Stern Village gets a generator

There are a lot of words that can be associated with the installation of an emergency generator in a community that’s been hit hard by past storms: safety, security, preparation. But the one most bandied about inside the community room at Stern Village on May 17 was happy.

Happy not just to have a modicum of emergency preparedness in the form of a power generator installed but happy for what residents described as a definitive change for the better at the subsidized housing complex.

“There was no real reason to come in here before,” said Stern Village resident Gus Aquino as he looked across the community room at residents gathered for one of the regular meetings. “The atmosphere, the camaraderie, it’s all 100% better now.”

Aquino credits the change to acting Executive Director Harriet Polansky, who stepped into the position just under three months earlier. In her first 100 days she oversaw the purchase and installation of the power generator that will allow Stern Village’s community room to act as shelter when the need arises.

Need previously arose in October 2012, when Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast. Communities across the Northern Seaboard were ravaged by winds and water, and millions were without power. For some it was an irritating inconvenience, but for a community of elderly and disabled residents like Stern Village, the loss of power could have been far more dangerous.

“Sadly, it was really bad,” said Aquino, who weathered the storm with his wife and neighbors in Stern Village. “We were locked in for a good two to three days before we could get out. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to get to. We couldn’t even get here to the community room.”

On May 17, Polansky announced that phase one of the emergency preparedness program was complete. A new generator was purchased and installed that would help keep the power on in the community room in the event of another weather emergency.

Phase two will begin shortly, as Polansky is completing questionnaires to send to the residents to evaluate their needs and personal emergency plans. She wants to know who stays and who leaves, what medications are needed and what power needs are required to make it through another massive storm. If necessary she wants the community room to be available to the residents as a shelter, complete with emergency beds.

She also intends to acquire a refrigerator to store medications in an emergency. In addition, Polansky is reaching out for corporate sponsors to acquire and stock emergency supplies. She said Stop & Shop has already signed on.

Access to Stern Village also will be improved with the addition of an emergency access road currently being planned.

Polansky, a 30-year resident of Trumbull, said part of her desire to get involved and step forward for the executive director position came from the stories about how Stern Village suffered through Hurricane Sandy.

“I contacted them and let them know I was interested. They didn’t come looking for me,” said Polansky.

One of Polansky’s first orders of business was to purchase a generator for the community room. She began researching makes and models and assessing power needs almost immediately.

Trumbull First Selectman Timothy M. Herbst praised Polansky for helping bring Stern Village’s emergency preparedness measures forward.

“The generator is a big deal for Stern Village,” Herbst said. “What was talked about for years, [Polansky] got done in her first 100 days.”

Herbst noted that while Trumbull was recovering from Hurricane Sandy he had to leave the Emergency Operations Center and check on the situation at Stern Village personally. What he found was disheartening.

“It underscored the need to be ready,” Herbst said.

As Stern Village continues to move toward an incorporated emergency plan, Polansky couldn’t be happier.

“I’m very excited, I’m finally able to sleep at night,” she said.

“It’s a much better place today,” Aquino said. “You can’t please everybody, but the majority of people here now are satisfied. People are willing to stick around and get involved.”