Boards give police, fire chiefs thumbs up
Marissa Yaremich , Register Staff 06/04/2004
BRANFORD — Employee contracts were a hot topic in town this week, with Police Chief Robert W. Gill securing one for the first time and Fire Chief Jack Ahern’s leadership role extended until 2010.

"Gill has a long history with the town … and is an all-around good gentleman, and the same can be said for Jack Ahern," said First Selectman John Opie on Thursday.

"We’re so lucky to have such fine people (as town leaders)," he added.

The Board of Selectmen approved Gill’s contract proposal Wednesday evening, while the Board of Fire Commissioners rolled over Ahern’s existing contract, which was set to expire on June 30, 2005.

Both town leaders requested their respective boards to review their contract options for different reasons.

Gill, 70, who has been operating as chief for the past six years without a contract, pursued one for the sake of safeguarding his salary and benefits.

"I am very happy the Board of Selectmen looked on (the proposal) favorably," said Gill, whose salary will be $84,976 as of July 1.

Based on joint research with the Board of Police Commissioners, Gill concluded that a contract assures his existing benefits are locked, as well as helping build on his pension, by annually negotiating any salary increase.

Neither Gill’s nor Ahern’s contracts guarantee annual raises in order to be fiscally responsible to taxpayers, according to town officials.

Jo-anne McGuigan, chairwoman of the police board, commended the town’s approval, saying contracts are becoming an increasingly popular trend in town.

"The chief requested a contract, and we felt for his many years of service that he definitely deserves one," said McGuigan, referring to Gill’s 40 years of local police service.

Ahern, 43, who was appointed chief on Feb. 3, 2003, expressed equal satisfaction about his contract extension.

Ahern’s main purpose for rolling over his contract for another five years, he said, was not to secure salary increases but to improve the Fire Department. Ahern’s salary will be $74,088 as of July 1.

"My feeling was to properly go forward with our five-year plan. Me, my administration and the town … have some bold plans for the Fire Department," said Ahern, who has risen through the ranks, from volunteer firefighter to fire chief, since 1976.

Fire board Chairman Robert Massey Jr. said the commissioners unanimously agreed Ahern is the best man for the job based on his track record.

During his first year as chief, Massey noted, Ahern has proved himself through many accomplishments.

These include updating the department’s e-mail and Internet capabilities and securing a $370,000 federalgrant for better radio and computer infrastructure.

During the coming years, the chief will focus on expanding headquarters, increasing personnel, building another fire station in the eastern section of town and securing more state and federal grants.

"We needed the security to hold onto him because we feel we have an excellent leader and we don’t want to lose (him)," said Massey.

Marissa Yaremich can be reached at myaremich@nhregister.comor at 789-5742.

©New Haven Register 2004

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