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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Pulaski Circle planter, it has since been weeded

Helen Ubinas posted on her blog this evening about Hartford's efforts to clean up our parks. To read her posting click here

It reminded me of the first time Helen and I met. It was several years ago and it was in regards to a court case regarding illegal dumping by a West Hartford repair shop owner who chose Wellington Street to dump his junk parts. Long story short, the HPD Officer who investigated the complaint, Officer Allen, now Lieutenant Allen, did a great job, followed through and the owner was arrested and the tow-truck he used to dump his junk was seized as part of the crime.

Helen and I took a tour of Hartford and I showed her some of the notorious dumping areas across the city. Wellington Street, Keney Park many side streets with stripped cars sitting on blocks or resting on the ground. It was a problem, litter and garbage on many streets.

The problem was compounded by a Prosecutor in the Hartford Court who was upset that "his" courtroom was being used on a Friday afternoon for such nonsense as illegal dumping in Hartford. His comment that he made sure we heard was "who cares about dumping in Hartford, Hartford is a dump".

Unfortunately I think that this is the mindset of many people, living in Hartford who see Hartford's parks and streets as one big trashcan. I think that is a society thing that needs to be changed, but the condition of Hartford's parks is a shared embarrassment between those who trash them and those who are entrusted to maintain them.

I think two major problems exist. Over the years, Public Works has been the first place to look for budget cuts and has been decimated from the bottom up, while it seems to continue to grow at the top. Simply put, too many Chief's and not enough Indians.

It might help if some of the "chief's" or Director's and Deputy Directors as we prefer to call them, actually lived in Hartford. Maybe if they had to worry about their family having a picnic under the dead oak tree in Colt's Park with branches falling off, or sitting by the overflowing trash containers in Sigourney Park or stepping over the used syringes and broken bottles in South Green Park, maybe things would change.

The problem is the laborers that actually do the work are gone. But I was amazed by the "punch list" of items in Helen's column to be completed during "Parks Week".

Monday, August 23rd: Keney Park (Woodland Street entrance):
• Cut and remove fallen trees
• Clean and remove leaves along hiking roads and trails
• Remove old fence at tennis courts, clean area
• Repair broken benches
• Repair broken basketball rims
• Clean, patch and paint handball courts
• Remove old baseball backstop

Tuesday, August 24th: Colt Park
• Cut, remove and prune trees
• Repair park benches
• clean area under old stage/pavilion
• Clean and remove boards at old ice rink
• Repair Massek parking lot
• Repair basketball courts

Wednesday, August 25th: Goodwin Park
• Remove branches and wood along Maple Avenue
• Repair fit trail and equipment
• Repair basketball courts
• Trim and cut trees on Maple Avenue

Thursday, August 26th: Bushnell Park
• Remove perimeter shrubs near Pump House
• Repair park benches
• Prune Pump House shrubs
• Refurbish mulch beds where needed
• Trim and prune trees
• Remove old fencing around playground area

Friday, August 27th: Keney Park (Barbour Street entrance)
• Cut up and remove fallen trees
• Remove old fence and nets at northern tennis courts
• Replace or repair rims and nets at basketball courts
• Paint basketball courts

Is this what we are paying supervisors in DPW for. I would hope for someone making over a hundred grand a year in salary, these would be things that would be targeted everyday. Do we really need a special week to "remove branches and wood along Maple Avenue"? Or "repair park benches" in Colt's Park. Wouldn't that be a perfect project for the winter when there is no snow to be plowed? We know they aren't all tied up repairing potholes, that's for sure.

It seems we could do with a few less "Deputy Directors" and maybe a few more laborers to actually get the work done. It almost seems like the higher ups at DPW drive around Hartford all agreeing "yup, that looks bad, yup, that tree is definitely dead, yup, that trash is overflowing, but come on, lets go, I need to get to the bank and cash my paycheck".

Don't get me wrong, it's good to see the list and know that some of the eyesores are being addressed, but shouldn't it be an everyday routine, not just a week long media event?

Ok, and now the lightning rod. I said there were two major problems, first being a top heavy, bloated salary DPW management team. The second is the DPW unions. Yes, I said that.

I recently asked someone at the Community Court why they weren't doing community service work in Hartford's parks? I figured picking up trash, maybe pulling weeds, the typical type of work the Community Court does. The answer was short and sweet...Unions. They explained that they had tried and that the DPW laborers union had complained.

I fully understand the union position if the City was eliminating jobs figuring they could get volunteers to replace the employees. The fact of the matter is that the DPW doesn't even come close to meeting the needs it has with the current number of workers and no one would be laid off by people doing Community service in the parks. It would only enhance the need for improving the image of Hartford which most likely would in turn potentially increase revenue to the City and eventually lead to re-hiring laid off DPW employees. I know, in a perfect world, but we need to start somewhere.

The sad part though is that many of the laid off DPW workers and the current DPW laborers are actually the same people using Hartford's parks. It's not the Director and Deputy Directors who leave Hartford and its horrendous, yet potentially beautiful parks, to head to their homes in East Haddam, Wethersfield or New Britain or wherever people making six figure salaries head to at night.

I commend the effort and making it an issue for one week, but it should be an every day effort.


Anonymous said...

Kev, please correct this. That was an investigation by Officer Mike Allen (Parkville beat officer). Not Lt. Rob Allan, big difference. Within the pile of garbage, he found an address on a reciept, from there, he found out who the worker was who dumped it and made him clean it up. And took photo's of the guy cleaning it up. Pretty funny. Anyway- he did do a good job and should get credit, but it was Officer Mike Allen, not Lt. Rob Allan. Thanks.



no need to correct it, it was Rob Allan, it was the first time I met him and I gave him the plate from the wrecker, he tracked it down to Grassmere Ave. in West Hartford and promptly seized it. The prosecutor who made the "Hartford's a dump" comment was someone with the first name of Mickey and shortly thereafter he was transferred out of the Hartford Court. I don't even think Mike Allen was on the job at that point. I do agree though, Mike Allen is like a pit bull in his area and knows how to enforce quality of life issues like illegal dumping, copper thefts and knows what happens in his area. Ask Lt. Allan about it and the "live truck" on 2 wheels next time you see him.

peter brush said...

Unions are a problem. Years ago some of us wanted to paint the library at the Noah Webster School. No go because it would take work away from unionized workers. Having said that, I believe we had the Community Court guys cleaning up in Little Pope Park the other day.
But, honestly, while we could use some better work from our municipal guys, there is no excusing the residents of Hartford for the mess we generate. In the above-mentioned park we have a little sprinkler attracting many folks looking for a cool-off during this warm summer. Every morning a new pile of rubbish, often containing used disposable diapers, appears.
But, God Bless both Mike Allen and Rob Allan.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Mike Allen juast did this same thing, same street three weeks ago. Huge coinkydink. What are the odds? Mike has pictures of the guy cleaning it up, pretty funny. Sorry for jumping to conclusions....

Bruce Rubenstein said...

This cleanup is a worthwhile and commendable project for a week.If it goes well, I would like to see more of them,perhaps in neighborhoods next time.

As I posted before, I know first hand how thoughful and inspiring Pedro can be.I wasn't very surprised to learn that he visited the cop who was shot in the hospital and was in attendance in Court against the thug who shot the cop.Nor was I surprised to learn that he came and consoled the folks that lost their house in a fire of a few weeks ago.

Pedro is very meticulous about his house and yard and I wasn't surprised when I read about his idea concerning the parks...and it is a good idea.

Like Kevin I have also been very pleased with Pedro's first month as Mayor.Im certainly no mouthpiece for anyone and like Kevin, if in the future I think Pedro has done or is doing something wrong, I will post about it.

Kyle said...

So, is Segarra going to cut the top heavy administration @ DPW? While he is at it, he should do so in EVERY department, AND while he's @ it, downsize and combine depts that have similar functions. For example, Young Children AND Youth Services should be under the Health & Human Services Dept. Part of Human Relations should be under Human Resources and part under Development Services. These are just a few examples of how to cut administrative costs city wide, yet keep the indians employed who actually perform the work. A cursory examination of the org charts for each dept would yield more obvious examples. I am surprised that the COO and/or M&B has not undertaken this exercise. Maybe they plan to hire a consultant like Al Ilg or Mark Tigan to do it for them. Hey, what do I know? I work in the private sector.

Joe said...

Kyle: I agree with your idea. An example that jumps out at me in Development Services is the numerous divisions all headed by a director and/or division head. While I live in Hartford, I actually work for another municipality wherein there are not separate divisions in the dept. I also belong to CRCOG and I'm aware that it is that way in other CT municipalities. It seems to me that with the change in charter to strong mayor, the former mayor created this mega dept and if the various articles written by Jeff Cohen (while he was still @ the Courant) are accurate, the former mayor seated some of his sychophants in key administrative positions in Development Services. This is beyond wasteful spending. According to the city's budget book, some of the staff salaries are funded by various state and federal grants. What you may not realize is that while these are eligible costs, there is nothing that says the city must spend the maximum allowable under the grant funding on admin. That is, it could spend less on admin and allocate more on homeowner loans, capital projects, economic dev., etc., but not the park maintenance that Segarra is revamping. I've always been amazed @ how Hartford spends its state and federal grant funds as opposed to the other municipalities. I guess I'm gonna have to get out there during the funding allocation public comment period to voice my opinion formally and to encourage my neighbors to do so as well. Will have to wait to next year as the period has ended for this year. My bad.

Carla said...

Did you all hear on the national news that there is a town in California that pays its Town Manager almost double what the U.S. President earns? I think we need to re-examine what is happening here in Hartford. I agree w/Kevin, way too many chiefs. Ironically it's the chiefs that make the preliminary budget cut recommendations to the COO and M&B, so of course, they are not gonna recommend cutting their own position. Duh. Actually, no duh.