WALLINGFORD — The chairman of the Building Maintenance Committee accused the town’s administration Tuesday of ignoring safety issues after a requested discussion about the results of the Maintenance Committee’s investigation had to be postponed because the risk manager couldn’t attend the meeting.
When the committee presented its report to the Town Council last month, only Mayor William Dickinson Jr., who is preparing to leave office after declining to run for reelection, was present. Councilor Craig Fishbein then requested an item be placed on Tuesday’s agenda to discuss the findings with Risk Manager Kurt Treiber. But Treiber was not able to attend Tuesday’s meeting, Dickinson said.
“In response to the things we saw, I did submit an agenda item for tonight with the expectation of talking to Mr. Treiber, who I guess is the most qualified individual since he is the only playground safety certified person in the town.” Fishbein said. “ I thought that was the responsible thing to do.”
“I know if I had seen that stuff, I probably would have said, ‘Hey, can you check this stuff out,’” Fishbein said.
Treiber has just received the report, Dickinson said, which Fishbein also questioned.
“I was a little taken aback that he didn’t get it. It is three weeks after we viewed it,” he said.
“I am aware that a number of those things have already been fixed,” Dickinson said. “When they were presented, the chair said some of them could’ve been fixed already, and that was true. Which ones have been, which ones haven’t, I can’t point to that, but Kurt Treiber isn’t the one responsible for that, it would be public works and recreation to actually fix conditions in the field that need repair.”
Fishbein said he believed that it was Treiber who would be able to prioritize what were safety issues in the parks because he is the expert.
“He would be part of triage,” Fishbein said. “A lot of the things in that report I know are safety issues so there are standards that are supposed to be met. There are representations that have been made to this body as to the safety of our parks. The only person I think who is certified to speak to that is Mr. Treiber.”
Dickinson says that wasn’t “entirely true.”
He has a designation as a play ground safety official, Dickinson said, but the report goes into issues that go beyond playgrounds.
“Mr. Treiber plays an important role in it, but he is not the only one,” Dickinson said. “Certainly it is also public works as well as the recreation department, and they do work together to determine the inspections that are done with Mr. Treiber there, but he is not the only one looking for or designating what needs to be fixed.”
Fishbein requested that Treiber attend the next council meeting on Sept. 12, which Dickinson said he would do. But Building Maintenance Committee Chairman Jason Michael said the issue is important enough that the council should set a special meeting at Treiber’s convenience to assure his attendance.
“For 10 months, including tonight, there are five occasions, which I have either been present for or involved in at these microphones - five times,” he said, referring to his appearances before the council that included when he stepped down as the chairman of the parks and recreation commission due to what he described as disinterest from the administration in their work. He also appeared before the council after two council members visited town parks to document problems there, and again as the building maintenance committee chairman presenting its report.
“We presented physical evidence of unsafe conditions. This is not a hairsplitting issue,” he said. “And not one of those times has the risk manager been here. Not once. This is the person who is hired and paid to mitigate risk and when there is evidence being presented of situations that could put people in this town in danger of being injured, I can’t understand why he’s not here. I don’t think it’s acceptable on any level.
“We’re talking about the elephant in the room, but the elephant is absent. Again,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”
Councilor Tom Laffin said it was unfair to blame Treiber, who is available throughout each week for phone calls or meetings.
“I think sometimes we get caught up or focused on that it has to be at a council meeting when the cameras are rolling,” he said. “A lot of everything (Fishbein) said could’ve been a phone call and instead we had to witness the phone call here instead and talk about one of our employees publicly. I think it was clear days ago he could not be here and I think at that time we should’ve just moved it to a date he could be here.”