Officers offered retirement incentive plan
By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Windsor Locks - posted Fri., Jan. 4, 2013
The Windsor Locks Police Commission unanimously voted to approve and implement a plan that will vastly change the look of the force over the next few months. On Dec. 12, the commission passed an Employee Retirement Incentive Plan, which will encourage some of the longer-tenured officers on the force to retire, allowing the police department to restructure and add a full complement of supervisory staff to ensure the town is not in jeopardy at any given point or during any shifts.
“When it was brought to my attention, I could see the positives that come out of this,” said First Selectman Steve Wawruck. “We’re rewarding those officers for retiring and yet the town will derive savings to enhance the department. I applaud the police commission for coming up with an innovative plan with cost savings for the town and it’s lucrativeness for the officers retiring, which makes it a win-win. [The commission members] have a vision for the future for the police department.”
The incentive plan is being offered to Officer Danny Squires (25 years of service), Sgt. Michael Balfore (26 years of service), Sgt. Ricardo Rachele (33 years of service), Sgt. Frank Baron (36 years of service), and Captain Chester DeGray (12 years of service). Windsor Locks Police Commissioner Kevin Brace stressed that the program is not an early retirement offer, rather an enticement to retire, because all of these employees are currently eligible to retire.
The officer and sergeants with 120 years of combined service have until Feb.1 to decide whether they will accept the plan offered. Police Chief Eric Osanitsch said they wanted to give the officers plenty of time to analyze the plan and decide what is best for them in their particular situations. To date, Squires, Balfore and Baron have decided to accept the incentive plan and retire. Rachele had still not decided as of press time. DeGray has until June 30 to decide if he wishes to accept the incentive. Brace said that they staggered DeGray’s time because they did not want to see everyone exit at one time.
“They are all good employees and they have worked hard for the town for many years,” said Osanitsch. “They have a wealth of experience and dedication to the town; there is going to be a transition period where we will miss their expertise and such, but in the long term, it is going to be good for the department.”
The employees, in exchange for their retirement, would each be given seven years of health coverage or extended coverage until the employee hits Medicare age, whichever comes first. Under the current contract, if a police department employee retires, the town pays for half of the employee's healthcare.
With the officers accepting the incentive plan, it allows the town to no longer be responsible for the Heart and Hypertension Act created in 1977. The law presumed that heart disease and hypertension were caused by the occupation and guaranteed benefits equivalent to worker’s compensation for those who met the eligibility requirements of passing a pre-employment physical revealing no evidence of hypertension or heart disease. The employee did not need to prove that their condition was caused by the employment under the law, and Brace noted that since the town is self-insured, they would be responsible for the coverage, adding that the last settlement in Connecticut for a case under this law was for $48,000 for less than 20 percent disability.
Brace said that having the employees accepting the retirement incentive also frees up funds in areas like vacation days and sick time. All of the employees who were offered the plan currently have five weeks of vacation time per year; new officers that will join the force only receive two. Brace also added that it will save up money in the budget because the department will not have to pay overtime to backfill while the officers are on vacation.
With these officers leaving, promotional opportunities within the department will become available, and Brace and Osanitsch expect to promote sergeants from within the force’s ranks. The police department currently sits at 25 members and they would like to get that number to 30 to address deficiencies and under-manning issues.
In order for the plan to be implemented, Warwuck, Osanitsch, Brace and Human Resources Director Shannon Walker presented the plan to the Board of Finance on Nov. 27. The board approved the plan with a 4-1 vote, with Democrats Cornelius O’Leary, Sandra Ferrari, and Michelle Hill as well as Republican Doug Glazier crossing party lines to support the plan. Republican Michael Ciarcia opposed and Paul Harrington abstained.