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Riverhead Town payroll rose 3.4% last year, records show

The town police department had the highest payroll and most overtime, which the police chief attributed to vacation fill-ins, investigatory work and the need to staff large events.

Riverhead Town Hall on March 22, 2011.

Riverhead Town Hall on March 22, 2011. Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

Riverhead saw its overall town payroll rise by 3.4 percent to $28,707,907 last year from $27,755,908 in 2016, according to a Newsday analysis of town payroll records.

Riverhead’s police department was the highest-ranking town department for total pay in 2017 with a payroll of $14,375,097 — a 1.9 percent increase from the department’s $14,100,824 payroll in 2016.

The second-highest payroll was for the town Highway Department, which paid its employees a total of $2,373,612 in 2017, marking a 0.6 percent decrease from the $2,387,939 in total highway payouts in 2016. The Water Department was the third-highest-paid town department among total pay figures, increasing 14.7 percent to $1,439,803 in 2017 from $1,255,215 in 2016, records show.

Riverhead’s Sewer Department, which operates the town’s Scavenger Waste Treatment plant, had a payroll of $1,139,558 in 2017, a 1.04 percent decrease from the $1,151,576 total pay in 2016, data provided by the town show.

Overtime payments went down by 3.1 percent to $1,173,769 in 2017 from $1,211,329 in 2016, according to the records. Police received the largest share of overtime payments — $876,186 in 2017, a 7.7 increase from the $813,446 in police overtime costs in 2016.

Riverhead Police Chief David J. Hegermiller said police overtime costs were primarily due to two factors.

One was the need for staff to fill in for officers on sick or vacation time, representing about 40.6 percent of the overtime costs. The other issue driving up overtime costs was investigatory work, which made up roughly 13.6 percent of overtime expenses, Hegermiller said. And the need for extra manpower to handle events that drew large crowds such as the annual Country Fair, Polish Fair and the “Alive on 25” festival on Main Street also contributed to overtime costs, he said.

Using part-time officers helped keep the department’s overtime costs down the previous year, Hegermiller said, adding, “They do help out enormously with walking patrols on Main Street and (large) events.” But many of those officers don’t stay with the department long as they often leave for positions elsewhere, he said.

Highway overtime costs were the second highest among Riverhead’s town departments at $62,666. That marks a 55.2 percent increase from the $40,365 in overtime that highway staff received in 2016. The Sewer Department saw overtime costs rise to $53,103 in 2017 from $46,734 the previous year, pushing the department to third in overtime costs in the town.

Overall, Riverhead’s total number of employees decreased by three to 555 last year, according to the payroll figures. The town cut 20 positions from its payroll the previous year.

Among the town’s 554 employees, 98 were making $100,000 or more. Police staff made up the 10 highest-paid employees in 2017, with five of them being paid upward of $200,000. Hegermiller received the top salary last year at $221,465, records show.

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