Commentary: Absurd and duplicitous to call 2002 statements lies

Dear residents of Trumbull:

Three years ago, I said in my farewell remarks that it had been my great honor to serve you as first selectman for eight years. I wished our new first selectman, Tim Herbst, well and I promised to support him in whatever way I could.

Then I left the public stage and moved on with my life. Unfortunately, Tim Herbst has not moved on.

A few days ago, Mr. Herbst wrote a letter to the town calling the North Nichols sewer project "ill-conceived." He said that it should never have been started "given all of the problems associated with Contract 3 Jog Hill." And he stated that the residents of North Nichols were "lied to" about the cost of the project.

These are strong words. To describe a 2002 estimate of assessment costs and the disclosures we made at that time a "lie" is absurd and duplicitous and suggests Mr. Herbst has some other agenda in mind. This inflammatory language, added to the other accusations he's made over the last three years, indicates that since he took office, Mr. Herbst has been more interested in trying to embarrass me, and my administration, than he is in attempting to bring a swift completion to this project and others.

Let me clarify the record.

• Bonding authorization for the North Nichols project occurred in the fall of 2009. Support was bipartisan across all boards. The Board of Finance and the Water Pollution Control Authority had an opportunity to vet all aspects of this project and decided unanimously to proceed. The Town Council also supported the project with a vote that was unanimous save one abstention.

• The construction phase of the project was done nearly entirely under Mr. Herbst's watch. If he had concerns about the construction, he has had every opportunity to fix them as they occurred. He hired an oversight firm, Tighe & Bond, and promised the work of that firm would pay for itself. To date, the town has spent $2 million-plus for the work this firm has performed. It is not apparent to date that the projected savings have been realized.

• In my judgment, the town could have hired one or two project engineers at less than $100,000 each. It would have allowed the same level of oversight at a much-reduced cost, but that was his decision to make.

Now let me address Mr. Herbst's actions.

• The first selectman is arbitrarily removing $10 million in costs from the North Nichols sewer project to the town side of the budget without WPCA, Board of Finance or Town Council approval.

• If those costs are non-sewer-related, then they should never have been allocated to the project in the first place.

• This project has been going on for three years now. If there were $10 million in non-sewer-project costs that were identified and paid for from the WPCA project, why, then, were they never brought before the Town Council and Board of Finance for authorization and approval?

First Selectman Herbst has had complete control of the WPCA and Town Council for these three years and has had ample time to address any perceived or real deficiencies in this project. Although I am no longer in public office, I still care very much about the people whose lives and livelihood my decisions affected. Notwithstanding the inflammatory comments Mr. Herbst has made about me, if there is any way I can help to resolve these issues, I stand ready to do so. In the past three years, I've never been asked.

I wish all Trumbull residents a happy holiday season and prosperous new year.