Herbst strikes back at critics

First Selectman Tim Herbst
First Selectman Tim Herbst

If the idea was to get attention, the “Trumbull is Not For Sale” campaign has succeeded. The lawn signs and 70-second online video, produced by the Trumbull Democratic Town Committee, are critical of First Selectman Tim Herbst’s administration and its plan to sell six properties around town, including the Senior Center at Priscilla Place, the school administration building, Aram Tellalian Town Hall Annex, and others.

Herbst recently fought back against the criticism that he called “misinformation and fear” in a press conference attended by about two dozen town officials and employees.

“I intend to fully clarify misinformation and actively call out those who are focused on spreading fear and misinformation in our community,” he said. Herbst did not reference the video directly but cited social media posts and online comments.

Herbst addressed the town’s purchase of four properties on Old Church Hill Road, stating that the $1.6-million purchases were the only land acquisitions in the eight years he has been first selectman.

“We waited until interest rates were historically low, and we had a strategic purpose that would support the quality of life in Trumbull and our economic vitality,” he said.

The houses on the four properties are being demolished to clear space for a trailhead on the adjacent Pequonnock River Trail that would provide additional parking for trail use, and a midpoint access between the Tait Road and Whitney Avenue entrances, an important safety concern should someone get injured or sick on the trail, he said.

But it was the idea of the town being for sale that drew Herbst’s sharpest comments.

For decades, every town administration has bought and sold property, he said. Specifically, the former Center School building is not the People’s Bank building, which pays $188,000 in taxes. And the former Hillandale Country Club was sold to private developers for single-family housing, which generates about $205,000 annually.

“I emphasize these points to underscore that as the town continues to get less and less funding from Hartford, we must be forward thinking in ways of dispensing dormant properties so they may generate taxable revenue that will allow us to meet our service demands while keeping residential property taxes stable,” he said.

Herbst also criticized those demanding a referendum on the proposed combined senior and community center, while also vowing that the issue would go to a vote if the town bonds more than $15 million for the project. He pointed out that the 2009 charter revision, which he campaigned on, called for automatic referendum on bond projects in excess of $15 million.

“The people who now scream the loudest about fiscal responsibility were among the most fiscally irresponsible,” he said.