Riverhead officials approved a new contract for Police Chief David Hegermiller that outlines objectives he must accomplish over the next six months and boosts his annual pay by 8.5%, making him the town's highest-paid employee.
The yearlong contract includes a retroactive 6% salary bump for 2023 and a 2.5% increase for 2024, bringing his base salary to $225,637 from $207,673. It also sets June deadlines for the chief to complete a policing plan for the downtown area and other emergency protocols.
Board members voted 5-0 to approve the contract without discussion Tuesday. It is expected to be signed and take effect this month and expires Dec. 31, 2024.
Hegermiller, 65, also will receive a longevity bonus of 16% of his base salary for 40 years of service.
He was hired as a police officer in 1981 and climbed the ranks before he was tapped as chief in 2002.
"It’s a very, very fair contract with a generous monetary compensation for his time on the job,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said Tuesday, adding the chief has been working without a contract since last December.
Other terms of the contract remain unchanged, including a $500 bonus for not taking any sick days in a year, a $6,000 stipend for his role as the town’s emergency response coordinator and payment in lieu of a night differential, which totaled $6,850 in 2022.
Town payroll records show Hegermiller was the top paid employee in 2022, with gross earnings totaling $284,934, including $28,819 in unused vacation time.
Hegermiller did not respond to requests for comment.
William Rothaar, the town's financial administrator, said Wednesday the money will come from the town’s general fund using unspent monies from vacant positions.
“We have that in a $10 million salary line,” Rothaar said, adding that police salaries make up roughly half of total town payroll costs.
Rothaar said his office has not come up with a final calculation of what Hegermiller is owed in longevity pay.
Riverhead police officers also received 6% raises for 2023 and 2.5% in 2024 under a contract approved in August.
Hegermiller’s contract aligns his salary with other East End police chiefs, whose 2022 pay ranged from $223,379 in Southold to $270,606 in East Hampton, according to records obtained by Newsday.
The policing plan Hegermiller is tasked with submitting must include measures for protecting downtown districts, where revitalization efforts are underway. It must also address the feasibility of operating a police department substation downtown.
“There are many crime safety theories and concepts and we need to apply them to our downtown,” Aguiar, who has a background in law enforcement with the NYPD, said, referring to methods like community policing.
The plan would build on efforts to improve safety by employing more security cameras and making downtown more “family-friendly” by steepening fines for violations such as aggressive panhandling, public defecation and vaping.
Riverhead’s 2024 budget of $69.4 million included hiring five police officers, which brings the department total to 100.
“We need a more comprehensive, steady plan,” she said.
A town cybersecurity plan and emergency response plan that outlines fire and natural disaster evacuations for town buildings and Riverhead schools were also requested in the agreement.