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Letter: Lack of Communication in Stratford Post-Blizzard 'Absolutely Heartless'

Irked resident Patti Sperling pens a letter lambasting town officials for their response to the blizzard.

By Patti Sperling

TO THE MAYOR, DPW AND TOWN COUNCIL:

Despite the fact that Blizzard Charlotte/Storm Nemo of 2013 left our area with an unprecedented amount of snow, I absolutely believe that the entire system put into place of clearing the roads in the Town of Stratford was completely mismanaged by the DPW, the EOC and the Mayor.

I'm not sure who was in charge (Mo McCarthy or some other employee of the DPW), and who was reporting back to chart streets that were done, but there was a definitely "failure to communicate" somewhere.

This storm, as with Irene and Sandy, was forecast. We knew it was coming and proper preparation was the key.

You all were either elected by the taxpayers of Stratford or are paid by the taxpayers of Stratford. In other words, you work for us and favoritism in situations like this is unacceptable.

In postings made on the Mayor's FB page, I read a State Rep's giving thanks for the plowing so the Rep's spouse could make it to outpatient surgery. Emergency? Could it have been rescheduled? Another, a member of the Town Council, thanking the DPW for the wonderful job they are doing. Guess that member was plowed out!

Postings like this leads me to believe that preferential treatment was given to Town officials, while the people in areas that depend on their paychecks -- those that live paycheck-to-paycheck, were left wondering if they’d been forgotten.

The final straw for me was seeing the Mayor's Facebook page on Tuesday morning stating that all roads in Stratford had been plowed with at least one lane and DPW was going back to finish the job. An outright lie.

If the Mayor based this on information he was given by someone at the EOC or DPW, who is going to be called out for this? Did this get posted by Marc Dillon without approval? If so, Marc Dillon should be packing his desk!

What bothers me even more are that some, if not most, of the areas that were left-behind were those with lower income families -- people who do live paycheck-to-paycheck and depend on their jobs to make their rent payments, put gas in their cars, heat their homes and put food on the table for their families.

They are not the affluent or "entitled" of Stratford, and they don't get personal days, vacation days or sick days when they don't work. They just simply don't get paid.

So when you ask the residents and taxpayers to "be patient," please make sure you're not giving priority to those friends and cronies on both the DTC and RTC and other elected officials. Please make sure you remember who put you there and who is going to be affected when they can't make their rent, mortgage payments, have no heat, electricity because they paid their bills late, have to cut back on food because they missed five days of work!

I heard a story yesterday about a resident of one of Stratford’s senior housing complexes. Her granddaughter kept calling and the phone not picked up. She called the EOC in Stratford and was asked if it was an "emergency." Despite explaining the situation, no one was sent. It took three calls before anyone was sent only to find that the grandmother had fallen and could not get up. How is this right? How can this be explained! How many more stories were there like this that the EOC did not take seriously! Absolutely heartless.

I heard also that streets were marked as plowed when, in fact, they hadn’t been. A friend, who had a disabled daughter being discharged from a New London area hospital, was told when she called the EOC, to put her disabled daughter in a taxi and get her a hotel room. Yet, State Rep. Lawrence Miller, who lives in the same area, had his street plowed on Saturday! Who is being called out on the carpet for this snafu?

While it is great that neighborhoods pooled together with shovels and snowblowers and dug their streets out -- these areas are middle-class taxpayers, hard working people, who couldn't go to work and sat quietly while believing they'd hear a plow really soon. It is sickening to see one street done, while the other surrounding streets are left undone.

Perhaps our plows and DPW vehicles should be equipped with GPS so that residents can check on where they are and what streets are being done. Other towns do it, why can't Stratford!!!???

Now, the Mayor's Office has released a statement stating that all schools are open tomorrow. I just read that the BOE was not consulted! Does one hand ever know what the other hand is doing or are decisions made and statements released before make sure they are accurate?

I certainly hope that many of you decide not to run during the next election. I doubt the left-behind taxpaying residents will forget all of this quickly!

[To submit a letter to the editor, email Stratford Patch editor Jason Bagley at jason.bagley@patch.com.]

134 February 17, 2013 at 11:27 PM
we do have gps> if you wer smart you wold already now that and fio all fuel records you not that smart not at all>
Patricia Clark Sperling February 17, 2013 at 11:57 PM
Really? Then I am even more confused as to why entire neighborhoods were forgotten, some even marked as done when they were not. A few I can accept as human error, entire neighborhoods, mismanagement. And there is only one word for a person who hides behind a pseudonym and starts bringing ones family into it..... I'll leave that one to your imagination.
Rockannand February 18, 2013 at 01:13 AM
AYFKM?
Rockannand February 18, 2013 at 01:19 AM
Well that settles it Patty. We've been waiting for the wisdom of 134 and now you have all the answers. Case closed.
David February 18, 2013 at 06:13 AM
I will mention that I have a friend who's a plow guy in another town. He has like 100 driveways in his contracts. He told me he got stuck in every driveway he worked. So when 134 says they were getting stuck, I can believe it. Also above Patti claims I am connected to these folks. I have no relation with the town other than like all other citizens. Period. I have many friends in town so the rumor mill is probably the same. Interesting to read they have GPS tracking. I guess people may now demand that the truck progress is posted on a website so we all can be big brother. Please don't demand that. Let's assume these guys have the best intentions and perhaps next time we'll all be better prepared. I incurred large damages to my home due to the snow and inability to get a larger snow blower (couldn't get it to my house), otherwise everyone is safe. I wish the best to everyone else and hope all got the help they needed to avoid loss.
David February 18, 2013 at 06:35 AM
You write this story: "I heard a story yesterday about a resident of one of Stratford’s senior housing complexes. Her granddaughter kept calling and the phone not picked up. She called the EOC in Stratford and was asked if it was an "emergency." Despite explaining the situation, no one was sent. It took three calls before anyone was sent only to find that the grandmother had fallen and could not get up. How is this right? How can this be explained! How many more stories were there like this that the EOC did not take seriously! Absolutely heartless." Sounds like after three calls, the EOC sent someone on a NON-Emergency call based on what was communicated in those three calls. Sounds like the EOC asked if the call was an emergency and we can only guess the relatives of the 80 year old answered no and communicated there was no communication. What your missing is a lot of facts: what the EOC responded back with, were they considering doing a drive by? As for embellish, you state in this she was found fallen and unable to get up; so hopefully now that family gets her an alert necklace. Sounds like she has a fall down problem. I hope she's ok. I can't blame the EOC for a prioritizing a non-emergency call lower than probably a lot of other emergency calls they were probably getting.
Walt February 18, 2013 at 12:57 PM
Waiting for the apology and retraction which from mrs sperlingI suspect will never happen
Not so common sense February 18, 2013 at 02:18 PM
she has all the answers and cannot accept responsibility for her actions. Much like obama
David February 18, 2013 at 04:32 PM
I doubt She will retract anything and I don't blame her. Her agenda was to complain about the town (either mayor) that was clear and She has that right. I too only trust the gov't so far, probably more in the area of efficiency; though this crisis was not an area I'd complain about efficiency. We got caught with our pants down and were lucky. It is just in this case, this argument was far from holding up in more peoples minds than others. That is obvious on this site only, who knows what kind of noise will happen in the town meetings (I've been avoiding meetings lately). Hopefully we all learned something. All is all... town, people... State, Fed gov't. all. We were damn lucky we didn't have massive power outages, the crisis could have been a lot worse. Heartless not- I assume everyone was trying in the worst of it.
David February 18, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Let me clarify before the "pants down" statement draws on.... I just mean we don't have the equipment or readiness plans for this type of incident. It was a freak storm, but going forward we need to think about worse disasters. Skip the politics and THINK!
Walt February 18, 2013 at 05:17 PM
So she has an agenda to complain and make allegations that she cannot back up, there was no fuel, there are not planned routes, help from out of town was turned down, on and on all BS. Yeah, she has every right to talk about things she knows nothing about.
Mike Reynolds February 18, 2013 at 05:53 PM
Patti, Did any DPW drivers tell you personally they ran out of fuel or are you getting this information second and third hand? Unless they told you directly then its all hearsay. Besides, you should know the "telephone game". 134, geez man where did you learn how to write? You lose a lot of credibility when you can't spell or fail to use words in their proper grammatical context.
Patricia Clark Sperling February 18, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Directly from the DPW website: "Plow Routes : The streets are plowed and sanded in order of priority. Main roads are addressed first with special attention to steep hills and difficult intersections. Side streets are done next and then dead end streets are cleared. During an extremely heavy snowfall main arteries will be kept open and are the first priority." It doesn't work and obviously didn't work in this storm. If the plows are, in fact, GPS-enabled, the residents should be able to track. The complete lack of information - and inaccurate information as was posted on the Mayor's FB - is unacceptable. Entire neighbhoods were left unplowed until residents saw that posting and pretty much blew gaskets. We did not get caught with our "pants down" as David would like us to believe. I just hope - for the future storms, and there will be more because of global warming - the adminsitration and DPW learns from this snafu.
Patricia Clark Sperling February 18, 2013 at 06:24 PM
Mike ~ personally, no; however, the people I spoke with were told directly by DPW workers in various PUBLIC places (the diner, coffee shops) when they were asked directly why they weren't out there plowing. One, I heard directly from a resident when he asked the DPW plow driver why it took so long. I'm sure he wasn't hearing wrong when the driver sayd they ran out of fuel. And Mike, there are far too many people who have said the same thing and I tend not to believe a word that comes out of the Mayor's office these days. I've actually found myself wondering what Jim Miron would have done (and you and I both know how I felt about him from day 1). We may have actually had MORE information coming to us. I got one call advising of alternate street parking, and one call about the carbon monoxide. You and others have posted they got several calls. So, another breakdown? Mike ~ we had a serious problem. Someone dropped the ball with this - marked streets as done when they weren't and then Marc Dillon (or someone on the Mayor's behalf) posted that all streets were done. This system just didn't work - I'm standing by that 100%. At this point, it is what it is, and I certainly hope that the Mayor's administration and the head of DPW will look at a better "system." I can't tell you how many times this system left my neighborhood unplowed and residents of my area had to call. Waiting four days to hear a plow for many of the residents is a couple days too long.
David February 18, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Walt- I stand corrected; I was wrong, it is not right for her to make allegations she cannot backup- sorry. Again I was wrong. Patti - Ok maybe "caught with our pants down" is not right. We got a heck of a lot of snow, due to 80mph winds we stopped our plows and we don't have the size equipment for such a rare occurrence. In the future, we need to have action plans which help with communication. Actually in the grand scheme of things besides property damage, was anyone hurt? Can we just be thankful of that? I disagree with the town posting live GPS tracking. Last thing we need is people playing pacman and when they see a truck turning away calling in to complain. We need to have lines of communication open to reduce loss of life, injury and property damage. I'm thankful worst things didn't happen and dealing with my property loss which can be replaced.
Walt February 18, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Look, you'll believe what you want but there was no shortage of fuel. None. BS. It came down to too much snow all at once. Let's talk about the plow routes as you posted above, do you have a problem with the policy or any idea as to how YOU'D do it better?
David February 18, 2013 at 06:35 PM
point of reference... Definition of Crediability is Noun: The quality of being trusted: "the government's loss of credibility". The quality of being convincing or believable: "the book's anecdotes have scant regard for credibility". Synonyms: plausibility - authenticity - reliability
Patricia Clark Sperling February 18, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Patti Sperling 1:30 pm on Thursday, February 14, 2013 So, here’s the point of it all. The State of Connecticut is responsible for the State roads in our Town (e.g., Routes 108, 113, 1, 110 and any others), the Town is responsible for everything else. If what I am hearing is correct, the Town then does the secondary roads first, then moves on to the side roads, and then, once the side roads are done, moves on to dead ends streets. My problem with all of this is that it seems (if you’re looking at it with a common sense approach) inefficient. If DPW “teams” are assigned to a section of Stratford, they could tackle those sections – not drive back and forth until the job is complete. This inefficient approach creates confusion, as occurred in this situation. The Mayor’s FB posted that ALL roads had been plowed and at least one lane was open and DPW was going back to work on the rest. So, complete sections of Town were forgotten. I heard streets had been marked as plowed when, in fact, they were not. So, the system broke down, it didn’t work. This system may work on a smaller scale storm, but it certainly didn’t work for this one, and I certainly hope that the “powers that be” learn from this situation. I commend our DPW workers for ALL their hard work. The breakdown and problems had nothing to do with them, it had EVERYTHING to do with where they were told to be and what to do next. A common sense approach, not an irrational jump all over Town approach.
Walt February 18, 2013 at 07:23 PM
So you're plan is to send every truck at once to say, lordship and plow large areas at once. I'm sure the north end would like that and conversely lordship would be ticked off. There are assigned routes that trucks do not stray from. there is no irrational jumping around, there is no driving back and forth. Go back to your posting from the DPW website, that IS the common sense approach to keeping the roads open, main roads first, dead ends last. Look at Davids response to you above. That is rational. That is correct. He can admit when he's wrong.
Patricia Clark Sperling February 18, 2013 at 07:44 PM
No Walt ~ I said it would be better to have plow zones, not send all plows to one area until complete. Teams of equipment would be assigned to specific zones and they would be directed to do those zones until finished - not plow secondary roads first, then side roads, then dead ends. That system - in this situation - left entire neighborhoods undone. There was obviously a great deal of confusion and mismanagement. As I previously said, a few streets = human error; entire neighborhoods scattered all over Town = mismanagement. I'm not going to apologize to you or anyone else for one I believe was an extremely poorly handled clean-up effort by the administration. I'm not going to apologize to you or anyone else when I say I absolutely believe the Town ran out of diesel fuel on Saturday evening and, rather than be forthright and truthful with the people of Stratford - they stand behind smoke and mirrors. But, this IS Stratford, why should be expect anything more. I bet we're going to be footing the bill on this - a decrease in State funds coming our way, as well as the HUGE cost of clean-up with this storm will no doubt equal a significant mil rate increase. Walt ~ I want to see honesty and transparency, something Stratford won't have until the houses (Town Hall, DTC and RTC) are cleaned up. I'm done defending my position....
Walt February 18, 2013 at 08:08 PM
I'm done too, you just won't accept facts. Please comment on matters that you have some knowledge of next time.
Peace February 18, 2013 at 08:10 PM
I am shocked that his has gone on as long as it has. Are we plowed now? Is everyone safe? We havent' heard from those that have directly spoken to DPW workers. Why aren't they speaking up....they confided this information to you, Ms. Sperling, and nobody has backed up any of the secret conversations they had with DPW workers nor have they come to your rescue. Global warming? How about it's winter in New England and we endured a blizzard? Global warming....the catch phrase now used for inclement weather. If you hate Stratford this much, get out! Leave...nobody is keeping you here. It doesn't take "cajones" to make a fool of yourself. Then when someone disagrees with your position, you say "bite me"? What is that? Was your neighborhood plowed in what you think is an adequate time period? What is adequate according to your standards? You asked me in my last comment if I had a vehicle. Do you? Does it make me part of Stratford's upper echelon now to own a vehicle? I received so many phone calls from Harkins I began to think I was related to him. What did you want him to do? Throw snow shoes on and go house to house to keep everyone personally updated? If you honestly believe what you say then you wouldn't have to defend your position. You would have just stated your position and moved on to another cause. Michelle Brooks
Patricia Clark Sperling February 18, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Winter in New England? Yes, then the Stratford adminstration should have been better prepared. This is, as you say, New England, and we should expect this. I really don't care if you agree or not. I stand by my posts.
Rockannand February 18, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Oh come on Walt. You call all these posting facts? This is a blog nothing more. Granted Patty has made some statements that have hurt her argument, but that does not mean that some of the complaints aren't legitimate here. Communications during and after the storm has usual with this administration sucked. Some sections of town apparently got multiple calls while others got one - at 3:30am (me). Given that we have now had 3 weather related emergency situations in <16 months, this is something that should be addressed. As far as the rumored claim of running out of fuel, i heard that from 3 other independent sources since last Thursday other than this blog - all 2nd possibly 3rd hand. For those who have posted as if the fuel situation did not happen, forgive me if i have hard time believing anyone who has posted to that position. Bottom line for many: this admin has earned the reputation for not being trusted, and anything but transparent. In fact, keeping people in the dark seems to be an art form on many issues. I think that attacking the town workers to be counter-productive, but attacking folks who raise legitimate issues is nothing more than bullying. You can be sure that this won't die down, but for me i have far bigger issues that this and prior admins have stuck their head in the ground for far too long - Raymark contamination. It keeps getting worse and the silence is deafening down town and with our reps in Hartford.
David February 18, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Ok. Here's an action plan which validates what they did and enhances clarifies some things.... 1. Continue the Town process as stated, it is sound, organized and meets a proper triage order. 1) Life threatening, 2) Injury on EOC calls. 2. In the event of hurricane winds you did the correct thing protecting the drivers and maintain the call out system (make sure people verify there number is in that system.) 3. Make sure ramps are opened with the state and areas where supplies can get to town are able to be opened quickly. 4. Ask residents to try to quickly open paths so that emergency crews or people can walk on the sidewalks to the highways train. Advise people will not be fined if they don't do it, but it's a request. Along with advise them to take care because we don't want injury due to snow removal (heart attacks etc.) 5. Do not post GPS tracking as it will only be a distraction for clogging the EOC lines with complaints. I don't know where house checks fit in the scheme, somewhere after Injury, but sounds heartless to be leaving an 80 year old alone. Perhaps on the preparation calls to ask families to make sure elder people have a friend or neighbor who can do a report in so we don't burden the town emergency crews for house checks. Is it fair that a family leaves an 80 year old alone and then they make house check calls on the town? Then when the town prioritizes them behind other emergencies we call the town people heartless?
Patricia Clark Sperling February 18, 2013 at 09:17 PM
David ~ I'm sorry, I don't agree the system in place is sound, but you have a right to your opinion too. I'm leaving this blog with a quote by Richard Reeves, since I believe it describes the politics in Stratford, in the current and past administrations, both in the Town Manager/Town Council and Mayor/Town Council forms of government: “In the good old days, an honest politician was one who lied only when he had to. But now lies are becoming the accepted language of government at the highest levels, the theory being that sooner or later the people of the country will become so confused and disillusioned that they will just mind their own business, and leave governing to well-placed liars.” I just choose to be one of the people who doesn't look the other way, and hope things change and get better.
David February 18, 2013 at 09:30 PM
Patti - "David ~ I'm sorry, I don't agree the system in place is sound, but you have a right to your opinion too." I agree to disagree. :) Best wishes - no hard feelings.
Mike Reynolds February 18, 2013 at 09:48 PM
So with your logic, no matter what the mayor says you are going to believe what you heard instead.
Patricia Clark Sperling February 18, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Mike ~ I voted for John Harkins. I believed in him, and have seen nothing except the "same old" type of politics in Stratford. At this point, yes, I'm standing behind what I said. That's about it. Stratford taxpayers definitely deserve better - honesty and transparency. We still don't have it. End of story.....and my posts.
Patricia Clark Sperling February 19, 2013 at 06:25 PM
My last post and a request to all of the commenters here - go to the interactive map that Jason Bagley has posted and comment with your street and the date and time it was plowed. I'm sure it will be a reality check for all of us.

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