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Officials Angry After State Police Ticketed Plows During Storm Recovery

Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback has written the governor for assistance after two plow drivers were ticketed for registration issues while assisting the community following the blizzard.

There’s a new storm coming in the wake of the heaviest snowfall that Southington has seen in decades, but this one is political, not weather-related.

Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback is appealing to the governor after two plows were taken off of town roads last week when a Connecticut State Trooper ticketed them for various operating violations.

The town attempted to appeal to the trooper, Brumback said in his letter to the governor dated Feb. 14, but despite interactions with both Trooper Feest and a major in the state police’s command office, the town was unable to gain any assistance in addressing the issue.

“I recognize this may have been his right, however, it was the most rude and unprofessional action I can imagine during an emergency,” Brumback said in the letter. “My police captain confronted the officer but met with no success.”

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The letter, obtained by Southington Patch earlier today, displays concerns that the trooper was impeding efforts by the town to make travel safe again. The town was in the process of street widening and was clearing areas around the schools to prepare for children to return the following day, town officials said, but state police are maintaining that the tickets were justly given.

The tickets were issued on Feb. 13, according to state police records.

Lt. J. Paul Vance, spokesman with the Connecticut State Police, said Wednesday that the tickets were issued for clear violations of state law and investigation into the issue found that the citations were “legal, proper and appropriate given the circumstances.”

“It happened on (Wednesday) and the state of emergency had basically concluded. The storm was long over and the roads reopened. Everyone has to abide by rules,” Vance said.

According to state police, the first driver was working for the town on street widening efforts when the trooper discovered that he was using an unregistered vehicle. State police issued a citation for operating an unregistered motor vehicle and improper use of a license plate. The license plate was seized and the driver was issued the citation.

In the second incident, Vance said an investigation revealed that a driver using a payloader was working for a private commercial entity along Queen Street and was conducting work in a manner that made travel unsafe. Police reports indicate that the driver was placing snow back in the roadway and was also entering the road in the payloader.

Brumback was not immediately available for further comment Wednesday. Malloy requested that all questions be directed to state police.

The blizzard, which dropped 30 inches of snow in town with snow drifts upwards of four to five feet in some areas, left the town struggling to remove snow and as of Wednesday, the town’s schools remained closed. Brumback said in his letter that he disagrees with the tickets and they negatively impacted recovery efforts.

“Aside from directly interfering with our town’s ability to clean up after the storm it begs the question ‘If state troopers have nothing better to do than interfere in jurisdictions with a first class police department of our own, do we have too many troopers?” Brumback asks in the letter.

The complete text of the letter to the governor is as follows:

Subject: Request for Assistance

Governor,

Thank you for all you and your team has done to assist the Towns as we recover from Winter Storm Charlotte.  I was particularly grateful for your direct call offering state resources to help our efforts.  While we didn’t need them, we truly appreciate the offer.

We do have an issue that I wanted to bring to your attention as it reflects badly on government in general and the State Police in particular. On the morning of February 13, 2013 our town staff along with our contractors were still decisively engaged in road way clearing and snow removal. In the middle of this we had a state trooper named Feest badge number 1332 decide to take it upon himself to pull over two people who were plowing our streets and cite them for registration issues.  I recognize this may have been his right, however, it was the most rude and unprofessional action I can imagine during an emergency.  My police captain confronted the officer but met with no success.

Southington Chief of Police called a Major in the State Police Commander’s office also with no satisfaction.

Aside from directly interfering with our town’s ability to clean up after the storm it begs the question “If state troopers have nothing better to do than interfere in jurisdictions with a 1st class police department of our own, do we have too many troopers”.

Thanks for listening and I would appreciate anything you can do to keep this from happening again.

Very Respectfully,

Garry Brumback, ICMA-CM
Town Manager
(860) 276-6200
www.southington.org<http://www.southington.org>

What are your thoughts on the tickets? Were they proper and necessary? Should action be taken to prevent this type of issue with future storms? Share your thoughts below.

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Hugh Cares February 20, 2013 at 09:39 PM
LMAO!! Well register the truck and put the correct plate on it and 1/2 the problem is solved. If I drove an unregistered vehicle I'd get a ticket. Besides the driver should of check the registration when he pre-tripped the truck. The Southington Highway Dept. isn't above the law!
Sadly No February 20, 2013 at 10:18 PM
This, comming from the CSP?? Next time I see a trooper driving reckless, I am calling 911. Especially if they are in street clothes, driving while talking on their cell phones!
Ed Mastrianni February 21, 2013 at 12:35 AM
Good for the Sate Police in doing their job the right way, This Town Manger must think he's the all powerfull OZ, really !!!!!
Brook Holland February 21, 2013 at 01:29 AM
@ Ed, I bet you were one of the ones complaining that you were snowed in and the plows couldn't come fast enough. Do you know anything about "Declared Emergencies"?
Brook Holland February 21, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Well these were unusual circumstances under a state emergency. Some discretion is giving under extreme circumstances. Just like some towns suspending sidewalk cleanup fines. You can't obey every single statute under a declared emergency. I for one think the state cop made a major fail by impeding storm cleanup. He should be ticketed for that.The governor himself declared "DMV's extension of expirations for licenses, permits, registrations and other time-sensitive requirements until Tuesday, February 26, at 4:30 p.m. If it was war you would do anything to keep safe. Even drive an unregistered car to seek shelter. Or perhaps being the super law abiding citizen you are.... you would just sit put and risk harm to yourself. If that truck plowed your street I'm sure you wouldn't be saying anything now would you?
Len Gagne February 21, 2013 at 01:51 AM
I believe the Trooper did the right thing. They got their hand caught in the cookie jar, and the Town Manager is calling foul? If the Town, or their contractors, operate illegally, they should face the same consequences the general public would. Did our "1st class police department" feel it was an O.K. situation, or weren't they aware of it? Put the blame, and responsibility, where it belongs - with the equipment owners/operators.
Ed Mastrianni February 21, 2013 at 11:25 AM
Wow Brook, you consider a snow storm to war , I wonder how you feel if that unregistered plow truck ran into your car, I bet you feel good when that police officer did his job then, you can't give a free pass to the plow truck, he knows better and so you know, I wasn't one of the one's complaining how fast the cleanup was , the town employess and contractors did a great job in getting everything cleanup under such a snowstorm.
Paul G February 21, 2013 at 11:26 AM
Agreed, Len. A few years ago, I was doing some emergency work in the town with a town organization. It was very early in the day, nobody was out except me and the crew and I happened to park downtown in a no parking zone -- heck there was nobody around to cause a problem and it made it easier for me the guys to do our job. Well, Barney Fife must have been just waiting to issue a no parking violation. I contacted the chief and he basically said the same thing as Vance, his hands were tied, so I had to pay the fine and I let it drop. So what goes around comes around, Mr. Brumback. And, frankly, what does not registering your vehicle got to do with the snow storm? What are you, nuts, Brumback? This is what you defend a guy for -- being a scofflaw??!! And the other yo, wreckless endangerment when the storm is long past, this is okay with you? You endorse that kind of thing? It's no wonder we let the cell phone users in this town drive all over the place uncited. They're probably well-connected to the police and town officials. And it's no wonder attacking this storm was so screwed up. You are out of control, Mister. These tickets are well-deserved. If the Governor revokes them, it will be as sad day for law enforcement as Town Manager Gary Brumback supporting motor vehicle scofflaws like this.
Pensive February 21, 2013 at 01:34 PM
The troopers did their job. They eased the situation by not having the vehicles towed.
ITSme2013 February 21, 2013 at 02:03 PM
I think the most valuable piece of equipment in the state this month is a payloader. They have the ability to pick up and scoop snow unlike the hundreds of plows. To have some snow back into the street is minor when widening and going in the road with a vehicle without a registration is minor. We had our police department there and a state trooper ordered vehicles off the road? Legal? Sure. Abuse of power? Absolutely. Bad citizen? All day long.
michelle February 21, 2013 at 02:07 PM
I wish there was a police cruzer around 2 mornings after the storm when I was at the corner of Frost St and Mt Vernon Road behind a town plow at the stop sign. I waited a few minutes thinking they were not moving because there was traffic coming down the road only to realize that there wasn't. I beeped to get a response but still no sign that the driver was aware that I was waiting behind them. I really didn't want to try and pass for fear that I might be hit head on by on coming traffic turning onto Frost St. Finally, I had no choice but to slowly creep up to the driver's window. I put my window down in hopes that the driver could communicate with me as to whether or not it was safe to pass. I looked at her and she just stared at me expressionless while eating an apple. It became apparent to me that this was the spot she decided to take a break without any concern for people driving on the roads that were already hardly passable safely. My regret is that I didn't call anyone to report it. She as well as the town is very lucky that I managed to pass without causing an accident.
Watchful Eye February 21, 2013 at 06:16 PM
#1: It is the contractors responsibility to maintain proper insurance and registration - these vehicles didn't just magically become unregistered or uninsured; laws are written for a reason, even though the reason may not be readily apparent; #2: The trooper was enforcing the law; #3: It is a shame that the town manager would cry foul for a law breaker; certainly it is the job of some highway department official to insure that anyone that performs work for the town does so legally, so as not to put the town at risk from a liability standpoint. #4. To critcize the State Police in such a manner as was written by the town manager is a shame; this is an agency that would be in Southington in moments to assist if called upon; this action creates nothing but hard feelings.
Watchful Eye February 21, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Perhaps the town manager should be more concerned with those town employees who can be seen regularly talking on a cell phone while driving, not wearing seat belts, making a right turn on red contrary to posted regulations, etc., all while operating a town vehicle and placing the town at risk from a liability standpoint...time to clean that glass house...
John Leary February 21, 2013 at 06:42 PM
The law is the law and should be obeyed or properly changed. What was questioned was the enforcement of the law at such a difficult time for businesses and contractors as they struggled to get their snow removed from a record breaking snowstorm. The law is the law but most police officers operate with a sense of prudence. They exercise prudence on when to engage and when to issue a warning versus a citation. The contractors violated the law. The police offer enforced the law. The police offer did not act with prudence given the circumstances and timing of his/her action.
Antoinette Boucher February 21, 2013 at 07:28 PM
The law is the law. But most payloaders do not get registered because they usually do not leave job sites unless on a truck. I think the town hired outside help to get the roads clean and safe for its community but didnt think it all the way through.
Oliver Klosov February 21, 2013 at 09:51 PM
Do the state troopers still play that game, where they leave from their troop, drive as far out west(pennsylvania or ohio) as they can,turn around and drive back to the troop before their shift ends? The trooper that drives the farthest wins.
ellen b February 21, 2013 at 10:08 PM
The contractor was responsible for making sure the truck was registered before allowing it on the road. Im sure he or she was well paid by the town. This was not the fault of the driver or the trooper both of whom were just doing their jobs! watchfull eye is right.......if you needed that trooper for help he'd be here in a flash......many troopers live right here in town and pay taxes just like the rest of us. shame on you mr brumback! Certificates of insurance should be required before hiring any contractor.....if they can't supply them go to another contractor who can. if the vehicle is not insured, it most likely isnt registered either. Emergency or not.....its not worth it! You owe that trooper an apology!
ARLENE February 24, 2013 at 02:06 PM
How do we teach our children to obey the laws if we change them suit our own agendas?You just taught your own children to do the right thing no matter what. I just hope more people in this town learn a lesson from you. Good Job!
ITSme2013 February 28, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Antoinette seems to be the only other person to read or know that the vehicles that trooper stopped from removing snow from Southington streets were PAYLOADERS. And they almost never travel on roads, which is why they were not registered for street travel. Those PAYLOADERS were working with either Town trucks and/or local police - we didn't need this trooper being so nit-picky when we were trying to open roads to have school the next day. This is about as stupid as a walker getting hit by a car and having a trooper show up and ticket the pedestrian for blocking traffic because they were laying bleeding in the road. Technically right, but a real idiot.

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