There has been a lot of conversation locally the past few months about the future of the Naugatuck Visiting Nurses Association (“NVNA”). Unfortunately the difference between fact v. fiction and truth v. rumor can be significant. An honest discussion may serve to clarify what is actually happening.
While the following is meant to provide insight into local decision-making, the reality is that no decisions have yet been made. The NVNA is currently conducting business as it always has: providing professional, home health care services in a compassionate manner to Naugatuck residents. The department employs exceptional nurses and support staff who take great pride in caring for patients and their families. Maintaining that quality and protecting the employees of NVNA remain a priority.
The NVNA has been in existence for ninety four (94) years. Generations of nurses have served generations of Naugatuck patients and their families by providing high quality, home health care services. Many patients continue to ask for specific nurses by name given the positive experiences they have had throughout the years.
For many years visiting nurses associations operated in numerous Connecticut cities and towns as municipal departments. This meant that nurses and support staff were employees of the municipal government in which the association conducted its business. Over the years, the structure of many municipal visiting nurses associations has changed as the economics of health care transformed the industry. While some visiting nurses associations folded, many transitioned to not-for-profit and for-profit organizations in cooperation with other entities outside of municipal government. This often resulted in creating larger economies of scale and allowing visiting nurses associations to attract patients outside of municipal boundary areas.
The NVNA, however, remains a municipal department of the Borough of Naugatuck. Based on research over the past few months, we estimate that there are only about five (5) visiting nurses associations in Connecticut that retain this structure of municipal employment.
In recent years, local leaders have begun to question the Borough’s role in social services and health care. As a burgess from 1999 – 2003, I remember the conversations during the budget process that focused upon whether or not the municipal government should be funding various agencies such as the NVNA, Youth and Family Services (“NYFS”) and the Human Resources and Development Agency (“HRD” – which is a non-profit but receives funds from the Borough). Occasionally members of the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses (“Joint Boards”) would threaten to vote against funding particular agencies on the basis that the Borough should no longer and/or could not afford to be involved in providing such services.
Those voicing opposition to funding the NVNA have grown in number the past few budget years. The question that could not be answered, however, has been: “What will happen to all those served by local agencies if they no longer exist?” There really has never been a good answer given to that question. While the Joint Boards could certainly choose not to fund the NVNA, there would clearly be disruption to patient and employees if such action was not accompanied by a plan.
Recently the Joint Boards approved funding for a strategic analysis of local government by an outside consultant. Such a process is common in private industry, but is a relatively new concept for local governments. While the planning process included all aspects of municipal and board of education operations, it was agreed that an outside perspective would also be helpful to provide guidance with regard to the NVNA and other social service agencies. Ultimately the respective firm of BlumShapiro was selected as the consultant, and the plan was recently completed this past July.
The BlumShapiro strategic planning report recommended that the Borough investigate if there are other ways to deliver home health care services outside of municipal government. Given that most visiting nurses associations have reduced wage and benefits costs by separating from local governments, it was suggested that Naugatuck seek partners in the non-profit and/or private sectors with regard to such services. At no time did the BlumShapiro report criticize the quality of the services provided by the NVNA. To the contrary, significant praise has been directed toward the NVNA and its staff by numerous individuals throughout our community and region.
For the past several weeks, our office has been meeting with various providers in the area to gauge interest and investigate possible partnerships. This process continues, and no decisions have yet been made.
FACT from FICTION
Rumors spread quickly in all walks of life and different people draw different conclusions based on conversations they have with others. While such a reality is magnified in the context of local government, it is important to separate what is not true before stating what is.
Quality of Care
As stated above, nothing about the current process involves the quality of care provided by NVNA nurses and home health aides. Patient satisfaction is very high and patients often specifically request the NVNA when provided with home health care options. NVNA nurses are paid less than many of their colleagues in the private sector, but perform exceptionally and compassionately on a daily basis. Despite the uncertainty of any possible changes, they continue to treat new and existing patients in this manner. Potential partners with whom we speak reinforce this reality with their consistent, high praise for the NVNA.
Business Administration of NVNA
In addition, the NVNA operates quite efficiently despite significant challenges and obstacles. The administrative team and clerical and billing operation conduct the business affairs of the NVNA professionally and effectively. Despite the inability to care for patients outside of Naugatuck’s boundaries and affiliations and referral networks available to competitors, NVNA usually operates within budget and will return a small surplus once the 2012 – 2013 budget is fully reconciled next month (exclusive of benefits). Significant obstacles from licensing authorities and increasing regulatory oversight makes such a task difficult, but both NVNA’s clinical and financial management remains outstanding. This is true despite the rapid changes to and uncertainty involved with our national health care system.
The NVNA Remains Fully Operational
The daily operations of the NVNA continue uninterrupted. Patients are seen as usual. Referrals are made as usual. The NVNA remains fully staffed. Contractual obligations with service providers are being honored and new vendors continue to be engaged in the usual manner. The NVNA is fully funded for the 2013 – 2014 fiscal year.
Some have suggested that the Borough is simply trying to privatize the NVNA. Such a perception requires some context. No local government is required to offer home health care services to its citizens. If no partnership is made with another visiting nurses organization, there are basically two (2) possible results during the next budget process for the 2014 – 2015 fiscal year: (i) the Joint Boards continues to fund all or portions of the NVNA and business occurs as usual; or (ii) the Joint Boards chooses not to fund the NVNA. The latter is a very possible outcome given recent deliberations between members of the Joint Boards. Under such a scenario, the Borough simply stops providing home health care services to its residents and employing the staff of the NVNA. As long as the Borough does not engage another entity to provide the service, no privatization occurs. The Borough simply stops offering the service and closes the agency. It is by far the path of least resistance, but creates the most disruption to patients and employees.
WHAT REALLY IS HAPPENING
Given that some change, which has been talked about for over a decade, is likely to occur in the near future; we have begun to explore options. We have met with potential partners over the past few weeks and continue to gather information about various agencies in the area. Both the executive director and the clinical supervisor have participated in discussions. Information is available to representatives of each bargaining unit involved as well as an open invitation to discuss concerns.
Throughout this process we maintain three (3) objectives with regard to any potential partnerships:
1. To preserve the quality of home health care services available to Borough residents;
2. To protect the amazing employees of the NVNA to the best degree possible; and
3. To maintain the identity and/or branding of the high quality home health care services associated with the Naugatuck Visiting Nurses Association.
Achieving all three (3) objectives will require a significant amount of time, diligence and skillful negotiation, but none are achievable if we simply allow the NVNA to be eliminated by a budget cut. While reducing the costs associated with local government is always a priority, doing so in a fiscally and morally responsible manner is critical.
When a viable proposal is ready for presentation, we will seek public comment. Ultimately only the Board of Mayor and Burgesses can bind the Borough to a valid agreement involving finances with a third party. All provisions of our collective bargaining agreements are subject to state and/or federal labor laws.
As with any change, there will be a certain level of anxiety by all involved. Open communication is important to separate the truth from reality, and make the best choices for our community moving forward. Please feel free to contact me by phone (office: 203-720-7009 / cell: 203-217-0876) or email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org ) with any questions and/or comments.
Any information relating to the political campaign Mezzo 2013 is paid for by Mezzo 2013, Terri A. Carter Treasurer; and all content relating to Mezzo 2013 has been approved by Bob Mezzo.
Bob was born in Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury on May 5, 1971, to Dennis and Sande Mezzo. For the first
twenty-five years of his life Bob made his home on May Street in the Borough of Naugatuck. Some of his earliest memories are set in downtown Naugatuck around the lunch counter at Donovan’s Pharmacy, behind which his Grandma “Gussie” served tuna fish sandwiches and the best milkshakes in Naugatuck. Bob remembers that town hall workers, firefighters, police officers, business owners and employees frequented Donovan’s for a quick lunch and the “daily word on the street”. Bob recalls fondly that loud whistles in the afternoon were soon followed by hordes of workers pouring into the downtown which was anchored by such establishments as Breen’s, Rubin’s, the Salem Theater and his favorite – Murphy’s Five & Dime. Bob came to love the borough of Naugatuck, particularly the bustle of the downtown.
Bob’s formal education began at Central Avenue Elementary School, however, equally important was an informal education that he received from his family. After his parents separated, Bob often spent evenings at his grandmother’s house while his mother worked the second shift. Evenings at his grandmothers’ house were spent watching and reading the news together. Interested in learning more about the world around him, Bob listened intently as the adults in his life discussed local events. In addition to his interest in local politics, Bob became fascinated by historical political leaders. While other children were watching cartoons and sitcoms, Bob preferred to watch biographies of historical leaders. To keep his intellectual curiosity satiated, Bob’s mother carted him to and from the Whittemore Library so he could read historical biographies.
His interest in local issues started him on a lifelong love of politics. His earliest memorable election was when he was five. Four years later, his mother returned from work to find that Bob had created a simulated election complete with slogans, platforms and ballots. Bob insisted upon staying up that night to listen to the numbers come in.
Rivaling his love of political science was a genuine love of sports. A Red Sox fan like his parents and grandparents before him, it was an easy transition to the Patriots, Celtics and Whalers as the seasons changed and the sports calendar progressed. Proud of his allegiances to all teams New England, he had no idea the history of heartbreak that came along with such commitments.
Bob continued to attend public school in Naugatuck until grade eight. Shortly after his eighth grade year, he accepted a full scholarship to The Taft School in Watertown. After three weeks at Taft, Bob informed his mother that he longed to attend school in the Borough that he loved. Bob returned to Naugy where he played tennis and football at Naugy all four years, winning an NVL Football title with the Greyhounds his senior year in 1988. Like so many others before him, Bob was proud of and grateful for the education he received in Naugatuck Public Schools.
After high school he started college at Central Connecticut State University, and transferred to the University of Connecticut, graduating with a double major in political science and history. His first exposure to politics came at UConn, as he became involved with College Democrats during the 1992 campaign season.
During his first year at UConn Law School Bob obtained the Democratic nomination to run for state representative of the seventieth (70th) district. Despite losing to the incumbent Republican, he campaigned with all the energy of an idealistic twenty-two year old and met so many Naugatuck residents on their doorsteps. It would not be his last campaign.
While in law school, Bob interned at City Hill Middle School where I worked as a special education teacher. I met Bob in the spring of 1995. We began dating in the summer and the following year we were engaged to be married.
Eileen and Bob
The next year was a busy one for Bob. Raised Protestant at the Congregational Church, he became a Roman Catholic in March, at my childhood church of Holy Rosary Parish in Ansonia. In May he graduated from UConn Law School, started a job as a Director of Government Affairs at the Greater Waterbury Chamber of Commerce. In July, he took the bar exam. Two weeks later he and I were married. He was sworn-in as a Connecticut attorney in November.
At Bob’s prompting, we settled in a home in Naugatuck. Bob was adamant about staying in Naugatuck as he wanted to give back to a community that had given him so much. While we intended to enjoy our marriage by traveling some, I was expecting in January.
In October, our daughter Alexandra Ryan, or Ally as we call her, was born.
Eileen Ally & Bob
Two weeks after Ally’s birth, Bob left the Chamber and began his legal career as an associate for Attorney Franklin G. Pilicy in Watertown. He had much to learn about being an attorney, but he still longed for greater involvement in public service. In 1999 he was elected to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses, finishing second out of twelve major party candidates.
He focused his attentions on creating economic development opportunities, improving our commitment to education and protecting the interests of taxpayers. His first two years on the Borough Board he helped to pass budgets that contained no tax increase, the last time this has happened since.
Bob as a Burgess
In 2000, he represented Naugatuck in the successful Naugatuck River Valley application to be named an All America City in Louisville, KY. In addition, he opened the doors to his own law practice in downtown Naugatuck, where he practice until being elected mayor in May, 2009.
Eileen and Bob
In 2001 he was re-elected to the Borough board as the Deputy Mayor, receiving the highest number of votes amongst all Burgess candidates. During his tenure as Deputy Mayor, he helped to pass a Senior Citizen Tax Cut in preparation for the upcoming revaluation, worked to complete the Mt. Auburn Associates economic development study and create the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, and fought to protect education in the face of drastic proposals to cut teachers and programs. Implementation of Naugatuck’s first revaluation in over two decades made these years difficult for all of us. Bob made many difficult decisions during these two years all while demonstrating respect for the people of Naugatuck, even those with whom he disagreed.
Sandwiched in the middle of his two years as Deputy Mayor, we welcomed the birth of our son John Connor, “Jay” on April 5, 2002.
Jay and Bob
After careful deliberation, Bob decided to seek the office of Mayor in 2003. During those first five months of 2003 he would receive the Democratic nomination, defeat an opponent in the Democratic primary, but eventually lose the general election to Ron San Angelo. Defeat is never easy, especially after pouring one’s heart and soul into a campaign.
Public service takes many forms. Bob continued coaching in the Naugatuck Basketball Association and added stints in Naugatuck Youth Soccer, Union City Little League and Little Pal Basketball to his “coaching resume”. In addition, he had the honor to serve on the boards of Griffin Hospital, the newly-formed Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, and the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce, and as President of the Parent School Council. He was also able to film future opponents for the Naugatuck High School football team. While he no longer marched in the front of the Memorial Day Parade, he had the pleasure to join so many of you in the back.
Ally and Jay with “Coach Bob”
More importantly, however, he spent many nights home with Ally and Jay as I assumed new responsibilities as an administrator at Naugatuck High School. In 2005, our family adopted a retired greyhound, Casey Stengal.
Casey enjoying her retirement
Although Bob was no longer on the Board of Mayor and Burgess, his interest in Naugatuck and its local government remained strong. Dissatisfied with the state of affairs in the Borough and inspired by the election of President Barack Obama, Bob decided to announce his candidacy for mayor. The campaign began with close friends huddled around our dining room table pondering how the campaign could be successful against a strong field of candidates and little money. As expected, the field quickly became crowded and the campaign began.
Bob challenged the Democratic Party leadership by committing to primary his friend and former State Representative and Deputy Mayor Kevin Knowles. After obtaining the necessary signatures by canvassing door-to-door in cold, winter weather, the campaign caught momentum one volunteer at a time. Bi-weekly literature drops became a part of our supporters lives. Our family was truely blessed by so many friends from all walks of life who were united in their desire to work for a better Naugatuck.
After strong performances in debates and an issue-oriented, respectful campaign, Bob won the primary with approximately sixty percent of the vote. Despite the victory, there was little time for celebration as the general election was only two short months away. Bob’s next opponent was the incumbent Mayor Mike Bronko, who won the Republican primary over former Mayor Ron San Angelo.
While primaries often divide parties, “Team Mezzo” was able to unite Democrats to build coalitions with voters across the political spectrum. Despite an infusion of much needed finances after the primary, the grassroots campaign remained faithful to its origins and continued the literature drops on a much larger scale. As Team Mezzo grew, it continued to welcome all supporters and volunteers in an open manner. Our tiny headquarters on Church Street was filled most nights with friends making phone calls and children playing in the back room.
Nerves were tested on election day as everyone worked right through 8:00 PM. Even as the results became apparent, Bob paced back and forth awaiting the final numbers from the larger polling places. When the final returns were tallied, every Democrat on the ballot was elected. During a loud and jubulant victory party, Bob told everyone that we were now part of Team Naugatuck.
On May 18, 2009, at a family-oriented ceremony on the Green that included everything from clowns and hot dogs, to face painters and air horns, Bob was sworn-in as the thirty ninth chief executive of Naugatuck. While Bob addressed the crowd on that chilly night, he could see the location of the old Donovan’s Pharmacy where he had gotten his first flavor of public life in Naugatuck as a child.
The Mezzo’s at Santa’s Village
The first eighteen months of Bob’s term as mayor have been interesting to say the least. Challenged by an educational budget crisis and the worst economic recession of our lifetime, Bob remained focused on bringing much needed change to Naugatuck. In a short period of time, Bob worked tirelessly to resolve the board of education deficit, make structural changes to Borough government and communicate with residents at an unprecedented level. Despite long days and the sad loss of our beloved greyhound Casey last December, Bob has maintained his high level of energy and perseverance toward his long-term vision for Naugatuck. His willingness to respectfully discuss ideas and issues in a non-partisan manner and consider different opinions has earned Bob the respect of people from all political persuasions. While I know Bob holds a deep commitment to his faith and his family, his love of Naugatuck and dream for a better future for this community remains a lifelong passion.
For this reason, Bob decided to seek a second term as mayor. On May 2, 2011, Bob was re-elected as an unopposed candidate for mayor of the Borough. At the end of the school year, our family adopted another greyhound, Awesy, and we anxiously awaited the arrival of another blessing in our lives, a third child.
Awesy a/k/a AJK’s Awesomest (racing name)
On December 13, 2011, Bob, Ally, Jay, Awesy and I welcomed James “Jack” Michael Mezzo. While we never imagined being “new” parents again in our 40′s, little Jack has blessed our family with a beautiful soul filled with life, energy and a massive appetite! Ally and Jay have embraced their new sibling, and Awesy has gotten over not being the “baby” in the house. While balancing the responsibilities of being an active father and full-time mayor are not always easy, Bob continues to prioritize family and remain completely committed to improving the hometown that he loves.
Welcome Baby Jack!
Given Jack’s addition to our family, deciding to seek a third term as mayor was not as easy for Bob as seeking a second. After long consideration, Bob realized that there was still too many initiatives to complete before returning to private life. This July, he again humbly received the support of the Naugatuck Democratic Town Committee, and looks forward to explaining his record, and articulating his viewpoints and vision for Naugatuck. He knows the challenges remain significant, but is constantly inspired by the amazing, hard-working people who comprise the Naugatuck Family.
Jay, Jack and Ally on the Cape
While Bob continues to deliver on his original campaign promise of “focused leadership for real change”, he knows very well that much work remains. His blog provides a forum to provide real time information to residents and detailed information on Bob’s position on local issues. You can communicate with Bob through this blog or by emailing him at email@example.com. We look forward to working with all of you as we continue this journey to realize the full potential of our wonderful community.
The Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation (“NEDC”) announced the selection of Ronald J. Pugliese as its next President and Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) at a special meeting held tonight (8/7/2013). Mr. Pugliese will succeed David Prendergast in that capacity, who is retiring later this summer after ten (10) years running the NEDC from its inception in 2003.
Mr. Pugliese brings a wealth of experience to the position, formally serving as President and CEO of the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association and Senior Vice President of Household International / HSBC for many years. Recently, Mr. Pugliese served as the Director of Economic Development for the City of Waterbury, and the President and CEO of the East Hartford Chamber of Commerce.
Born in Waterbury, CT, Mr. Pugliese spent many years as a resident in Naugatuck, and has developed many relationships in the Borough by volunteering his time in service to local government and non-profit organizations. Mr. Pugliese was a Burgess in Naugatuck from 1983 to 1989, and served as campaign chair and chairperson for the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls. His extensive experience combined with local roots separated Mr. Pugliese from the numerous candidates who applied for the position. Mr. Pugliese currently resides in Southbury, CT with his wife Janice, and serves on the Southbury Board of Selection. They are the proud parents of three sons; Jay (a Naugatuck Police Officer), Gregg and Jeffrey; and grandparents of five.
The NEDC is a public-private partnership that is charged with administering all aspects of economic development policy and project implementation for the Borough of Naugatuck. Its board of directors is comprised of representatives from the private and non-profit sectors, as well as elected and appointed officials of Borough government from both parties. Since its creation in 2003, David Prendergast has been the only President and CEO in the organization’s history, working with four different mayoral administrations. Prior to Mr. Prendergast’s retirement, he will work with Mr. Pugliese to ensure a smooth transition in the organization. We enthusiastically welcome Mr. Pugliese to our team, and look forward to progress and prosperity as our community analyzes various proposals recently received for downtown development.