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The borough adds funds to consolidate a “critical” emergency position

Naugatuck Deputy Fire Chief Ken Hanks speaks at the Mayor and Burgess Council meeting May 3 alongside Fire Chief Paul Russell and Police Chief Colin McAllister. News from the citizens of Andreas Yilma

By Andreas Yilma New citizens

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

The mayor’s and burghers’ council unanimously approved the creation of a director of emergency management position at its May 3 meeting. The borough council approved an $80,000 salary during its executive session later that evening.

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

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

Burgess Francis Dambowsky has been in the $5,000 stipend position for 18 years, but works full time. The stipend dates back about 30 years, Dambowsky said.

Borough officials have upgraded police, fire, ambulance, 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.

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

“We are now starting to have cybersecurity issues that are part of emergency management, working with IT and onboarding,” Hess said.

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

“The guy killed himself for the town of Naugatuck. It should be a full-time position,” Russell said. “Naugatuck is quite large. We have enough going on and I absolutely think it should be a full time position.

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

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

Hanks said there’s a lot of full-time work before an emergency.

“This position is essential. You can’t divide it between the chiefs of police, fire and emergency medical services and let them handle emergencies,” Hanks said. “It has to be a centralized person because emergency management cuts across all disciplines.”

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

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

Bourgeois Charles Marenghi said the borough had done well with part-time pay for full-time work.

“It makes perfect sense that we should build this position as something that will last beyond a year and now and when Fran is here,” Marenghi said.

Dambowsky said at this point he plans to apply for the job.

“I like the job. I love doing this job,” Dambowsky said. “Given any unforeseen circumstances, I would definitely apply for the position.”

Emergency management has traditionally focused on response and recovery efforts. Borough officials recognize they can’t just react to get out of disaster vulnerability, Dambowsky said.

“We must prioritize disaster risk reduction through transformative risk mitigation.
Dambowsky said. “With Naugatuck’s infrastructure rapidly advancing, we need to focus on mitigation that eliminates or reduces the impact and risk of hazards through proactive measures taken while we build our borough and before an emergency or disaster does not occur.”

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