Herbst: Community center is my top priority (updated)

First Selectman Tim Herbst delivers the 2017 State of the Town address at Tashua Knolls.
First Selectman Tim Herbst delivers the 2017 State of the Town address at Tashua Knolls.

Beginning construction of a state-of-the-art community center will be First Selectman Tim Herbst’s top priority for 2017, he said Tuesday at the annual State of the Town speech at Tashua Knolls. (Full text of speech here)

After rattling off a list of points of community pride, like the school system and the Tashua Knolls golf course, Herbst announced his long-awaited plan.

“I’m proud of our accomplishments, but we have more to do,” he said. “This afternoon, I wish to communicate my highest priority for 2017, and that is to commence construction of a multi-generational community center.”

Such a center would be a source of pride for the town, like Tashua Knolls and the school system, he said. Plus, with some debt being retired and a possible sale of several outdated town-owned properties, building the center could be done with minimal effect on taxpayers, he said.

“You’re never going to find another opportunity again to build such a facility at such an affordable price,” he said.

Artist renderings of the proposed center show a two-story building built into the downward slope on Church Hill Road where it abuts the Pequonnock trail. The main floor would house the Senior Center offices, plus conference rooms, arts and crafts areas, space for the food pantry and Social Services, and several smaller general use rooms. Dance and exercise areas, a kitchen and a 3,400-square-foot multi-purpose area with a performance stage round out the main floor.

The lower level plans call for a recreation area with a high school-sized basketball court and bleacher seating, locker rooms, a café, and a multi-purpose pool. The pool features a 25-yard lap area, a recreational section and a “beach” area, plus poolside lounge areas. The lower level also has a separate entry.

Future plans

Herbst then contrasted the state’s condition with his descriptions of Trumbull, calling the state hostile to business and pointing out that residents and employers have been leaving in recent years.

“Our state is in perpetual fiscal crisis,” he said. “The budget currently under consideration is a full frontal assault on well-managed municipalities with high-achieving school districts. The good people of Connecticut deserve better.”

Herbst has formed an exploratory committee to run for state office in 2018 after narrowly losing a race against Treasurer Denise Nappier in 2014. Many political pundits believe he is planning a run for governor. Herbst also recently endorsed Republican school board member Paul Lavoie’s announcement of a run for townwide office that specifically included first selectman. These actions have led to speculation that Herbst will not seek another term as first selectman.

In his speech, Herbst hinted that his time as first selectman may be nearing an end.

“I sought this office to ensure that the reality of Trumbull lived up to the promise of Trumbull,” he said. “My ultimate mission was to leave Trumbull better than I found it. I am confident that we have accomplished that mission.”

Now, he said, it is time to do the same for Connecticut.

“I feel a moral obligation to step up and get in the game,” he said. “In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to telling the people of this great state of how the reality of Connecticut can live up to the promise of Connecticut. Connecticut is ready for high standards and new leaders that are willing to make the tough decisions and bring the reform to get us back on track.”

Stopping short of making any official announcements, Herbst concluded by saying his heart would remain in Trumbull, regardless of where his political career took him.

“Wherever I go and whatever I do, the highest honor I have ever held is being called a citizen of the town of Trumbull,” he said.