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Galt chief can't work, collect retirement at same time

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Posted: Thursday, March 9, 2006 10:00 pm

Galt Fire Protection District directors will spend the next couple of months trying to decide whether to seek a new fire chief or possibly pursue a merger with the Elk Grove Fire Department.

Meanwhile, Galt Battalion Chief Craig Herscowitz has been named interim chief after the board recently decided to end Fire Chief Tim Mrozinski's employment because of difficulties he encountered with the California Public Employees Retirement System.

Mrozinski technically had the title of "transitional coordinator" because he was collecting retirement from PERS. He was limited to 20 hours of work per week, or else he would risk losing his retirement, said fire board member Dale Templeton.

But PERS notified Mrozinski recently that he was in jeopardy of losing retirement benefits by working in Galt.

He informed the board at a recent board meeting. The board, in turn, called a special meeting for Feb. 27, deciding unanimously that it was best for Mrozinski and the district for the chief to leave, Templeton said.

"It was something we didn't plan," Templeton added.

Mrozinski's departure was effective immediately, and Herscowitz was named interim chief.

Board President Guy Rutter suspects that PERS threatened to end Mrozinski's retirement benefits after someone told PERS about Mrozinski's arrangement with the Galt fire district.

Mrozinski retired as Rocklin's fire chief in 2003, but he replaced Jim Templeton as Galt's chief in November 2003.

Although Mrozinski is no longer on the Galt payroll, he will continue to represent the fire district during negotiations about a possible merger with Elk Grove, according to Herscowitz and Dale Templeton.

Efforts to contact Mrozinski this week were not successful.

Galt Fire's five-member board of directors and the Elk Grove Community Services District board - which oversees Elk Grove Fire - adopted a resolution in January to explore the feasibility of Galt merging with the larger Elk Grove district.

A consultant has been hired to determine whether a merger is feasible. The report should be completed within a month, Rutter said

The Galt district, which is not run by the city, covers 56 square miles in the city of Galt and rural areas north, east and west of the city. Elk Grove is almost twice as large.

A 16-year veteran of the Galt district, Herscowitz splits his time as battalion chief on his 48-hour shift and interim chief the remainder of the time. Battalion chiefs are the managerial supervisor for each shift, Herscowitz said.

On his days off as battalion chief, Herscowitz technically works four hours per day in the district office on A Street, but it's been more like eight hours. Herscowitz said he also takes work home with him on a regular basis.

Herscowitz didn't get a raise when he was promoted to interim chief, but he is getting some overtime, Templeton said.

Mrozinski occasionally pops into the district office to help Herscowitz, answer questions and make sure the interim chief is doing proper bookkeeping. As an interim chief, Herscowitz is mostly involved with the district budget and makes sure expenditures are budgeted properly.

"It's good; it's definitely a great learning experience," Herscowitz said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

First published: Friday, March 10, 2006

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