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Trumbull Council approves $78K for efficiencies study; Sets new polling places

The study vote was unanimous, despite some concerns, while the polling place vote went along party lines.

Trumbull seeks to save money by commissioning a study to find efficiencies between the town and the school district, and some town officials expect money to be saved with four voting districts.

The two items, one setting new polling places with the revised district map, were approved Monday night at a special meeting of the Town Council.

The council voted to hire the Texas-based Gibson Consulting Group for $78,587. It also set new polling places: District 1, ; District 2, ; District 3, ; and District 4, .

Problems with Polling Places

The discussion opened with questions of why St. Joseph High School was named at the meeting and not earlier.

Republican Registrar William Holden said Democratic Registrar Jane Aiello refused to sign a letter designating the polling places. Aiello responded.

"Redistricting Trumbull has been an ugly process, for me.  I actually believed there would be good faith discussion.  But, with an imbalanced council, appointing an imbalanced committee, there was little discussion of value, including where we would be voting.   Pretty naive.... especially  when you consider the redistricting issue was used by the political majority to force an outrageous inequality in town council party representation.  This will not be good for Trumbull in the future, regardless of who  is in the majority.

More pointedly, I believe that such manipulation will cause serious voting problems since it directly affects the voting public.  Further,  because of the reduction from 7 to 4 districts, everyone will be traveling farther and waiting longer.  I dread the thought of having even one voter disenfranchised as a result."

She continued,

"I believe the next serious issue is District 4, with Middlebrook as the polling place.  Middlebrook in the past presented parking problems.  Lack of lighting in the early morning and after dark present a hazard for parking and walking, especially for seniors.   Now..., this new district is more than double its previous size and is larger in population than any of the others, becoming a super district.  How can it be effectively housed at Middlebrook School?"

She suggested Frenchtown as an alternative.

Councilman James Meisner asked why there were no cameras recording the meeting and why the topic was brought up at a special meeting. Chairman Carl Massaro Jr. said everything was in order and transparent.

There were noticing requirements because of the upcoming primaries in August, Massaro said.

"I certainly have nothing to hide," Massaro said.

Cindy Penkoff said Frenchtown has bad parking, having participated in three elections there.

Public speakers presented pros and cons regarding both Middlebrooks and Frenchtown Schools.

Resident Tony D'Aquila said St. Joseph is farther out than his old polling place. He suggested allowing people to vote at the closest polling place, adding it's difficult for seniors to get to the new polls.

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Councilwoman Suzanne Testani replied that she has given seniors rides and that rides are available for voters who need them.

Meanwhile, the Registrars' office has been working for the last several weeks to update the voter lists in the new districts. It's almost complete except for a few trouble spots, Aiello said.

The problem is that the districts edges are ragged and streets not divided evenly, she said.

The vote was 9-5, along party lines.

Efficiency Study Funded

Some Council members questioned hiring the Gibson firm but in the end agreed unanimously.

First Selectman Tim Herbst addressed the matter, opening with the makeup of the committee that was charged with helping find efficiencies.

He said there were more democrats than republicans on the committee, referring to past charges that other committees were formed favoring republicans.

"We're very eager to get this process moving," he said. The Gibson firm also audited Bridgeport and found $7 million in efficiencies, $3 million of which have been implemented, Herbst said.

Asked why money should be spent on an cost-saving study, Herbst said he was quoting Public Works Director John Marsilio. "Sometimes you need to spend money to save money," Herbst said.

The firm's bill fell between $200 and $250 per hour, the first selectman noted.

He added that Gibson was the only firm that pledged to explore combining with other communities to save money.

Councilwoman Martha Mark said the firm must be good if it has found efficiencies in southern state school systems, which, she said, have tighter budgets.

Still, she questioned why the town can't do this on its own.

In some areas, "We're not qualified to judge," he replied.

The study is being conducted over the summer, purposely scheduled for when schools are not in session, Herbst said. He hopes to have the firm's final report by the start of the 2012-2013 school year. 

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