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 A deceased resident was misidentified because a list of current residents was six months out of date.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