Town officials on Tuesday approved a higher hourly wage for members of the New Canaan Police Department when they’re helping with traffic control for utility companies or at private functions—a fee typically paid by contractors rather than local taxpayers.
The “extra duty” rate—as opposed to overtime, when the town pays an officer a higher rate for shift work—has not increased in eight years, police told members of the Board of Selectmen at their regular meeting.
And at $60.32 per hour for an extra duty job that goes beyond eight straight hours or $67 per hour for work between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., the New Canaan Police rate has fallen behind nearby municipalities such as Darien, Wilton, Westport, Stamford and Greenwich, officials said.
Those rates will increase to $70 and $77, following a unanimous vote by the Board of Selectmen at the meeting, held in Town Hall.
First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said “it’s important that we get these [police officers] to want to take these side jobs, because I think having a police presence in town is a good thing.”
“I know they have been involved when they are on extra-duty work, that they are in town to augment the police force and stop some very serious crimes and I think it really spreads out and becomes more attractive when you get more folks taking on these jobs.”
Police Lt. Jason Ferraro, presenting the proposed new rates to the selectmen, cited instances such as when an officer saved a choking person’s life on Elm Street while working an extra-duty job nearby, or when officers working extra-duty responded to motor vehicle accidents and even serious domestic incidents involving weapons as examples of how the work has helped New Canaan.
“I could give you over a dozen examples of when officers working extra duty benefitted the town,” Ferraro said.
He added: “It does provide additional protections to the town as a whole.”
Though there are instances when the extra-duty rate is paid by the town itself—such as in directing traffic around public tree work—the majority of those jobs are paid by utility companies such as Frontier and Eversource, Ferraro said.
“The town work is not a significant portion at all at this point,” he said, adding that the police are flexible in working with public works, the tree warden and other officials to make adjustments in extra-duty jobs as needed.
Mallozzi noted that companies such as Eversource in discussions about bringing natural gas lines into New Canaan have been highly complimentary of the police for the department’s flexibility in how the utility’s own flaggers could collaborate with officers in those would-be extra-duty jobs.
“Generally speaking, this cost is definitely going to be born by the utilities and private parties,” Mallozzi said.
The town also approved an increase to how much it charges for processing payments for extra-duty work. New Canaan Human Resources Director Cheryl Pickering-Jones said that the town for some 15 years has charged $7.50 per invoice while other towns charge up to 15 percent of the total cost on each bill to outside contractors hiring police for extra-duty. She recommended the town charge 12 percent—a measure also approved 3-0 by the board, with ‘Yes’ votes from Mallozzi and Selectmen Beth Jones and Nick Williams.
Referring to a chart that broke down what other lower Fairfield County towns charge for administrative fees in processing extra-duty jobs, Williams said he noticed that Stamford has a different rate for nonprofit organizations.
“Is there any consideration to doing that here?” he asked.
Mallozzi said he supported that idea.
“When we approve a rate of 12 percent for outside duty, then we should be at 6 or 8 percent for nonprofits because I think we owe it to them to be as supportive as possible, they are doing so many great things for the community,” Mallozzi said.
Ultimately, the town settled on 7 percent.
Mallozzi also called for the rates to be reviewed in three years.
Jones said that some towns charge a different rate for a supervisor in the department rather than a police officer for extra-duty jobs and asked whether Ferraro’s recommendation was for a flat fee.
Ferraro said that although some extra-duty events require a supervisor—such as a football game, MMRF walk or May Fair—that there is no additional compensation sought in those instances.