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Resident: Baldwin 'Embarrassed' Himself with North Nichols Project

The sewer assessments will be sent out in July.

As a resident affected by the pending sewer assessment in North Nichols and as a member of the Trumbull Board of Finance, I feel an obligation to respond to the recent letter from former First Selectman Raymond G. Baldwin.  In his letter, Mr. Baldwin claims that First Selectman Herbst is trying to embarrass him and his administration simply by stating facts and pointing out the shortcomings of the ongoing sewer construction. 

Mr. Baldwin, with all due respect, you embarrassed yourself when your administration decided to ram the North Nichols Sewer Project through 6 weeks before you were voted out of office.  You did so knowing there were major problems with the previous Contract 3 being expressed on a daily basis. You ignored the residents and did what you wanted, with no regard to us. You rewarded a contractor and ignored the people you worked for.

 In 2002, the Baldwin administration told the residents of North Nichols that their sewer assessments would be between $16,000-$18,000.  At no time did your administration disclose factors which might cause an increase in cost, including the rising cost of fuel and asphalt.  In April and May of 2009, residents of the Jog Hill section of Town attended public hearings to voice their displeasure with costly sewer assessments.  You and I were at those public hearings and we heard the concerns raised by the general public. Your Public Works Director, John DelVecchio and the Town’s Sewer Administrator, Joe Solemene, both advised you in the spring and summer of 2009 not to proceed with the sewer construction in North Nichols given all of the problems in Jog Hill.  Rather than take their advice, in September of 2009, your administration sought a $27 million bond authorization for the current sewer project in North Nichols.  This bond authorization would have represented an average sewer assessment of $23,000-$25,000; higher than what your administration originally told the residents in 2002.  Before your administration even put a shovel in the ground, you knew that these assessments would be significantly higher than originally represented.  Rather than hold another public hearing to tell us that, your administration rammed this bond authorization through and signed the contract before you left office.  And what about construction beginning here before the bond authorization was even passed!

These are not accusations.  These are facts that are documented in Town meeting minutes, Town correspondence and have been authenticated by current and former town employees.    While Mr. Baldwin has “moved on with [his] life” the residents of North Nichols are now on the receiving end of his poor decisions.  These residents, me included, will now have to pay very high sewer assessments at a time when we can least afford it, while many struggle to find work and meet their mortgage; at a time when the cost of living has increased.  For the last three years, whether it is this sewer project, the high school renovation, or a five year energy contract costing the town hundreds of thousands of unnecessary dollars, the Town continues to deal with the effects of Mr. Baldwin’s decision making. 

So if you’re feeling embarrassed, you should. Embarrassed and ashamed; the legacy you left is nothing less than a collection of expensive messes.  

Tom Kelly December 05, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Rammed the bonding authorizations, through, Ms. Penkoff? That is a completely inaccurate characterization of what happened. The authorization was approved UNANIMOUSLY by the Board of Finance, 6-0, in May of 2009, with three Republicans and three Democrats voting in favor. The authorization was then approved UNANIMOUSLY by the Finance Committee of the Town Council and the approved by a UNANIMOUS VOTE of the Town Council except for one abstention. There is nothing in the minutes of any of these bodies that anyone spoke out in objection to this authorization. First Selectman Herbst was a candidate running for office, and he NEVER objected to this authorization at the time it was happening, and he did not raise the North Nichols project as an issue in the campaign. Despite your attempt to re-write history, the fact of this matter is that almost all of the construction has taken place on Mr. Herbst's watch, and under the supervision of a WPCA that was appointed by him. If you listen to him now, he takes almost no responsibility for what has transpired for the last three years. This situation has now come to a point of critical mass. While the North Nichols sewer users don't want to pay higher assessments, these costs were incurred by this WPCA, and the rest of the town should not have to bear the costs of millions of dollars of work which were never approved by the elected representatives of the people of Trumbull.
Tom Kelly December 05, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Also, Ms. Penkoff, you identify yourself as a resident, and in fairness to those reading, you should disclose that you are an active member of the Republican Town Committee, ran in the last election on the Herbst ticket, and that you are a Republican alternate on the Board of Finance, appointed by Mr. Herbst. Since the discussion of some of these expenses may very well come before the Board of Finance, I will remind you that this Board represents the entire town, not just the 862 users in the North Nichols sewer project.
HL December 05, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Thanks for that response, Tom, which actually contains facts (such as all of the unanimous voting records on the matter and the lack of contention in any of the meeting minutes). As someone who actually grew up in this town and knew Mr. Baldwin (and his family), I am surprised at Ms. Penkoff's attempts to make it sound as if Mr. Baldwin hit and run with this project. In three different spots in this article, she implies that Mr. Baldwin rammed something through and then made a quick exit." "when your administration decided to ram the North Nichols Sewer Project through 6 weeks before you were voted out of office" He was voted out of office, that was not his intention. Why would you try to imply this was something he did with the intention of running away? Later in your article you said: "While Mr. Baldwin has “moved on with [his] life”" What else would you expect him to do after being voted out, something he was not anticipating? This was not a viscous lame duck policy attempt in any way. I personally think both Ray and Tim had/have good intentions (although I think the latter is just as much worried about sticking it to political opposition). I am tired of this partisan rhetoric, which your opinion piece is such a poignant example of.
Tom Kelly December 05, 2012 at 01:29 PM
I have a question for Ms. Penkoff, or even Mr. Herbst if he would be kind enough to answer it, and I think it's something that the North Nichols sewer users would like to get some more information on. Why did Mr. Herbst accept campaign contributions from Tighe and Bond, which was getting millions of dollars in fees from this sewer project? Mr. Herbst stated clearly in his campaign in 2009 that he would NOT accept campaign contributions from town contractors who did business with the Town of Trumbull in excess of $5,000 per year. He put that promise to the people of Trumbull right in the "Ethics" section of the BLUEPRINT FOR TRUMBULL'S FUTURE. However, upon election, he immediately broke that promise and started to accept contributions from town contractors, including Tighe and Bond. Does Tighe and Bond's contributions secure them more favorable treatment, and was all of the work they did put out to competitive bid? Thank you, Ms. Penkoff for your anticpated answer to this question.
Bill December 05, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I unfortunately have to agree with Tom Kelly on this one. The project proceeded under a unanimous vote, and decisions made by Herbst for oversight has increased costs significantly. Herbts is now having to pay the piper, and as we have seen time and time again when cornered, he points fingers at others. Let's start exploring what the WPCA oversight has accomplished and at what cost. No one wants to pay more than necessary, but that is exactly what you get when Administrations are in over their head. Herbst just does not have the practical experience in business to effectively evaluate and manage these types of projects.
Cindy Penkoff December 05, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Please note that I did not make a distiction between Democrat and Republican. I said the administration. That means everyone that voted for this. His administration. This isn't politcal Tom as much as you would like to think so. I didn't blame a party. Step back off your high horse. My position has nothing to do with this as you are well aware that I have been complaining aobut this and fighting it long before I became involved with any party or group. I am a resident first and foremost. Tom you might want to try the same thing.
Cindy Penkoff December 05, 2012 at 03:06 PM
BTW, that is the only response I will make to this and the only time I will look at it.
Jim Flynn December 05, 2012 at 03:42 PM
It is clear to this reader that Ms. Penkoff could not possibly have been the author of the above submission to Patch. She clearly was the designated signatory of a document prepared by others. Her utilization of certain simple-minded terms, misspellings and lazy grammatical errors in the immediately preceding response show clearly that there isn't any way that she could have authored the submission. This submission was obviously prepared by a professional Herbst spinmeister and reviewed by counsel. Shame on you Ms. Penkoff.
Cindy Penkoff December 05, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Mr. Flynn, I see in 2 yrs nothing has changed. You still feel the need to make assumptions about things and people you know nothing about. You actually think I would put the same thought and care into a response to Mr. Kelly that I would to an editors letter. The more things change the more they stay the same. Anyone who knows me, including Mr Kelly will tell you I never sign anything I don't author. Not that you care about facts or truth.
Bill December 05, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Cindy, this topic must be like a potato chip...you just can't have enough! Just walk away, because you have made this political, and fail to see that after three years the current administration has to take responsibility for the town.
Thomas Tesoro December 05, 2012 at 05:50 PM
This is exactly the kind of response you can expect from the Trumbull Republican Town Committee (TRTC) who are now desperate to disassociate themselves from the mess they have made. Let's deal with the facts: Ms. Penkoff is not an elected member of the Board of Finance BOF) but a TRTC appointee to an alternate position. As noted, she is an active member of the TRTC. In 2009 the BOF was made up of three Republicans Bill Crooks, Ken Martin Junior (Chair), and Mark Smith and three Democrats, including myself. All of these Republicans voted in favor of the bonding and the esteemed Bill Crooks must be rolling in his grave to hear his impeccable reputation besmirched in this fashion. Bill and in fact, no member of either Party on the BOF would ever vote for anything without proper due diligence. None of us of either Party would allow anyone to ram anything through. Pure TRTC nonsense and brutally wrong. The TRTC has appointed virtually every member of the Sewer Commission (WPCA) virtually all are Republicans or Republican appointees. They and they alone are responsible for the oversight of the North Nichols project. The WPCA asked for a "forensic audit" of the Jog Hill projects to identify mistakes, if any, and avoid them in North Nichols. This was approved on a bi-partisan basis. The TRTC asked for MILLIONS for Tighe and Bond to oversee North Nichols. This was approved on a bi-partisan basis. They said they would pay for themselves. More to come.
Jim Flynn December 05, 2012 at 05:55 PM
A leopard cannot change its spots. Unfortunately for your credibility, there are thousands of your Trumbull chat rantings and numerous letters to the editor in the Trumbull Times from which any perceptive reader can extraploate easily that you are not the author of this submission.
Thomas Tesoro December 05, 2012 at 06:03 PM
The Republican appointed WPCA got everything they asked for on a bi-partisan basis. They recived the money they asked for, they received the Tighe and Bond MILLIONS to provide oversight for Nothnh Nichols and the results are disappointing to be kind. Faced with the reality of North Nichols, they now try to run away from the results of their own actions. Unbelieveable!!!!!! Expect a slick TRTC disinformation campaign of which this letter is but one example. They hope to fool the public into blaming others for thier own actions. They may fool some and for those they do, you get the government you deserve. For the rest, remember this: The TRTC made a mockery of the Charter Revision process. The TRTC made a mess of Redistricting In each of those cases they relied on keeping the public in the dark as they moved forward to the point where the ONLY public hearing on "redistricting" was held the night of the vote. Now the TRTC has a mes in North Nichols but unlike the other two, this PR campaign will be countered publicly with FACTS. So, ask yourself this question, if you managed the project, appointed virtually all those that managed the project and received all the tools and money you requested to manage the project, how is this the fault of someone else? Maligning outstanding Citizens like Bill Crooks who cannot defend himself and impugning the integrity of others to protect yourself is disgraceful. TRTC appointees alone bear responsibility.
TrumbullSr December 05, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Oh Cindy, You have been an apologist for Tim over and over again. This is his mess and it's up to him to clean it up. Blaming Ray Baldwin doesn't do it.
Patty Sheehan December 05, 2012 at 08:26 PM
So Mrs. Penkoff surfaces..... Unfotunately, the new FS has had 3 years to "fix" whatever he thought was wrong with the NN sewer project. And yet, no fixing seems to have been done. I wonder why that is. One would think that 3 years would be PLENTY of time to do something if one were so inclined. Blaming the previous administration from three years ago seems silly at this point...... Not shocked that Mrs.Peknoff also won't be back...it's hard to defend something that's indefensible..... Amazing that in light of this NN sewer project which seems to be a money pit that the FS had had authority over for 3 years now and the recent loss of $75000 on the concert (which the BoF voted against giving and the TC overturned, so thanks to the BoF for that), people are still defending the current administration. Money is just FLYING out of the coffers lately it seems...... Just my humble opinion, as always.....
Joan December 05, 2012 at 09:44 PM
It is amazing (but sadly, no longer surprising) that after all these years, Herbst & his "loyalists" are still using their strategy of character assassination against Ray Baldwin who was and is, by all accounts, a beloved and honorable man. Herbst would do better to spend more time trying to live up to Mr. Baldwin's legacy than pathetically continuing to tear him down.
Thomas Tesoro December 05, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Sadly, the TRTC strategy is from their classic playbook. make outrageous statements and then run away hpoing the outrageous statement will stick. Remember when the TRTC Chair proclaimed right here on Patch that Ms. Thornton had made gdeals with Unions? When asked what deals and what unions he refused to reply. So, I think you have to take this letter for what it is, pathetic TRTC spin to avoid responsibility for their own actions. As I said, they appointed the WPCA, they received millions for Tighe and Bond oversight, they received funds for a "forensic audit". Everything they wanted they got. They wanted to show they could do it better. Instead it was done much more expensively and they want the entire Town to foot the bill. Where is the relif for the rest of the Town who are paying (or paid) their assessments? Don't forget, many citizens are reeling from the new water useage regulations passed by the Republican WPCA too. Where is the long promised audit of the WPCA?
Lisa Labella December 05, 2012 at 10:20 PM
In the real world, "administration" refers to the Executive Branch of government and its appointees. I don't think Congressman John Boehner would appreciate being called or considered a member of the Obama Administration.
Tom Kelly December 05, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Tom Tesoro: One small correction: Back when this was approved in 2009, Kathy McGannon was the Chair of the BOF. Now let me say a word about Ms. Penkoff. I disagree with Ms. Penkoff on many local issues, but I do have respect for her. She puts in an enormous amount of time and comes to almost every meeting of the Board of Education and many other town boards. She has devoted much of her time and hard work to trying to make Trumbull a better place. We must all be able to vigorously debate issues of vital importance to the town without demonizing one another or getting personal. People on both sides of the aisle are devoted community volunteers and good people. We have to be able to disagree without the hate. That's the single biggest problem with the political process in Trumbull. And it hurts our Town tremendously. We have the most political and partisan officials running our town right now. That's not a personal comment, but a statement of fact, and one only observe how much time Mr. Herbst spent with Linda McMahon in September and October or listen to anything he says or read anything he writes to know this is true. As for the letter, I have no doubt that Cindy would not put her name on anything that she did not agree with every word of. I feel badly to see her get criticized in this forum. Some years ago, Mr. Herbst told me that the biggest attribute that Cindy brought to the Republican Party was the ability to drive the Democrats crazy.
Tom Kelly December 05, 2012 at 11:04 PM
He told me that whenever the situation called for it, he would ask Cindy to get involved and she was a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Mr. Herbst has overlooked Ms. Penkoff for more substantive roles. Twice, he's passed her over when vacancies came up on the Board of Finance, even though she was the sitting alternate. She did run on his ticket in 2011, but they put her in the single race on the entire ballot that was going to be the toughest to win...running against an education legend in this town for the Board of Education while Tim's mom and Mrs. Chory who were already well known in town and incumbents were given the guaranteed seats. Regardless, despite the lack of respect, Ms. Penkoff has remained a loyal soldier and she demonstrates that once again here in this letter. We should be able to disagree without personally attacking her. Mr. Herbst needs to take responsibility for this project. He's appointed the entire WPCA. He received the campaign donations from Tighe and Bond. He named the Director of Public Works, and replaced employees that worked on the sewers. Almost all of this construction occurred on his watch. And aside from this, he has a solemn obligation to all taxpayers to ensure that the correct process is followed to obligate the town to pick up $10 million. Thus far, that process has not been followed.
Jose December 06, 2012 at 01:46 AM
It's insulting of Mrs. Penkoff to make us think her letter was spontaneous and her idea alone. The pattern of this administration is to bombard the public with a subjective Op-Ed piece by a "citizen" and then a statement from the Republican Party or the 1st Selectman. Lots of time invested in spinning the sewer project, budgeting, high school renovation and the Michael Bolton concert. Unless you watch closely, you can easily get lost in the purposely confusing letters twisting the facts. Let's face it, it's an effective political strategy. Fortunately or unfortunately, this is a blue state and these characters are unlikely to ascend beyond local politics which is why they will do anything to hold onto to the power they have in a small town.
Tony Silber December 06, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Cindy says, "I am a resident first and foremost," but if she was truly an advocate of the residents of town, she would be defending our septic owners. They should not be asked to pay for assessment reductions for people getting sewers, while no one will ever ask the town to pony up for price reductions on septic systems. If she was a true advocate for residents, she's be asking herself—never mind asking Tim Herbst—why, with Tighe & Bond AND three years of managing the project, Mr. Herbst hasn't been able to get it under control. She should be asking how, in a representative democracy, it's okay for one official to make a decision to shift $10 million onto taxpayers with no approval from anyone. And why—if the costs were non-sewer costs—the WPCA was thought it could spend the money. No, this is not going to work. This one is not going to go away. There will be a reckoning in November.
HL December 06, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Tony, that is the question I want answered. Am I going to be taxed further beyond what I am already paying for my sewer assessment? I have been paying my sewer assessment for years, and it's been a brutal cost that I was not expecting when I financed my mortgage. It came as a surprise as the sellers never mentioned it to us. There is a lot of finger pointing ... and no one stepping up to take ANY responsibility. Is this problem of an unaccounted for $10 million going to essentially be dumped on me and my family? Because you know that if the administration can shift this money into normal taxes, they will then brag about how they kept cost down on the other side (and continue to try to pin the 10M on the regime of 3 terms ago).
Tom Kelly December 06, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Mr. Herbst has a choice. And I'm going to say this in the most non-partisan way I can. Herbst has been busy excluding Democrats from appointments to multiple Boards and Commissions all over town. He has not sought to gain consensus on anything. He does not attempt to get bipartisan support for his initiatives, because he doesn't need Democratic votes and he has shown a love of steamrolling. That's fine, until you come to an issue like this that is so volatile that it would help politically if everyone was on the same page. Because, you see, there's only one problem when you govern without any attempt at working together....when something goes wrong (like this), you get ALL the blame. Mr. Herbst appointed the entire WPCA. He hired Tighe and Bond. He accepted their campaign donations. He didn't take an audit of the WPCA for the entire time he's been in office. He's fought this battle in the press since Day 1. And now trying to blame it all on an administration that's been gone for over three years. Mr. Herbst can handle this is a way that would benefit the town, and him. He could reach across the aisle and say he wants to work together, that the decisions coming up about sewers are too important to be decided along party lines. He could say he wants to find a solution everyone will support. Then everyone would come out of the room together, singing from the same hymnal. Do you think Herbst is pragamatic enough to swallow his pride for the good of the town?
Tony Silber December 06, 2012 at 02:51 PM
HL, that $10 million shift is exactly as you say: A tax hike approved by no one except Tim Herbst.
Gramps Pupany December 06, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Here's the REAL crime: The GOP still wants us poor and middle class folks (making less than $250,000/year) to pay the income taxes of those making $250,001 and more. When did we ever vote to get SCREWED into paying the taxes of millionaires??? When you go out to dinner, do you pay half the dinner bill of the guy sitting next to you just because he's rich??? Hell no! But that's what Boehner and McConnell want us "poor suckers" to do...pay half the taxes of their millionaire friends. Oh, you say you don't know who their rich friends are??? Just look at who gave them the most money in the last election. That's who the GOP represents, my friends...not the working man. Screwed once, shame on me! Not next time. I'll pay my way...you pay yours. I can't afford to vote for one of these "generous" Republicans again. How 'bout you?
raymond jaroszewski December 07, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Cindy first and foremost you are a shill for Tim Herbst , the whole town knows this quit pretending ...please?
Carol Hudak December 11, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Cindy, do read my latest poem: JUST BLAME RAY! (published here, on Patch) The 'Audit' T&B, etc. were all designed with one thing in mind: TO JUST BLAME RAY!!!
Richie December 12, 2012 at 12:18 PM
It's hilarious reading all these replies. It's also sad at the same time because all of those who have written replies are those who didn't get their way with tim, It's unfortunate that you post wuth your ulterior motives rather that the town's best intrest. you should all be ashamed...
Carol Hudak December 12, 2012 at 02:35 PM
And maybe any number of us have had our eyes opened . . . wide.

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