After years of little oversight, some taxpayers are paying closer attention to what they consider is generous pay and perks in a Bloomfield fire district.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have been reporting on issues in the Blue Hills Fire District for years. There are about 50 fire districts across the state with the same setup. They can fire, hire, and pay who they want, have taxing authority, and answer to no one, not even town government.
At a meeting on Thursday night, some residents told the Troubleshooters that they came to vote against the longstanding practice of paying fire commissioners a $5,000 annual stipend. They also took aim at the interim director of finance and administration’s compensation package, who in a part time capacity, gets a pay and health benefit package of roughly $60,000 per year to manage a relatively small budget of $1.7 million.
“The other fire district hires a clerk/treasurer for about $5,000,” said taxpayer Don Noel.
While a series of cost-cutting proposals failed, the votes were closer than previous efforts.
- A vote to dramatically cut the fire commissioner stipend was defeated 21-15
- A vote to cut the finance director’s salary was defeated lost 21-16
- A motion to limit paying the finance director’s entire health insurance premium failed in an 18-18 tie vote
Taxpayer Michelle Adams explained one of the reasons she believes those measures aren’t appropriate.
“There’s a place for free volunteering, and there’s a place for me getting a little stipend,” said Adams.
The commissioners have made it clear their stipends, and finance director’s salary and health benefits, are longstanding practices established long before they were elected. They also used to get holiday and performance bonuses totaling in the thousands. That practice stopped shortly after a Troubleshooter investigation about the bonuses.