Fire Police Hosting Drive to Benefit Naugatuck Food Bank (11/23/2013 & 11/24/2013)

Posted by Bob on November 22, 2013 under Daily Blogs | Be the First to Comment

The Naugatuck Fire Police are hosting a “Stuff-A-Cruiser” Food Drive this Saturday (11/23/2013) and Sunday (11/24/2013) at the Naugatuck Stop and Shop, 727 Rubber Avenue, Naugatuck, CT 06770.  Fire Police will be present on both days (11/23/2013 & 11/24/2013) between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM to collect non-perishable food donations to benefit the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank.  All support is welcomed and very much appreciated.

Updated Election Results

Posted by Bob on November 6, 2013 under Daily Blogs | Be the First to Comment

Results from tonight’s municipal elections in Naugatuck are as follows (* indicates election, subject to any recount):

Mayor

  • *Bob Mezzo    3068
  • James O’Sullivan    1711

Burgesses (Top Nine Elected)

  • *Tamath Rossi    2944 (Deputy Mayor)
  • *Robert Neth    2507 (Second Deputy Mayor)
  • *Michael Bronko    2326
  • *Lori Taf Jackson    2279
  • *Catherine Ernsky    2155
  • *Rocky Vitale    2107
  • *Robert Burns    1957
  • *Patrick Scully    1930
  • *Alex Olbrys    1843
  • Edward Fennell    1821
  • Henry Kuczenski    1761
  • Jimmy Ayash    1576
Board of Education (Top Eight Elected)
  • Dorothy Neth-Kunin    2663
  • Diana Malone   2361
  • Scott Slauson    2358
  • James Scully    2229
  • David Heller    2188
  • James Jordan 2027
  • Glenn Connan    1985
  • Ethel Grant    1893
  • Eleanor Destafano-Ruggles    1719
Tax Collector
  • James Goggin    2986
  • Ray Fayad    1603
Town Clerk
  • Michelle Dowling    2989
  • Lois Braziel    1469
All vote totals are still subject to adjustment and recount if necessary.  According to reports we have received, the numbers above will be submitted by the Naugatuck Registrars to the Secretary of the State.

Unofficial Election Results

Posted by Bob on November 5, 2013 under Daily Blogs | 3 Comments to Read

Unofficial results from tonight’s municipal elections in Naugatuck are as follows:

Mayor

  • Bob Mezzo    3068
  • James O’Sullivan    1695

Burgesses (Top Nine Elected)

  • Tamath Rossi    2926 (*Deputy Mayor)
  • Robert Neth    2693
  • Michael Bronko    2303
  • Lori Taf Jackson    2263
  • Catherine Ernsky    2136
  • Rocky Vitale    2097
  • Robert Burns    1942
  • Patrick Scully    1917
  • Edward Fennell    1907
  • Alex Olbrys    1827
  • Henry Kuczenski    1753
  • Jimmy Ayash    1562
Board of Education (Top Eight Elected)
  • Dorothy Neth-Kunin    2646
  • David Heller    2428
  • Diana Malone    2343
  • James Scully    2216
  • Scott Slauson    2150
  • James Jordan 2014
  • Glenn Connan    1970
  • Ethel Grant    1879
  • Eleanor Destafano-Ruggles    1703
Tax Collector
  • James Goggin    2971
  • Ray Fayad    1588
Town Clerk
  • Michelle Dowling    2972
  • Lois Braziel    1456
All vote totals are preliminary and subject to recount if necessary.

The Campaign that Is/Was/Could Have Been????

Posted by Bob on October 30, 2013 under Daily Blogs | Be the First to Comment

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.

The local campaign for mayor has experienced some interesting twists in the past couple weeks.  At this point in the campaign, voters were supposed to have had at least one opportunity and likely multiple chances to listen to each candidates’ qualifications, vision and positions on the issues through debate.  The biannual Chamber of Commerce debate originally scheduled October 10, 2013, was rescheduled for October 29, 2013; while a debate open to the public was being organized by the Naugatuck Patch.  Unfortunately my opponent had been ultimately unwilling to commit to such forums, and none are currently scheduled.

Subsequently we received word that my opponent, James P. O’Sullivan, was suspending his campaign due to health reasons. The suspension does not include a withdrawal of his candidacy, but statements from partisan supporters indicated that at some point the campaign may resume.  Since then, new signs have been placed and a newspaper advertisement published which indicates that the campaign is proceeding.  We certainly understand the concerns associated with one’s health and respect that a person’s wellness and family are ultimately more important than politics. Unfortunately this situation is strange to say the least.

Whether or not the campaign has officially resumed or even ever stopped, it appears that there will not be an opportunity to debate. This deprives voters of the opportunity to hear Mr. O’Sullivan articulate his position on any issues and defend them when questioned. While a statement dismissing the role of debates because they “do not feature a lot of interaction between candidates in any case” was attributed to a leader of the Republican Town Committee (Waterbury Republican-American, October 22, 2013, Page 5B), I strongly disagree. 

Debates have long been a part of American democracy.  While most have rules and formats, they provide voters not only with an opportunity to listen to candidates’ unfiltered positions on issues; but also allow citizens to gauge how a candidate articulates ideas, thinks critically and handles pressure.  Certainly there are other ways to campaign, but dismissing the importance of debates weakens local government.  If the format was the problem, we certainly would have been flexible enough to accommodate any style of debate.

Prior to the “suspension” of his campaign, Mr. O’Sullivan made generally reference to lowering taxes, bringing-in new business and improving education while examining every line item of the local budget.  Unfortunately these are campaign platforms of almost every challenger candidate in any election.  The real goal should be articulating, through one’s own words, how that would be done.  Plans matter.  Ideas matter.  Details matters.  We have had none of this.

Even worse, while his campaign was still “suspended”, Mr. O’Sullivan issued a platform consisting of five (5) headers and eight (8) bullet-points on his website.  Unfortunately Mr. O’Sullivan’s platform is almost identical to the platform posted on New Canaan and Wilton State Representative Tom O’Dea’s website from his 2012 campaign.  It is uncertain whether or not Mr. O’Sullivan believes that generic proposals lacking any detail proposed for New Canaan and Wilton will magically solve all the challenges we face in Naugatuck.

Shortly after midnight on Labor Day, our campaign released detailed positions on many issues on this blog.  Each post contained an analysis of what we have done the past four-plus (4+) years and our vision of where we need to go.  Each post was written personally by me from my own thoughts and words.  I would not expect everyone to agree with me or all of my ideas how to move our Borough forward.  I would expect, however, that I could have an honest and ongoing debate with my opponent about my ideas in conjunction with discussions about his own.   Whether or not Mr. O’Sullivan’s campaign resumes, has resumed, or never stopped; it is likely this exchange will not occur.  

Our community deserves better.  Voters deserve more than vague statements from supporters such as “He never dropped out. He did temporarily suspend the campaign due to a health concern, but he is still in the election! Once that is over, he will start back up the campaign“; or “..he will be back soon” on social media.  Being honest and transparent with voters is essential for any candidate, even when it is not always easy to do so.

One’s campaign gives voters a small preview of how a challenger will govern.  Mr. O’Sullivan and his closest supporters have failed to give Naugatuck the campaign it deserves.  This reflects poorly not only on his campaign team, but on the Borough as well.  At a time we need honest debate, detailed plans and community engagement; we are left with vague sound-bytes and bizarre focus on whether or not there is actually a campaign.

There are a lot of good people with good ideas from both parties running for office this election season.  I urge all Naugatuck citizens to investigate their choices for all offices on Election Day this coming Tuesday, November 5, 2013. Unfortunately the silence from the top of one of the tickets has been deafening.

Mezzo 2013 Free Meet and Eat at Giuseppe’s on Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Posted by Bob on October 15, 2013 under Events | Be the First to Comment

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.

Our campaign will host a “Meet and Eat” at Giuseppe’s Italian Pizzeria (1183 New Haven Road, Naugatuck,  CT  06770) on Tuesday, October 22, 2013, from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM.  The event is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, and complimentary pizza and refreshments will be served.  As always, we welcome kids to join us.  I will be available to answer any questions and/or discuss your thoughts and concerns about the Borough as we prepare for the upcoming election (November 5, 2013).  A flyer for the Meet and Eat can be viewed here

We would like to thank Scott, Matt and the entire Giuseppe’s staff in advance for their hospitality.  Our family is honored to be their longtime customers and friends.

Naugatuck Visiting Nurses Association – 9/26/2013

Posted by Bob on September 26, 2013 under Daily Blogs | Read the First Comment

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.

HISTORY

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.

Privatization

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 (bob@bobmezzo.com or bmezzo@naugatuck-ct.gov  ) with any questions and/or comments.

 

Undefeated Hounds Christen New Field with Win

Posted by Bob on September 19, 2013 under Daily Blogs | Be the First to Comment

The Naugatuck Greyhounds Boys Soccer team soundly defeated the Crosby Bulldogs 6 – 0 Thursday (9/18/2013) night on the first contest played on the new, synthetic turf at Veterans Field.  The undefeated, untied Greyhounds improved their record to 3  – 0, and remain tied with Torrington on top of the Naugatuck Valley League Cooper Division.  The next game for the Naugatuck Boys will be Friday (9/20/2013), 4:00 PM, at Derby.

The Lady Greyhounds soccer team will play their first home game at the renovated Veterans Field on Friday at 3:30 PM, against Derby.  The game will be followed by the home opener for the Naugatuck Greyhounds Football team against Wolcott, beginning at 7:00 PM.  A brief pre-game ceremony will precede the football game.

Naugatuck’s 4 – 1 Volleyball team will play Wilby in the Edward Mariano gym at 5:00 PM, also on Friday (9/20/2013).

The weekend will be capped when the Naugatuck Marching Band hosts its annual Thunder in the Valley invitational at Veterans Field (see Nancy Sasso Janis blog on the Naugatuck Patch for details) beginning at 6:00 PM, on Saturday (9/21/2013) evening.

Those attending any events at Naugatuck High School this Fall should expect limited parking given the on-going renovations.  Attendees can access Veterans Field through the upper lot along Millville Avenue, or by limited parking spaces near the gym.  Veterans Field is accessed from the gym parking lot by walking along the path around the tennis courts.  The concession stand and restrooms are open and concessions will operate according to the schedules coordinated by the various support groups.

Naugatuck Toddler Program Accepting Registrations – 9/13/2013

Posted by Bob on September 13, 2013 under Daily Blogs | 2 Comments to Read

The Naugatuck Toddler Program is currently accepting registrations for the Fall and Spring sessions.  The Fall session begins in October, 2013; and the Spring session starts in February, 2014.  Please see the flyer with pertinent information included.  As stated therein, children must be three (3) years of age to be enrolled, or turn three (3) during the session. The program, which is for the children of Naugatuck residents, is hosted by the Child Care Center located at Naugatuck High School (543 Rubber Avenue, Naugatuck, CT 06770).  Please contact Barbara Foehl at 203-720-5292 or foehlb@naugy.net for more information.

Campaign 2013

Posted by Bob on September 3, 2013 under Daily Blogs, Issues in Detail | Be the First to Comment

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.

The 2013 municipal election season in Naugatuck began with the nomination of candidates for each party earlier this July.  This coming fall will mark the first time Naugatuck voters have elected municipal candidates in November elections.  I am humbled and honored to have been nominated for a third (3rd) term by the Naugatuck Democratic Town Committee, and wish all candidates from every party good luck and good health during the campaign season.  People choose to run or not to run for very different and personal reasons.  I know how difficult making such a decision is, and truly respect all those who put their name forward for election.  

As I have demonstrated in previous campaigns, I strongly believe that the citizens of Naugatuck deserve to know my positions on the issues.  I have written several blog posts on the most pressing matters that we face as a Borough, and will continue to add various topics until the election.  These blogs can be found on my personal blog, www.bobmezzo.com, under the “Issues in Detail” link at the top of the main page.  Such posts are not for those simply looking for sound bites, as many are lengthy and contain much information on positions and proposals as what as what we have already accomplished over the past four-plus years.  A summary of these blogs will be posted shortly under a “Issues Summary” header.  My biography, written by my wife Eileen, has also been updated and can be viewed by linking the “Biography” tab.

Please feel free to comment on any of the blog posts or email me privately at bob@bobmezzo.com.  All comments (which are not spam) are posted without editing except for those containing profanity or any other inappropriate comment. There may be a slight delay in posting after comments are submitted, but I try to check several times a day time permitting.  I sincerely enjoy discussing issues and opposing perspectives with concerned residents.

Government Reform

Posted by Bob on under Issues in Detail | Be the First to Comment

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.

Almost every candidate who challenges an incumbent for office promises change.  I did four years ago, and my opponent will certainly do so this fall.  What makes “change” difficult to achieve, however, is that many fear it and not everyone agrees what kind of change should happen.  Changing how government operates is one of the most difficult challenges any elected official will face.  This is particularly true of local government, where elected officials make daily contact with citizens on the closest of levels.

For generations, local governments throughout the United States operated at levels that were unsustainable.  While employee wages certainly were a factor, pension and health benefits, both during and after employment, created significant pressure on local budgets at a time when the industrial tax base was shrinking.  Some communities responded simply by not funding future obligations promised over many years.  This has led to many cities, most recently the high-profile community of Detroit, teetering on bankruptcy.

Naugatuck was not immune to this irresponsible practice.  For many years we were tempted by the promise of one year wage freezes while employee groups negotiated for better pensions, little or no health care premiums and post-employment benefit premiums for themselves and their families.  The situation got so bad that the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses (“Joint Boards”) chose to bond the Borough’s unfunded pension obligations in 2003.  While this resolved the unfunded liability and future boards funded at actuarial projections, no action was taken to change the underlying cause of unsustainable defined-benefit pension structures.

Since taking office in 2009, we have methodically and carefully focused on changing this.  While most private companies made the switch to defined contribution pension plans [commonly 401(k) plans]years ago, every employee hired in all seven municipal bargaining units until 2009 entered into a defined benefit plan.  Today every employee that is hired moving forward enters the municipal equivalent of a 401 (k) plan [401 (b)].  While existing employees in each bargaining remain in the defined benefit plan that existed upon their hiring, ultimately these plans will end; saving Borough taxpayers significant dollars.  Naugatuck is actually far ahead of most communities of similar size in this transition.

Such change does not happen simply by wishing it so.  It occurs through hard work, realistic expectations given the collective bargaining structure and a commitment to resisting the temptation for short-term solutions that have long-term consequences.

Since 2009, our administration has worked with elected and appointed officials of all political persuasion to achieve change to our local government.  Some initiatives were more significant than others, but all were done in collaboration with others to make Naugatuck’s government work better.

Health Care

  • Requiring employees to pay more for costly health care;
  • Converting most employees to high-deductible health plans to achieve savings;
  • Engaging highly skilled brokers to navigate ever-changing municipal health care market;
  • Changing municipal health care providers to Borough and Board of Education twice in three (3) years for significant cost savings

Municipal / Board of Education Shared Services

  • Sharing of same individual to serve as municipal Controller and Board of Education business manager;
  • Hiring a joint Director of Human Resources for municipal and Board of Education functions;
  • Coordinating and negotiating health benefit plans for municipal and Board of Education employees using the same insurance consultant;
  • Negotiating collective bargaining agreements and resolving labor issues using the same respected law firm for municipal and Board of Education legal matters.
  • Collaboration between Board of Education and Police Department information technology personnel.
  • Created the Tri-Boards concept in which the members of the Board of Education, Board of Finance and Board of Mayor and Burgesses sit together to discuss common issues and budgetary matters.

Public Works

  • Reorganizing public works into one organizational structure to achieve savings in multiple budgets;
  • Automating trash and recycling collection resulting in reductions in force;

Transparency

  • Posting the Borough’s Charter and ordinances online for first time in our history;
  • Posting all the Borough’s Union and Non-Union employment agreements online for the first time in our history;
  • Bringing agreements with financial impact to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses for approval;
  • Ending involvement with land use boards by the mayor’s office; 
  • Using this blog and social media to provide information and fiscal analysis on budgets and significant projects to citizens.
Human Resources
  • Institutionalizing the operation of the Department of Human Resources, originally created by Mayor Ronald San Angelo, to oversee the hiring, promotion, discipline and termination of Borough employees in a professional manner;
  • Creating a defined hiring process to ensure prospective employees are qualified and given an equitable opportunity for Borough employment;
  • Engaging outside companies and working with officials and organizations from other to communities to assist with hiring practices and testing procedures. 

MOVING FORWARD

While much has been done, there is still a lot to do to ensure that local government is functioning at maximum efficiency.  For the first time in the Borough’s history, leaders of the Tri-Boards worked together to complete a comprehensive, professional analysis of our local government’s operations.  The BlumShapiro strategic planning report provides numerous recommendations that, with proper and skillful implementation, can continue to improve the functionality of Borough government.  While the initiatives below are not inclusive or exhaustive of all options, our administration intends to focus on several initiatives highlighted in the report such as:

Naugatuck Customer Service Center

Residents get tired and frustrated when dealing with what should be relatively simple interactions with local government. Common problems reported by residents are waiting on hold or being transferred multiple times; lack of follow-up on various complaints/concerns; receiving conflicting information from different departments; being told “that is not my department; and the inability to conduct certain business online.  We have already begin the process of investigating the creation of a Naugatuck Customer Service Center, staffed by existing employees, which can be a one-stop destination for residents seeking guidance on interacting with local government.  Software upgrades will be needed to track communications, allow residents to report concerns or problems electronically, and ensure that all departments can view previous correspondence from a particular resident and/or address.

Information Technology Governance Council

One of the most important challenges we will face as a government on both the municipal and board of education sectors will be ensuring that we meet our long-term information technology needs in a cost effective manner.  For too long we have reacted to changes in technology.  We need a proactive, long-term information technology plan overseen by committee comprised of skilled, volunteer members with experience in both the private and public sectors.  While departments such as education and the police department have distinct needs and security protocols, we all share common, information technology functions that would benefit from a clearly defined mission and funding plan.

Investigate Insurance Options

While the Borough has been effective over the past few years in seeking competition for health, workers compensation and general liability insurance rates, we will continue to be challenged to be creative and proactive in an every-changing and uncertain insurance market.  One option that deserves exploration is an intelligently designed and well-reserved self insurance program.  While the Borough has had bad experiences with self-funded plans (most recently with health care on the Board of Education side in 2009 and 2010), most of the problems arose because of a failure to properly fund the reserves necessary to withstand high-claim years.  While a properly-funded, self insurance health care plan may take some time to safely and intelligently implement, we should explore a more attainable goal of self-funding our workers compensation obligations.  There is more control in limiting exposure to high workers compensation claims through wellness and safety programs.

Explore the Privatization of Trash and Recycling Collection

While the Borough has improved trash and recycling collection efforts through automation, there still remains challenges for a municipality to engage in this service.  We intend to explore the cost benefits of privatizing such functions and gauge the market for interested vendors.  The fact that we are already automated will give us advantages and leverage in any potential negotiations.  There will be much debate about such a concept, but the following is what this concept is not about:

An attempt to lay-off employees.  All reductions in force in Public Works over the past few years have been done through attrition (i.e. when employees naturally leave the workforce through retirement or other means).  We have plenty of other jobs to keep our employees busy.  The fact is that much of the employee dissatisfaction comes from the sanitation operation.

Sacrificing investments already made in equipment.  Our automated trucks and containers are ultimately assets that can be sold and/or leveraged when negotiating with a private vendor.  Ultimately, our trucks require regular maintenance which is often costly, and will eventually need to be replaced.  A contractual arrangement solicited in a competitively process would place that burden on the contractor.

A transition to citizens paying for collection.  Naugatuck has enjoyed collection of trash for generations, and most recently recycling as well.  While some communities completely privatize collection and require residents to pay the private vendor directly, this proposal envisions the Borough paying for the service directly with the vendor, and absorbing the cost through the local budget process.

This is what this proposal is all about:

Reducing the long-term cost of being involved in the sanitation business through reduced labor costs (from attrition), insurance costs, maintenance costs and expenses (usually with interest) of capital equipment.  In addition, the Borough would attempt to negotiate with a vendor to include occasional bulk pick-ups and other out-of-the-ordinary collections. 

Exploring Better Options for the Delivery of Social Services

This discussion requires agreement on some generally accepted principles.  Naugatuck social service agencies have done and continue to do an exceptional job providing quality care to residents in need.  Many residents are and will continue to be in need of social services in the future.  Unfortunately the cost to deliver such services continues to increase, and many Borough social service departments are going to struggle to compete against similar non-profit and for-profit entities.  Quite simply, there are better ways to deliver the same services to residents, and it may not involve Borough taxpayers subsidizing as much of the care.  While undergoing changes to the delivery models and investigating possible partners, we will prioritize the following:

  • Ensure that all residents have the access to the same high-level of care that currently exists;
  • Protect the livelihood of Borough employees and assist with transitioning them to other provides in a dignified and inclusive manner; and
  • Preserve the identity and history, to the best of our abilities, of the Naugatuck caregivers who have built a reputation for excellence over many years.

Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate

Most costs incurred by Borough taxpayers are decided long before budget time through the collective bargaining process between Borough management and our seven (7) municipal and three (3) Board of Education employee groups.  As stated above, we have a history of burying long-term costs associated with employee health benefits, post-employment health benefits and pension costs in future years’ budgets in exchange for short-term wage concessions that make politicians look good at election time.  We have chosen against this strategy, as it is the only way to reform the structural flaws of our financial health.  I have sincerely enjoyed the opportunity to bargain with each of our municipal employee groups over the past four-plus years.  While we do not always agree, we have generally been able to reach agreements that have started to address some of the long-term challenges in exchange for modest wage increases.  Most times neither side is completely happy with the proposed deal, but that is the nature of the system that governs.  If re-elected, our administration will continue this policy of emphasizing health care contributions (all future pensions have been closed) both during and after employment.

Evaluations and Professional Growth

Every organization; whether in the public, private or non-profit sectors; has a diverse workforce comprised of employees with all levels of talent and ability.  Naugatuck is no different.  Like any company, some employees perform above and beyond expectations, while others struggle at various times of employment.  Naugatuck is fortunate to have numerous outstanding employees, and we need to foster their professional development as technology continues to change the dynamics of the workplace.  Taxpayers expect a high level of performance and customer service from employees, and our local government needs to ensure that we equitably assess the quality of our employees.  While the concept is different in the public sector than the private, we need to continuously evaluate our workforce; rewarding exceptional service, while working to improve performance when needed.  We will work in cooperation with the leaders of our bargaining units to create a fair, effective evaluation system for all employees.  Not only will this result in a more responsive and efficient workforce, but provide career development for our employees so that they have the necessary skills and training to grow professionally.

SUMMARY

Reforming local government takes time, and a commitment to work with people of diverse opinions.  While we should not change simply for change’s sake, we do need to be smart, open-minded and willing to analyze options from an informed perspective.  Voters will no doubt hear candidates offering platitudes with generic proposals for change.  We need to look beyond rhetoric, ideology and empty promises and focus on detailed and flexible solutions that can transform local government into an efficient, sustainable operation.

 

 

 

Switch to our mobile site