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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Litchfield fire chief will collect nearly $4,000 monthly pension

LITCHFIELD – Frank Fraitzl, who became the town’s first appointed fire chief earlier this month, will work roughly 24 hours a week at a rate of $26.54 an hour, according to his three-year contract with the town.

Fraitzl retired in April 2011 after three years as Milford fire chief, and despite his new position, is entitled to a $3,931 monthly pension payment, or nearly $50,000 a year, which he began collecting Aug. 1, according to New Hampshire Retirement System spokesman Marty Karlon.

State law allows retired public employees to return to work in the public sector as long as they don’t work more than 32 hours a week.

Karlon said legislators are currently considering changes to clarify the law, including looking at a proposal to put those who exceed 32 hours a week into a category that allows them to accumulate up to 1,300 hours per year. The current law took effect last July.

Town Manager Jason Hoch said officials used data from past years to calculate the chief’s 24-hour week.

“We understand weeks will vary, but the 24 hours seems a reasonable expectation for the chief’s position,” Hoch said.

While the law allows Fraitzl to work up to 32 hours a week, Hoch said it’s highly unlikely, barring a major catastrophe, that Fraitzl would need to work that many hours in one week.

Before Fraitzl was hired in early March, longtime firefighter Tom Schofield served as chief for a dozen or so years. His term ended the day after Town Meeting, the same time Fraitzl’s began. The post has always been part time in Litchfield.

Fraitzl’s contract expires March 14, 2015.

The town’s switch to appointing fire chiefs is rooted in a 2008 review of Litchfield’s government by the consulting firm Municipal Resources.

At the time, town government was in disarray, with some departments and elected officials engaged in feuds that led to poor communication between government entities.

Municipal Resources recommended the town begin appointing the fire chief, as well as the head of the highway department, and also suggested it create a town administrator or manager post to better coordinate department management.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or