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Herbst: Stern Village Had 'Serious Problems' in 2012

by Timothy M. Herbst

This is First Selectman Tim Herbst's response to the statements of former Trumbull Housing Authority Chairwoman Judith Stern.

Over the last three years I have learned the most solemn obligation you have as the leader of a community is to protect the people that live in your Town.  Whether it be Irene, Alfred, Sandy, Nemo, or security enhancements in our schools in the wake of Sandy Hook, I have always placed the health, safety and well-being of the people of Trumbull as my highest priority.  As First Selectman, I have had the privilege to work with the finest, most capable emergency first responders in the State of Connecticut.

When the Town's emergency management team and fire marshal come to you with a report and recommendation, you don't ignore their recommendations for political expediency or out of fear in having to make tough decisions.  You trust their judgment and experience and you act on their advice to better protect the people of the Town of Trumbull.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I acted on the recommendations and advice of emergency management professionals in addressing very serious problems at Stern Village.

The reports were very clear.  After talking about the installation of emergency generators for almost 2 years, no action had been taken.  This is especially troubling in light of the fact that the Stern Village complex runs on electric heat and the oxygen tanks that some residents utilize require electric power.  After talking about an emergency preparedness plan at Stern Village for over two years, virtually no action had been taken. In the aftermath of the deadly hurricane that rendered this senior housing complex without power, emergency first responders had to mobilize to relocate residents to a shelter in the absence of Stern Village management having a plan to do the same.  A deceased resident was misidentified because a list of current residents was six months out of date.  These factors drove my decision in appointing new members to the Trumbull Housing Authority.

I was pleased to see that during the recent blizzard, newly appointed members of the Trumbull Housing Authority took an active role in communicating with the police department to ensure that there were regular patrols to guarantee adequate emergency access.  I was also pleased that the members of the Trumbull Housing Authority took it upon themselves to personally walk through Stern Village in the aftermath of the blizzard to check on residents. I was also grateful that at my request, members of the Trumbull Housing Authority contacted private contractors to assist the Stern Village maintenance crew with the removal of snow from walkways, entryways and in and around the vehicles of elderly residents.

It is my hope that the new Executive Director, Harriet Polansky will act quickly to implement meaningful and necessary reform.  As we move forward, the Trumbull Housing Authority and its Executive Director needs to make as their highest priority the installation of emergency generators and full implementation of the emergency preparedness plan.  There must be better collaboration with Trumbull's emergency management team.  There must be greater collaboration between the Trumbull Senior Center and the Trumbull Department of Nursing.  We need to make sure that the senior residents who live at Stern Village are provided with every opportunity to participate in the senior programs that are offered at our senior center. We also need to ensure that the needs of seniors at Stern Village are being met by the geriatric nurse that is assigned to Stern Village.  The Housing Authority also must develop a capital plan that improves the lighting and walkways at Stern Village to make it easier for seniors to navigate.  There must also be better collaboration with the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority in exploring improved transportation options for Stern Village residents.

I am confident that the newly appointed Housing Authority and its newly chosen Executive Director will work honestly and diligently to move Stern Village forward in a positive direction.

First Selectman Timothy M. Herbst

Kathleen McGannon February 18, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Yet when Mr. Raytar tried to introduce himself at a THA meeting as a member of the Senior Commission who was interested in the well-being of the residents of Stern Village, he was ruled out of order by the new chairman who stated that the Senior Commission had nothing to do with Stern Village. The FS had better get his story straight with Mr. Friedson
mary isaac February 18, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Mrs. Polansky is the Interim Acting executive director. Reading this article, one would think that the search process, which is to include the job posting with its requirements, is complete. To Mrs. McGannon's point, Mr. Raytar, at a recent Senior Commission meeting tried to point out that the FS's new Chief of Staff said that their commission was responsible for all seniors in the town and not just those that visit the senior center. As was done at Stern Village, he was basically ruled out of order and told by the Senior Commission Chair that they would not be discussing Stern Village, as though they were not relevant. Is the Senior Commission now able to decide which seniors in town they choose to represent and how?
Kathleen McGannon February 19, 2013 at 12:49 AM
Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
Anthony Musto February 19, 2013 at 03:33 AM
Did Mr. Herbst really appoint Joy Meehan as a commissioner as Patch indicated? She was being evicted for violating THA rules regarding smoking in the congregate building. She then wrote a letter supporting Mr. Herbst's decisions regarding THA. Now, she is a commissioner. Will she vote to continue the eviction of herself? Will she vote to stop herself from smoking or to change the congregate rules? If Mr. Herbst was relying on the Fire Marshal's report to show the "problems" at THA, why not ask the Fire Marshal whether someone who smokes in a building where oxygen is in use by residents is a good idea? Anthony Musto
Dan February 19, 2013 at 04:36 PM
It is crazy to think that Herbst would appoint someone to a board, to monitor the welfare of a community, who blatantly disregards the rules. What is the reason for this? Were there no qualified residents? He has no idea what the THA does and what Stern Village is, which is undeniable from reading the above "response." Thank you, Mrs. Stern, for finally defending yourself in the face of the insults you did not deserve. Tim Herbst owes you a public apology. He does not know you. If he did, he would have thought twice about saying the things he did about you. The Stern Family has done more for the Town of Trumbull that Tim Herbst can ever imagine doing. I cannot wait until the election. I hope Trumbull residents continue to be riled up and make something happen because this town is changing for the worse.
Tom Kelly February 19, 2013 at 10:11 PM
I think that Mr. Herbst was so eager to orchestrate a political putsch at Stern Village that he forgets his own words sometimes. In his response to Judith Stern's comments Mr. Herbst said: "There must be greater collaboration between the Trumbull Senior Center and the Trumbull Department of Nursing. We need to make sure that the senior residents who live at Stern Village are provided with every opportunity to participate in the senior programs that are offered at our senior center. We also need to ensure that the needs of seniors at Stern Village are being met by the geriatric nurse that is assigned to Stern Village." Mr. Herbst said this today. But just 2 years ago, Mr. Herbst CUT a full-time nurse, and these are his comments in the 2011-12 budget recommendation: "I am changing this position from a full time position to part time. In truth, the needs of the elderly are greater then ever, however because of the increasing lack of involvement by their families the geratric nurse is being misused. Her position was meant to be one of wellness not one of being responsible for coordination of care at home, in particular the residents of Stern Village. This unfortunately is becoming a liability to the town as this was never meant to be her roll. I am strongly recommending that her hours at Stern Village be eliminated and she be assigned for 19.5 hours at the Senior Center excusively for wellness consultations." These are Tim Herbst's own words. Which is it, Mr. Herbst?
Tom Kelly February 19, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Here's another comment from Mr. Herbst today regarding Stern Village: "There must also be better collaboration with the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority in exploring improved transportation options for Stern Village residents." However, as we recently learned from Paul Littlefield, the GBT just eliminated the bus service to Stern Village! The bottom line here is that our First Selectman, Tim Herbst, has appointed 4 brand new Commissioners to the THA who have NO public housing experience at all, and those commissioners have named a family friend as the acting director, again, someone who has worked her entire career without ONE IOTA of housing experience. This is rapidly becoming an albatross for this administration, and even some of Herbst's more ardent supporters are acknowledging that he has really bungled this one. It's time for Tim Herbst to appoint experienced people as Commissioners, not Republican insiders. It's time for those Commissioners to do a thorough search for an EXPERIENCED Executive Director. Only then will Trumbull be doing right by the residents of Stern Village.
Sad Dem February 19, 2013 at 10:24 PM
FACT: Mrs. Polansky is a registered Democrat. Now what?
Tom Kelly February 20, 2013 at 12:54 PM
FACT: That does not diminish anything that has been said here. So what? I have close family that are members of both parties. The same goes for my close friends. I think most people are like that, don't you? Are you suggesting that if someone's not a Registered Republican, she can't be a member of the Family and Friends Club?
JR February 20, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Apparently, so are you.

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