Fire chief, borough agree to four-year contract

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

Naugatuck Fire Chief Paul Russell. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — Fire Chief Paul Russell and the borough have agreed to terms on a four-year contract.

The contract is retroactive to July 1 and runs through June 30, 2024. Russell and Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess signed the contract July 10, three days after the Board of Mayor and Burgesses approved the deal, 9-1, following an executive session.

Burgess Robert Neth voted against the contract not because of Russell, but because he doesn’t agree with hiring someone who receives a pension from the borough for another job.

The Fire Commission appointed Russell fire chief last month to succeed former Fire Chief Ellen Murray, who retired at the end of June. The contract approval solidifies the appointment.

Russell’s base salary is $98,000 this fiscal year, according to the contract. His salary will be reviewed each of the remaining three years of the deal. Murray earned a base salary of about $103,000 last fiscal year. Murray also received a $3,500 payment for not taking insurance and a $5,000 stipend.

Russell isn’t eligible for health insurance as chief — a non-union position — because he receives medical benefits as a retiree of the department, the contract states. He officially retired from the department in 2017 before taking the deputy chief position, which is also a non-union job. He receives a pension from the borough.

Hess said the contract saves the borough money since it doesn’t provide health coverage.

“It’s a win-win for the borough because we save about $45,000 and we still get the best guy for the job,” Hess said.

Russell described the contract as fair to both sides.

“I am pleased that we were able to reach an agreement and settle on a contract that was fair to myself and the borough,” Russell said. “I appreciate the support from the mayor, burgesses and the fire commissioners for allowing me to serve as the fire chief. I look forward to continue moving the department forward.”

Russell, a 56-year-old borough native, started as a firefighter in 1990 with the Naugatuck Fire Department and has spent his entire career in the borough. Over his career, he climbed the ranks in the department. He became a lieutenant in 1996 and second assistant chief in 2005, before becoming deputy chief.

According to the contract, Russell will be eligible to participate in the borough’s defined contribution pension plan and the borough will match up to 3%. Russell will also receive term life insurance equal to two times his base salary as well as a $1,300 equipment and uniform allowance each year. The borough will also provide him with a vehicle for business and personal use, though any out-of-state travel in the vehicle has to be related to his duties as chief.