Trumbull Housing Authority Meeting
January 22, 2018
Community Room of Stern Village
Commissioners Present: Chairman Janice Kopchick, Deborah Dowd, Suzanne Donofrio, Douglas Sutherland and Paul Niebuhr
Also Present: Executive Director Harriet Polansky
The meeting was called to order at 4:05 pm by Chairman Kopchik. This was followed by Roll Call and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ms. Polansky presented the following changes to the minutes of December 20, 2017:
1. Under Updates from the Stern Village Resident Association, #5 should read: “Activities this year included the Welcome Dinner for the new residents…”
2. Last paragraph under the same topic, last line should read: “January she will have a meeting with Jeff Kunkel to assess their needs.”
3. Under Resident Comments – first speaker on Page 2 should be Christiane; second speaker on Page 3 should be Carolyn.
4. Under New Business, #2 first sentence should read: “He noted that in the effort for more transparency, there is an effort to video record all Boards and Commissions meetings…”
Mrs. Kopchik motioned to approve the minutes of December 20, 2017 as amended. Seconded by Mr. Sutherland and approved.
Ms. Dowd reported for the Trumbull Housing Authority for the period ending December 31, 2017. Stern Village and Stern Center currently has an overall gain of approximately $125,733. The current reserve balance is $756,124 which is approximately $3,406 for each unit in the entire complex.
Executive Director’s Report
Ms. Polansky reported the overall cash position as of December 31, 2017 is $745,837 including the investment account. Accounts Payable is approximately $77,214 including the PILOT accrual for the current and prior year.
Windows have been replaced in the Congregate for newer and more efficient energy conservation. This was completed in December. United Illuminating will reimburse $11,872 for this installation.
At the present time, the Village has ten vacancies and the Congregate has four vacancies. It is hoped to fill three vacancies in the Congregate by the middle of February.
Ms. Polansky felt this was going to be a very exciting year for Stern Village. She noted that in order to be green, to save money on paper towels and to keep people from clogging the sewer system, automatic hand dryers have been installed in the Community Room bathrooms and in the Congregate public bathrooms.
Ms. Polansky noted the best news was that on December 22, 2017, the Department of Housing awarded the THA $5,286,139 for capital improvements based on the 2017 SSHP Capital Funding Round. She thanked the THA Board members who were involved in this process, the residents who have written letters to support this request, Senator Marilyn Moore, State Representatives David Rutigliano, Laura Devlin and Ben McGorty as well as the Town of Trumbull for all their help. She also thanked Governor Malloy, Evonne Klein, Commissioner of DOH, and Karl Kildoff, Executive Director for making this a reality. Ms. Polansky extended a thank you to Bruce and Frank from Millennium for all their hard work with no charge over the last four years. All the perseverance and determination finally paid off.
There are several steps to the process in order to get the funds allocated. This has been discussed at the Tuesday Teas and she encouraged all residents to attend her monthly meetings and to read the Stern Village Voice for updated information.
The Development Team consists of Bruce Whitaker and Frank Stellato from Millennium and Architect George Wiles. They have been working for over four years on various funding rounds.
For Stern Village, this means –
– Fixing the sanitary system.
– Creating a storm water management system.
– Fixing the sidewalks, parking lots and roads. They will also be working with the Town of Trumbull on fixing the main road.
– New roofs, gutters and exterior front doors, 20 new ADA units in the middle section, new energy efficient windows and more.
The CHFA Technical Department must review 100% of the plans. It was mandatory to provide 90% for the 2017 SSHP application. The scope of the project is being reviewed and plans should be ready for CHFA mid-February. Once CHFA Technical Department reviews the plans and all questions have been answered, final approval will be necessary from the State’s Bond Commission. It is hoped to start the project in the fall of 2018.
Ms. Polansky noted the Trumbull Housing Corporation (THC) is a non-profit entity formed to support the Trumbull Housing Authority – Stern Village. On August 18, 2017, the THC was determined a 501(c)3 or public charity by the IRS. Now donors can deduct contributions they make to the Trumbull Housing Corporation. Ms. Polansky is currently working with Frank Stellato on an application for a 2018 Housing Tax Credit Contribution through the THC. These HTCC funds will be used towards the capital improvement project. In October 2017, Ms. Polansky applied for a Community Support Donation from the Newtown Savings Bank to be used for the energy efficient windows that were installed in the Congregate. This Wednesday, the THC will receive a significant donation to help off-set the cost of these windows.
All residents have been advised that next Friday the new front load washers and dryers will be installed in the laundry rooms. Each resident will receive a laundry card with $4.00 on it. Training on these new machines will be held for residents and staff on Friday, January 26 from 3-5 pm.
The Maintenance Department has done an exceptional job with snow plowing during the subzero conditions. In addition, there was an intern from the University of Tampa who helped dig out resident’s cars. Jeff Kunkel from Trumbull Helps, also blew the snow off resident’s cars. Several THS students have contacted Ms. Polansky about volunteering after a snowstorm. Hopefully, many of them will show up to help. Ms. Polansky’s robo calls warning residents of inclement weather, to clear their porch and not to go out seems to be working.
Maureen – presented to the Board a petition from some of the residents at Stern Village that did not like nor want to be filmed or recorded at the Trumbull Housing Authority meetings. They felt it was brought up, laid out and said that it will be because of FOIA. No one considered, recommended or even respected some of their wishes or asked what they thought. Not everyone agreed but she did have a petition with some names. It should be brought under consideration for the respect of the residents at Stern Village. Don’t say we have to. Residents attend the meetings voluntarily. They expected a little more consideration and respect from the Board when it came to this.
Gus – Also feels the same way. They are a close community and do not need people viewing us on TV. They do not want to be in the public eye. They are a tight living community. He does not want to be filmed and feels his words and actions do not need to be on Channel 17 for the entire Trumbull population to see or hear. He thinks it is a violation of their privacy and without the resident’s consent, they should not be filmed. They do not need cameras at the meetings even though it is a public meeting. Harriet, you are doing a great job.
Gloria – agreed with exactly what they said. She did not want to be videoed before and still does not want to be videoed because she feels like she needs her privacy like everyone. They all want things but they don’t need it to be out in the open. This is their home and they do not need to tell anyone else what is taking place here. If you keep letting people know exactly what is going on up here, they might think it is a bad place.
Ralph – agrees about the filming. Does not want to be filmed, doesn’t think they should be filmed. By filming you will shrink the audience in this room. We barely get enough people at these meetings to be more informed and we are growing. He felt the video recording would make them go backwards. You are only going to make it worse for the group that lives here. He knows they want to be public and the residents do not.
Robert – agrees with his peers that he does not want to be filmed. He does not think it should be allowed. They put this forward at one time in a petition but don’t know where it went. He hopes the Board today and Harriet can resolve this problem for us. He is speaking for other people who were not in attendance. Harriet is doing a great job.
Christine – noted that her check for December got lost and she is being accused of not paying rent in December. She suggested Harriet take the rent directly from a credit card every month to make it easier and avoid this type of situation.
Joan – wished everyone a Happy New Year. She asked who was getting the windows. Ms. Polansky noted there were the energy windows done in the Congregate but because of Small Cities, which is also part of the big capital improvement project, we hope to get new windows for everyone in the Village.
Mrs. Kopchik asked for the petition and read the following statement:
Before we start discussing the New Business item, I would like to say a few things about the THA.
-We are quasi-public state agency and follow the statutes for public housing authorities under the auspices of the Department of Housing and The Connecticut Housing Authority.
-The Commissioners are volunteers and we were appointed by the First Selectman of Trumbull to oversee the THA. In other word, there would not be a THA without the Board of Commissioners.
-We follow the Town Charter by providing the monthly agenda and THA Board Minutes in a timely fashion.
-Barbara Crandall, our paid clerk, records our monthly meetings, composes the minutes and puts them on the Town Website. Therefore, we have a recorded transcript of each meeting. The minutes are also available at the THA Office and posted on the Bulletin Board in the Community Room.
We are and continue to be transparent.
The THA Commissioners are committed to ensure the safety and well-being of our residents and I’ve enjoyed the relationship we have fostered with our residents.
We want our residents to attend our Board Meetings and we don’t want to discourage them from attending or speaking.
I received a signed petition from several residents of the THA. I will read the letter attached to the petition.
To Mrs. Kopchik, the Chairperson of the Trumbull Housing Authority Board of Commissioners in regards to the residents of the Trumbull Housing Authority.
Dear Jan – it has come to our attention that the Trumbull Housing Authority Board of Commissioners want to videotape and record us at the Trumbull Housing Authority monthly Board meetings. This was brought up by your new Commissioner, Mr. Douglas Sutherland. We, the residents of the Trumbull Housing Authority, do not want to be videotaped or recorded. We requested that the Trumbull Housing Board of Commissioners veto the videotaping and recording of all the Trumbull Housing Board meetings. Please see the attached petition. Thank you.
Mrs. Kopchik read the names of those who signed the petition. They include Maureen Bova, Renee Werthman, Gloria Lanham, John Koch, Ralph Claudio, Nick Verrtucci, Robert Lee, Victor Fontanza, Josephine Rivera, Ida D’Amore, Josephine Connelly, Gus Aquino, Joyce Aquino, James Yanos, Sandy Fisher, Barbara Lucas, Cheryle Pettus, Robert Cortez, John Ballawender and Vera Molesky. Maureen noted other residents wanted to sign the petition but did not come to the meeting because it was videotaped.
Mrs. Kopchik noted that on April 27, 2015 the THA Board of Commissioners approved a videotaping policy for the Board meetings. Over the last few days, this policy was reviewed by the attorney in order to comply with FOIA. Per his legal opinion, anyone can videotape regardless of the Board’s permission. However, the Board can set up procedures that limit the interference with the meeting. Mrs. Kopchik noted they will entertain the motion to revise the THA videotaping policy to read as follows:
Any person, newspaper, radio broadcasting company or television broadcasting company intending to record, photograph, broadcast or record all or part of the public meeting shall present a plan to the Board at least 48 hours before such public meetings demonstrating that the recording will be accomplished as inconspicuously as possible and in such manner as to not disturb the proceedings of the public agency.
Mr. Sutherland noted that he called the Education Director at FOI Commission in Hartford and spoke to him at length. He said we are allowed to make rules for the body but cannot require any advanced notice. This is a public meeting. You can basically rule camera location such as not obstructing exits or in someone’s way. He also discussed with Chris Jones, the Director of the Trumbull TV, the fact that many people at the meeting are uncomfortable being on camera so he has instructed him to keep the camera on the table with the Commissioners. It is not allowed to shut down the recording of a public meeting. This goes back to Gov. Ella Grasso who wanted to make sure that things were not happening behind closed doors and that meetings were public. She did the FOI regulations and they were unanimously approved by the legislature.
Mr. Sutherland noted that back in 2015 when the policy was put together he was coming to videotape the meetings. There are several things in the original policy that do not conform to the FOI regulations. He tried to accommodate and not film anyone that didn’t want to be filmed. After a while, it was not a big deal and he was not using the videotape for any nefarious purpose. It was basically for open government and it also allows people that can’t make it to the meetings to be able to watch the meeting. It also allows the town representatives to know what is happening so that it provides transparency for them. A policy can be written and voted on today but if you want to require 48 hour notice of a plan as to how it is going to happen, we will have to go to Hartford and have that adjudicated. We do not plan to film anyone who doesn’t want to be filmed. He understands these concerns but it is a public meeting and the laws allow open meetings to be recorded. Anyone can come in and record these meetings and it is better to have a professional.
Maureen stated that she understood the law and what he explained. Part of the problem at the last meeting was that Mr. Sutherland didn’t ask the residents how they felt. It was stated it was FOI and they are going to do it. They are residents of the community and Trumbull and deserve the consideration, respect and regard for living here, for being part of these meetings as they give of their time just as the Board gives of their time. They are asking for consideration and respect to ask before it was said it was the law and they had no choice.
Mr. Sutherland apologized for the way the statement came out at the last meeting. It was not his intention to have it interpreted in such a manner. Ms. Dowd noted this is a committee that represents 222 residents and wants to work to ensure residents’ best interest not necessarily to benefit the town at these meetings. She thought the Chairman would bring up this subject and felt that Mr. Sutherland took it over so that it wasn’t the Boards project but his own. She did not feel included in the process.
Mr. Niebuhr is concerned that residents bring up some personal items during the meeting that they would prefer not to be broadcast whether or not they are seen. The Board cannot say no to anyone who wants to record. At this point, the only recourse you may have is to contact directly whoever is recording and express your feelings.
Question was asked if the Board were to go private if that would change the circumstances. It was noted that the THS is a public board. It was suggested that sharing of personal information at a public meeting may not be the right venue. If there is a private issue to be considered, it would be best to take it up with whoever can help best outside of a meeting.
Comment was made that the residents were only given one hour notice of the recording. Mr. Sutherland noted that at the last meeting, notice was given that the meetings would be recorded each month so there was notice.
Ms. Polansky noted that the THA has an attorney and any type of legal opinion is passed through him. He also spoke with FOI. She felt that this is a THA Board meeting but she is concerned about the welfare of the residents. She reiterated that the THA is required to follow the Charter of the Town. If everyone is disturbed about it, do we still have to comply with it or if we give people notice about it? A robo call can be made and residents can decide if they want to come.
Mrs. Donofrio suggested the Board hold their meeting with business and voting and adjourn the meeting so that residents can comment. After the adjournment, it is no longer a public meeting. Mr. Sutherland asked if there would be public comment during the meeting. There can be two public comments with the one during the meeting about the business of the Board.
Mr. Penkoff asked if the Connecticut Housing Authority had been contacted. In the Fair Housing Act, you cannot intrude on people’s lives. This is a housing authority not a town and she understands the positon of the Town Council needing information. She has concerns about the residents’ comments regarding videotaping. Videotaping can put the Housing Authority in the spotlight and in the past there have been problems. It could become an issue for the residents. She has a hard time relating this to a town meeting and is interested in the Fair Housing Laws and how it affects this concern. This should be looked into.
Mrs. Cantafio noted that she has had residents call her and ask that this information be made public. Some do not mind being recorded. She noted that there are two sides and some people have contacted her directly that they don’t mind being recorded. For those people on Town Council and others, especially when it comes to grants, it gives a little more background to what this Board does. We appreciate the extra help. It gives the Town Council and others a better understanding of what goes on.
Ms. Polansky will look into this matter with regard to the Connecticut Housing Authority. Mrs. Kopchik motioned to table this item until they can follow up with the Connecticut Housing Authority for further clarification. Seconded by Mr. Niebuhr. Approved unanimously.
Motion was made by Mrs. Kopchik to adjourn the meeting at 4:45 pm. Seconded by Mrs. Donofrio and approved unanimously.