Borough adds funds to shore up ‘critical’ emergency position

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Naugatuck Deputy Fire Chief Ken Hanks speaks at the Board of Mayor and Burgess meeting on May 3 alongside Fire Chief Paul Russell and Police Chief Colin McAllister. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials have created a full-time emergency management director position after several decades of having the position as a part time stipend position.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses unanimously approved to create an Emergency Management Director position at its May 3 meeting. The borough board approved a salary of $80,000 in its executive session later that evening.

Borough officials have added about $62,000 in the budget and plan to implement the position in the fall according to Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess.

“I would like to say that this position in my mind is critical,” Hess said during the meeting. “When I say that, public safety is one of the main reasons we’re here.”

Burgess Francis Dambowsky has been held the $5,000 stipend position for 18 years but has been working in a full-time role. The stipend goes back about 30 years, Dambowsky said.

Borough officials have been improving the police, fire, ambulance and Community Emergency Response Team and fire police. Officials are now improving the emergency management position according to Hess.

“We want to be extremely strong in all aspects of public safety,” Hess said.

The duties for the position include formulating policies, procedures and updating them on file and having an emergency plan operations plan for any type of emergency according to Hess.

“We’re now starting to get cyber security issues which become part of emergency management, working with IT and integrating things,” Hess said.

Fire Chief Paul Russell, Police Chief Colin McAllister and Deputy Fire Chief Ken Hanks all agreed the borough needs a full-time emergency management director.

“The guy has been killing himself for the town of Naugatuck. It should be a full-time position,” Russell said. “Naugatuck is big enough. We have enough stuff going on and I absolutely think that it should be full time position.”

McAllister said he fully supports a full-time position and it would help alleviate police officers to focus on their own work.

“A lot of the work that will be done is already being done by members of our department and could be easily taken off their plate to getting back to police officers doing what police officers need to do,” McAllister said.

Hanks said there’s a lot of full time work that goes on before an emergency.

“That position is key. You can’t split it up between police, fire and EMS chiefs and let them do emergency management,” Hanks said. “It has to be a centralized person because emergency management touches on all disciplines.”

Hanks said back in the early 2000s when he was assistant fire chief and worked with Dambowsky for emergency management, there were weeks where he spent 20 hours a week working on emergency management on food plans and homeland security plans with Dambowsky.

“I was taking work away from the fire department to do statutorily required work for emergency management that can be better handled by someone off our department,” Hanks said. “It wasn’t an overtime issue for us but I was giving up other work to do work that needed to get done. We’d like to have a full-time person there that would take that load off police, fire and public works.”

Burgess Charles Marenghi said the borough has had it good with part time pay for full time work.

“It makes total sense we need to build this position in as something that will last beyond a year and now and when Fran’s here,” Marenghi said.

Dambowsky said at this point, he is planning to apply for the position.

“I enjoy the work. I love doing that job,” Dambowsky said. “Given any unforeseen circumstance, I would definitely apply for the position.”

Emergency management has traditionally focused extensively on response and recovery efforts. Borough officials are recognizing that they cannot simply respond their way out of disaster vulnerability, Dambowsky said.

“We have to prioritize disaster risk reduction through transformative hazard mitigation.
Dambowsky said. “With the infrastructure of Naugatuck rapidly progressing we need to focus on mitigation that eliminates or reduces the impact and risk of hazards through proactive measures taken while we are building our Borough and before an emergency or disaster occurs.”