Bridgeport-Trumbull School Fight!

schoolyard fight

It’s getting a little testy between Bridgeport and Trumbull over a proposed regional magnet school on property located in Trumbull. For background check this out from the CT Post

Officials are knocking heads over funding for infrastructure improvements. Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, a Republican, after learning the city had reached out to its Democratic friends in state government for a push back, namely former State Senator Andrew McDonald, Governor Dan Malloy’s chief legal counsel, fired off a letter to Robert Berchem, a seasoned attorney, whose law firm has represented the city in a variety of areas. Here’s the better part. Berchem’s Milford-based law firm also represents Trumbull in labor matters. I can just imagine the partners at Berchem, Moses & Devlin reviewing those billable hours for Bridgeport and Trumbull. Ca-ching! Don’t ya love it when lawyers have a revolving desk? (One day my firm represents you, the next day we represent them.)

Herbst also slips into his letter the proposed regional sludge authority that also has been a point of negotiation contention. Herbst letter:

Attorney Berchem,
When we last met, you and Adam Wood were attempting to arrange a meeting with representatives of the Governor’s office to discuss the outstanding issues associated with the proposed magnet school. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise when I received a telephone call today from Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post informing me that you had sent a letter to Governor Malloy regarding this subject matter. What I find particularly interesting is that over the course of the last year, with issues involving local and state administrative approvals as it relates to this project, you have carbon copied the Town of Trumbull, this office and the office of the Town Attorney. Yet with this piece of correspondence, despite your assurances that you would be in touch with our office concerning arrangements to have a conversation with officials in the Governor’s office, we were not carbon copied on the correspondence. In point of fact, last week, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff approached me to let me know he was working on arranging a meeting. What he didn’t tell me was that at the same time he made these assurances to me, the letter from you had already been sent to the Governor, of which he was copied on. Further, I have been advised on credible authority that parties in Bridgeport with familiarity of all the issues associated with this project contacted Ken Dixon to encourage him to FOI your letter from the Governor’s office. Had Ken Dixon requested all of the correspondence associated with these negotiations, perhaps then he would have received a complete picture of the issues at hand. Your letter to the Governor was slanted on several fronts and did not fully articulate all of the issues, both direct and ancillary as they related to this project.

I provided Mr. Dixon with a copy of the letter sent by me to Acting Commissioner Coleman earlier this year. This letter was sent to Commissioner Coleman at the request of Commissioner Coleman and his staff. Let me be very clear about this point. As you know, in late 2010 and early 2011, then DOE Commissioner McQuillan was the person who suggested utilizing unspent money that was part of the original bonding authorization to address the Town’s concerns. This dialogue and subsequent letter would not have occurred but for Commissioner McQuillian’s recommendation and Commissioner Coleman’s request for additional information. You neglected to fully articulate those very relevant points in your letter to the Governor.

I also shared with Mr. Dixon the fact that the Town is currently debating whether to construct its own sewage treatment plant or enter a regional authority with the City of Bridgeport and Town of Monroe. If the Town were to elect to build its own treatment plant, one of the locations under consideration is in close proximity to the property being proposed for the magnet school. A very valid issue that has been raised by Trumbull elected and appointed officials in both parties is whether the DEP would grant the Town a permit to construct such a facility, given its close proximity to a regional high school. While you and Mr. Wood do not want to acknowledge this as an issue, it is an issue.

The concern over police communications was raised because our police department will be providing secondary response to the proposed magnet high school in the event of an emergency. In my January 28, 2010 letter to Commissioner Coleman, I articulated the concerns that were raised by Trumbull’s Police Chief and our Emergency Management Team. I stated, in part:

“This upgraded system will also improve mutual aid communication with the first responders of the City of Bridgeport, as well as State and Federal law enforcement and emergency agencies. Reliable radio communications, both within an agency and across departments and jurisdictions … is critical in coordinating a life-saving response.” My letter to Commissioner Coleman went on to cite the 1999 Columbine Report to underscore the importance of efficient and effective inter-district radio communication for emergency purposes.

I should note that many of the additional offers you and the Finch administration have made to the Town as part of the proposed inter-municipal agreement have been modified without legislative approval. How can the Mayor’s Chief of Staff or you as counsel for the City of Bridgeport obligate the City of Bridgeport to proposed modifications in the inter-municipal agreement without the approval of the Bridgeport City Council? If you want the Trumbull Town Council to act on the inter-municipal agreement, then you have to ensure that ALL of the proposed modifications have received legislative approval from your City Council.

I would conclude by pointing out the following. The last three meetings we have had to discuss the magnet school, I have been at each meeting. I made it a point of sending a letter to Mayor Finch, with you and Adam Wood on copy, encouraging a meeting between me and the Mayor, and representatives of our offices to address these outstanding issues. At the last three meetings, Mayor Finch has not been in attendance. If this project is important to the Mayor, then the Mayor should be at the table with me directly, rather than sending his Chief of Staff or the City’s legal counsel.

I’m glad Mr. Dixon contacted me today requesting my comments on your letter. If he had not contacted me, I would not have known of the letter’s existence, despite your assurances of a few weeks ago.

Tim Herbst



  1. “… Further, I have been advised on credible authority that parties in Bridgeport with familiarity of all the issues associated with this project contacted Ken Dixon to encourage him to FOI your letter from the Governor’s office …”

    Paging Adam Wood. You have a leak in your administration. Only a few people knew that such letter was sent to Governor Malloy. In the meantime, downstream from the site at dispute:


  2. Well now, we know where this argument is going …

    Trumbull is shaking us down for a better deal in the new sewer contract with Bridgeport. It’s time to tell them to go flush themselves! …

    One way or the other, we have to disconnect Trumbull from Bridgeport’s sanitary infrastructure. We will soon need the capacity–especially if we don’t continue to assist Trumbull in diverting desirable development away from us by providing unobtrusive sanitary infrastructure for them …

    We can put the magnet school next to Seaside Park/Arena-Ball Park/UB (all great synergies/assets for the school)–on the former Pequonnock Apartments (Magic Johnson development) property (that we can’t seem to develop anyway …). This would be a practical location for the school and a practical use for the property. (Add to the aforementioned synergies the proximity of the school to Downtown/HCC …)

    Trumbull should be left to its own devices with the DEP–in regard to trying to locate a sewage processing plant in such close proximity to the Pequonnock River … (Where, exactly, do they propose to put the plant, where it would pose a problem for school? Looking at a map of the school area, there doesn’t seem to be enough land in that part of Trumbull–unless they take the Avalon Gates apartments/Sacred Heart dorms by eminent domain …)

    It will be criminal if Trumbull manages to extort/bribe another subsidized sewer deal from Bridgeport. It really all must end. And it can end happily for Bridgeport if our leadership operates from the perspective of what’s best for Bridgeport …

    1. Jeff Kohut // Mar 17, 2011 at 12:56 am
      to your posting

      All that you say may be true, but the City of Bridgeport under the Finch administration hasn’t a word of credibility. That doesn’t help any deal get done.

      What’s best for Bridgeport is the expectation that we start with the truth.

  3. It is one thing for the City of Bridgeport to work with and try to accommodate its neighbors. It is quite another to respond to blackmail, which is what Trumbull’s threats and demands have become. The City has done a lot–probably more than it should have–to address the town’s “concerns.” Now it is time to say “enough.”

  4. Regardless of whether or not you support the Magnet school, this points out the fact the Mayor is asleep at the wheel and his minions are two-faced. They don’t know what it means to show up and stick with honest negotiations. Trumbull’s demands may prove to be too much, but how does this stunt help move things along?

  5. Also, I use to respect Joe McGee. How is he such an authority on Bridgeport’s finances? I guess Forbes magazine got it wrong too. When the city is facing financial collapse in the coming months, maybe year, we can all remind Mr. McGee of his comments. How irresponsible. What is he looking for, a job with Bridgeport? What happened to you, Joe McGee???

  6. Paul Timpanelli, exalted leader of the impotent Bridgeport Regional Business Council, lives in Trumbull. How come he didn’t see this coming … or did he?

  7. RW&B is right about Fibber McGee. He thinks Bridgeport should be the bedroom community for Stamford. He’s a career wonk like Timpanelli and Finch. He never created a job except his own.

    How do you spell JOBS? F-O-S-T-E-R, because “Bridgeport Deserves Better!”

  8. Herbst is little more than a schoolyard bully. And while we’re on the subject of childish behavior, did anyone else hear about the catfight between Mother Goose Guman and Finch’s wife Sonya, in front of Testo’s at last night’s fundraiser??? I hear it was a doozy and all. Nice.

      1. Lennie, this is all over city hall. Huge argument between Sonya and Dottie. Mother Goose was nothing but a lady. Sonya … not so much. Are you planning on telling the full story?

  9. RedWhiteandBlue,
    You nailed two of the critical current issues this morning.

    First is the specific Trumbull-Bridgeport regional “cooperation” on Magnet School, emergency communications systems (public safety response) and sewage treatment. Seems to be little real cooperation in evidence at this moment. As Herbst indicates, continuing regular communication may enhance trust and later cooperation. Sides seem far apart on all issues, and posturing is what occurs then. Time is running out on arrangements and expectations.

    To whose advantage? Well probably to Trumbull that does not seem to want the school, but they only have about five years left (or possibly less) on their interlocal sewage treatment agreement with Bridgeport, so they would seem at a disadvantage if that agreement does not move along. Large amounts of money around each issue. Local, State or Federal money is scarce everywhere. What to do? Herbst’s letter shows a reasonable path … a meeting with both executives present, with their advisers, with their attorneys, and maybe no food, drink or bathroom break until they come back with a plan that is unfair to all sides, yet would indicate that real negotiations rather than mere posturing had happened?

    Then they need to publicly sell the same plan to the voters in each community telling similar stories. Wow!!! What a concept! If the voters don’t buy the story, no school, and no (place for) s – – t to go after some date!!! What a concept! Get out the shovels, and let’s dig us some outhouses. Wonder what that problem will do to residential property values in Trumbull?

    Second story: Joe McGee, quoted by Ken Dixon: “I don’t think there’s a better managed city right now, fiscally, in Fairfield County.” and further, “I don’t think the people understand the context of what’s going on here. No one else has been able to cut spending.”

    For some reason I assumed that McGee for all his experience was more of a critical thinker. Just how did our Mayor “cut spending?” Perhaps, in a material way, he has not, but is taking credit for another phenomenon that he did set in motion: For starters he deferred (with a blessed waiver from the State, I am told) funding of Bridgeport retirement plans to the tune of $20 Million, although the necessary funding is probably much higher. THAT IS NOT A CUT IN SPENDING; IT IS A DEFERRAL OF SPENDING!!! He has also negotiated on compensation, but getting no or low salary increases accepted for the first two years of a contract and then larger gains in the out years, is again a DEFERRAL OF SPENDING. It seems to be a budget cut, a short-term gain that you can crow about, but it is only an expensive deferral of spending in the larger picture of providing retirement benefits promised by previous Councils after negotiations with previous Mayors. And Mayor Finch is good at crowing to voters and smiling to the cameras.

    Later in Dixon’s article Mayor Finch is quoted, “I didn’t get into the boring fiscal details. If I did, people would have fallen asleep in their dessert.” How is that for his genuine view of the citizenry and specifically the leaders of the business community who provide jobs, pay bills, work to earn profits from going concerns and who paid good money for that lunch?

    When things are running well, people may be forgiven for wanting to skip the details. However, if you will read the minutes of the Budget and Appropriations Committee for the past 12-15 months (available from City Clerk site), tell me whether our Council people are generally happy with the timing and info they are regularly receiving from the Mayor’s Office and OPM. Not that no action is forthcoming, but it would seem to be regularly later than called for and very controlled. No one other than the Mayor and his staff seem to have a view of the financial state of the City. That is dangerous, especially if they are telling half truths. And are they willing to share and defend that “fiscal state” publicly? If they are running for office that is what they will have to do.

    1. Beacon, your post should be sent to the CT Post for all to read. Most people (voters) don’t see how critical our financial situation is. We need to get the facts out to the average person.

      1. city hall smoker // Mar 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm
        To your posting:

        Perhaps for the remaining months of the Finch Administration, we might as well admit that there will be no “facts” coming from 999.

        What happens on 9-13-2011 will be the indicator of what voters want to know. With a new candidate elected, perhaps the voters will extend their trust even more and begin to believe they are getting facts. If the same group continues … the message is clear.

        What do you think?

    2. BEACON2 // Mar 17, 2011 at 10:45 am
      to your posting

      You perhaps realize better than anyone else the scale of this City’s economic malaise will cripple any kind of meaningful development for the City.

  10. Yeah, right. We’re lucky if the CT Post covers anything of importance to the people of Bridgeport, never mind something El Squid would prefer be kept under wraps. Besides, this occurred outside and, as you can imagine, it was immediately broken up.

  11. How about getting back to the “figures” in the Audit, the budget, and those that come to us in tax notices regularly? Let’s forget the “figures” in the parking lot. OK? To some they may provide vicarious and temporary relief from the headaches induced by the financial numbers, yet it is those numbers that we have to deal with primarily day in and day out rather than two Bridgeport citizens who happen to have one or more differences of opinion that have apparently escalated into something approaching “roller derby without helmets!”

    The City Charter does not refer to a “first lady” nor to a “first gentleman” (should we be fortunate enough for a future Mayor to be elected from the distaff side) and therefore there are no specific responsibilities for courtesy or civility, etc. to be observed. For the spouse who does hold the Mayoral mantle, there are quite a few responsibilities in that same Charter that are not being acted on currently.

  12. Is it possible financially to build a new high school to replace Harding & Bassick and to hell with the regional high school?
    I understand we are getting close to 100% financing, but sometimes what you get for free costs more in the long run.
    It appears that Trumbull is holding us up even though we will be paying the teachers, maintenance and many other items.
    It would be worth bonding for the money the state does not provide and give the kids at Bassick and Harding a long-overdue decent school building and services.

  13. There is a site on the East Side where a school would, in my opinion, be very much appreciated. It would also be the catalyst for future development in and around that area. The site “geographically” would benefit the city as a whole and could accommodate students from both Harding and Bassick. In fact adjacent to the school we could probably get an Aquarium (I’ve yet to see one fail) or Museum that could highlight Bridgeport’s great past. The site is just off exit 28 on I-95.

  14. The whole idea of magnet schools is to attract students from more than one town–that is why putting them on or near town borders makes sense–and not deep within one town.

    1. Just a question. Why should I be forced to support a magnet school that will house Bpt kids and kids from the suburbs? Could it be that the high schools are at full capacity in their high schools and they all need a new school or more space for a growing enrollment?
      To benefit all of the high school kids that attend Harding & Bassick let’s build a high school for them. The hell with the ‘burbs.

  15. Mr. Herbst take your request for a $5 million radio update and shove it. You want to finally bring your radio equipment into the 20th century. You want to go from analog to digital so your officers can speak to other departments and to the Feds etc, etc.
    You have a large shopping complex you can not adequately protect with your police department or with your fire department so what do you do? You call Bridgeport.
    Let me assure you if the school is built we will not need the Trumbull Police Department or Fire Department to respond. We can handle it.
    While I am at it you shakedown artist go ahead and try and build a sewer treatment plant on our borders. See if you get to dump the treated water into the Pequonnock River. If I were you I would start the permit process for a treatment plant and I would also start seeing if you can tie into your other neighboring communities? Fat chance.
    I for one am tired of you self-righteous bastards. You dump all your crummy developments on our borders and laugh while you are doing it. You make a sham of the state law as it relates to affordable housing. Yeah, affordable housing in Trumbull starts close to $300 K.
    Live in your bubble, I could care less. We don’t need Trumbull, you need Bridgeport.


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