Mark says she will address sewer issues; Herbst calls her comments 'revisionist rhetoric'

Candidate for first selectman Martha Jankovic-Mark outlined a plan Tuesday to address what she described as “ongoing and significant” issues related to sewers and the Water Pollution Control Authority.

“As first selectman, I would emphasize better management of the problems we’ve faced in the past, especially the North Nichols sewer project,” Jankovic-Mark said. “Through better leadership, vision and maturity I would end the unfair practice of determining the sewer use rate based on year-round water consumption.”

Jankovic-Mark’s plan includes calling for a forensic audit of the entire North Nichols sewer project and WPCA accounts.

“Anytime that a municipal project goes over budget, especially in this case where the overage is expected to be $2.5 million, Trumbull taxpayers deserve to know why and how this happened,” she said.

First Selectman Timothy Herbst responded to Jankovic-Mark’s plan Tuesday, calling it “revisionist rhetoric” that doesn’t match her record.

“She is the only member of the Trumbull Town Council to have voted against both the forensic audit of Contract 3 (Jog Hill) and the forensic audit of the high school renovation project,” Herbst said. “Contract 3 has over 600 identified defects, millions of dollars of damages and an ongoing federal investigation. If Mrs. Jankovic-Mark had her way on the Town Council, the audit would have never happened and would have never unearthed all of these irregularities.”

Herbst said he fully supports an audit of Contract 4.

“I have been consistent in my belief that large capital projects like this should be audited,” he said.

He also addressed cost overruns.

“Mrs. Mark and her running mates knew there were cost overruns in 2009, involving a major Democratic campaign contributor, before a shovel was even put in the ground,” he said. “They made a conscious choice to do nothing. In 2002, the previous administration told people that the project would cost $18 million. In 2009, months before I was elected, the Town received a low bid of $25 million, $7 million above what residents were originally quoted.”

If elected, Jankovic-Mark said, she would insist that the WPCA conduct business openly and transparently.

Herbst said Jankovic-Mark and every Town Council member has been invited to attend WPCA meetings and participate in executive sessions.

“Mrs. Mark has attended just one of these meetings and has not been involved in negotiations,” he said.

Jankovic-Mark said working with other communities to find solutions to sewer problems is a big part of her administration’s plan.

“Build bridges with other local communities and use leadership, vision, and maturity to find solutions for sewer issues going forward by negotiating a fair contract for sewer treatment costs,” her plan states. “And I will look to find partnerships and common ground with other communities, not adversarial relationships.”