would be to hire an inspector, but again, this could be beneficial.”
Discussion of that position was the most contentious at the budget hearing. The fire department, the first municipal department to make an annual budget proposal pitch to finance officials this year, has asked for $4.2 million, which is $119,103 or 2.82 percent more than the department currently has in its budget. However, it is actually 6 percent more than what was approved for this fiscal year.
The reason the proposed increase looks lower is because the Board of Finance recently transferred money into the fire department’s budget for this fiscal year because the department had some financial setbacks. Those included more retirements than initially anticipated, and a firefighter who Naugatuck hired to replace one of the retirees left for another department after less than two months in Naugatuck. All told, Naugatuck had invested $83,000 into training that firefighter, which it could not recoup.
Hanks said there are 12 more people who are eligible for retirement. He believes three definitely will retire, as will another firefighter who will retire on a disability once his medical paperwork is approved. Therefore, Hanks has budgeted to replace four people in his budget request. That will bring the department to minimum manpower staffing, which is stipulated in the fire union’s contract with the borough. It states eight people must work on each of the department’s four shifts.
The fire budget will go through at least two more reviews before it is finalized. The public will have an opportunity to discuss all departmental budget proposals during a hearing in the spring.