Milford firefighters make up half of city's top earners

MILFORD — Fire Department personnel account for half of the city's top 30 wage earners, according to data from the city's finance department.

Firefighter Nicholas Holinko took the top spot, earning $266,198, followed by firefighter Martin Halprin, earning $253,095.

In 2012, Holinko saved the life of a choking child at the Connecticut Post Mall while he was on standby at the carnival. The child's mother approached Holinko and said her 10-month-old daughter was not breathing. He immediately performed black blows — slaps on the back using the heel of the hand — on the child until she coughed up a penny.

With emergency workers, overtime and extra duty typically add thousands of dollars to an employee's annual pay on top of their base salary.

Fire Chief Doug Edo said the fire department has many vacancies, but there are candidates in the pipeline to fill them.

"The fire academy only offers two sessions per year," he said. "We have six in class now. Currently, we have five vacancies open."

School Superintendent Anna Cutaia placed third, with a salary of $233,683 and firefighter Jeffrey Platek, with a salary of $225,458, was fourth.

City police and more firefighters rounded out the top 10. Firefighter Thomas Piskura was fifth, earning a salary of $208,207. He was followed by Officer Michael Moreno, $200,725; firefighter Craig Casper, $199,536; Officer Sean Owens, $195,178; firefighter David Tobias, $194,686; and officer Thomas Tornberg, $190,436.

"Officer candidates now are looking at departments at pay and benefits, including retirement," said Police Chief Keith Mello. "Our pay is somewhere in the middle. There are quite a few departments that have higher pay, but others have lower pay, so Milford is in the middle of the pack when it comes to salaries."

Mello said departments that do pay more have an advantage in attracting candidates, but overall, the number of candidates has diminished for police departments, not just in Milford but throughout the state.

"What pay does, it gives you a greater opportunity to be the employer of choice," he said. "Where we see a disadvantage is we have a 25-year retirement, which makes it difficult to compete with departments with 20-year retirement."

In addition to salary, police departments also can lose officers to other career options, Mello said.

"We just had a recently promoted sergeant who was an excellent employee leave policing altogether to go into finance," Mello said. 

Mello himself received the 13th highest salary, at $187,962. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Amy Fedigan, was next and also the next non-police or firefighter personnel on the list at 14th, earning $181,889.

Other Milford school personnel earning top salaries include Jonathan Law High School Principal Bryan Darcy, who joined Milford Public Schools in 2021 from Wooster Middle School in Stratford, 18th at $171,155. Darcy filled the vacancy left by Fran Thomson, who was named assistant superintendent of personnel in the Wallingford Public School District.

Foran High School Principal Max Merkowizts was 20th, at $168,039; Chief Operations Officer James Richetelli 22nd at $167,175; East Shore Middle School Principal Shannan Carlson, 27th at $163,061; West Shore Middle School Principal Caroline Keramis, 28th at $162,909; and Harborside Middle School Principal Steven Gottlieb, 29th at $162,159.

Two city officials made the top 30 salaries — Director of Finance Peter Erodici, $167,407, at 21 and Health Director Deepa Joseph, $167,158, at 23.