LETTER: Union workers keep town going
I would like to clarify the events surrounding the issue of the showers at Hillcrest Middle School and address the criticism of the union workers.
First and foremost, the scope of the shower repair is well beyond a work order remedy and is a project-sized job due to all the cutting, patching, masonry, tile work and asbestos abatement involved. Parts are no longer available to repair the 1967 diverters, which leak.
Some leak behind the walls, some dripping from the shower heads, and some are missing handles. Some shower heads no longer spray well and others have had parts removed and used to keep as many of the others working as possible. But all told, there were eight functioning showers plus two more in handicapped stalls before the hurricane.
These repair issues have been delayed, postponed and canceled over the years due to discussions about the new pool at Trumbull High and, most recently, were included in the current renovation of the pool, but were scratched due to lack of funds.
Hurricane Sandy was the first time the Hillcrest showers were opened on an emergency, no-power basis. Previously, Trumbull High was always used as the shelter, but due to the construction is no longer suitable. A private contractor was called by the town to repair the showers but could not, due to the scope of the work.
The whole situation during the hurricane may have been avoided if the school plumber had been contacted first. He had not been notified that Hillcrest was to be used for showers or that he needed to get more showers working, whether they leaked or not, for a limited time.
He had the commercial shower heads in stock. Residential heads, such as were provided by the town, will not last in a middle school shower as they are prone to abuse. He offered the commercial heads to the town union workers, but the wheels were already in motion and his offer was declined.
All the workers who worked on the shower head installation, both town and school, were union. This was never a union issue. Rather, it was a communication issue.
As president of AFSCME Local 1303-34, I know I speak for all our members when I say that the custodians, food service, maintenance and security guards work hard each day and have the best interest of the Board of Education and Town of Trumbull at heart. In fact, many of them left their families at home with no power or heat during the hurricane to come to work during a time of need, some staying overnight if necessary.
They work to keep the town going. I have personally witnessed this day in and day out.