NAUGATUCK — In addition to selecting their political leaders this November, borough residents will decide the fate of four capital projects.
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted June 3 to send the projects to a referendum vote on Nov. 4.
Voters will decide whether to spend $6 million for upgrades to the borough’s wastewater treatment plant, $775,000 to move the recycling center, $1 million for renovations to the Hop Brook Pool and approximately $5 million for improvements to roads, bridges and infrastructure.
Each item will be a separate question. Any project approved would be paid for through bonding.
The improvements were brought to the board by the Long Term Planning Committee.
“You need to look forward and have a vision for the future. If we don’t continue to do projects like this we’re just not getting anywhere. We’re just going to go backwards,” Burgess Robert Neth, who chairs the committee, said.
Neth explained that the funds eyed for infrastructure improvements includes $1 million for overrun costs for repairs to the Whittemore Bridge, $4 million for repairs to the roads, and $75,000 for a traffic signal at the intersection of Melbourne Street and Rubber Avenue.
Neth said it would cost the borough approximately $30 million to fix all the roads and sidewalks in Naugatuck. However, the borough commonly puts $250,000 in the yearly budget.
Neth said the work on the Whittemore Bridge was proposed over a decade ago. At the time, it was estimated to cost $2 million, he said. However, in current prices, there is a $1 million shortfall.
Neth said the work on the bridge needs to be done in the near future.
“It’s going to come to a point where, and I hope it doesn’t happen, what if the bridge falls. Now the bridge is closed. Now we have issues,” Neth said.
The board questioned if the upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant were required.
Public Works Director Stewart said the borough has a contract with Veolia Water North America to operate the incinerator at the plant. The company in turn pays the borough approximately $3 million a year in rent.
According to the contract, Naugatuck needs to make the necessary upgrades to meet the changes in state and federal laws. There is currently a change regarding the way mercury is disposed of and the amount of mercury that is acceptable.
“If we don’t treat the mercury Veolia potentially turns the incinerator off or they don’t, and we get fined from the [Department of Energy and Environmental Protection], and we lose $3 million a year in rent. So it’s not a cheap fix, but we’d lose the rent,” Stewart said.
The committee is working under the assumption that the recycling center, which is currently on Rubber Avenue, will be relocated to the Chemtura Corporation property off of Elm Street. No final deal has been worked out with the company, Neth said.
Stewart explained the $775,000 would go towards a shed to keep equipment covered, ramps, concrete walls, asphalt walls, a small office and concrete paths for the dumpsters.
Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi said she favored sending the recycling center question to a referendum because of comments she’s heard regarding its current location.
“I think, given the cost and the fact we hear from people all the time that they’d like the recycling center to be moved off Rubber Avenue, I highly favor putting it out referendum and letting the taxpayers decide on it,” Rossi said.
Hop Brook Pool has been closed since 2012 due to deterioration of the pool and its infrastructure.
Even though she thought $1 million for the pool was a lot, Burgess Catherine Ernsky favored letting residents decide.
“I think that a million dollars going towards a pool, at this time, is just so expensive. But I agree with the idea that it’s good to put it forward and let the people decide,” Ernsky said.
Neth said the pool does mean a lot to certain borough residents.
“For some people, especially people in that area, that’s their vacation because they can’t afford to go some place else,” Neth said. “So, for a limited number of people it’s great for, so let the people vote on it.”
Neth said the committee doesn’t like to spend money, but will put forward projects that it feels are in the best interest of the borough. He said residents will have the final say on these projects.
“The bottom line is that if they want them done, they will vote for them. If they don’t want them done then they don’t get done,” Neth said. “Hop Brook Pool, we don’t want to do it? Then we’re filling it in tomorrow. That’s going to be the bottom line. If you don’t want your roads fixed and you’re happy with the $250,000 a year we put in the budget, and we’re still going to have potholes for the next 15 years, you vote against it. It’s very simple. The whole process is very simple.”
A public hearing on the projects will be held prior to the referendum.