Petition asks borough to put leash on park

NAUGATUCK — Well before it is scheduled to be discussed by the Board of Mayor and Burgesses, a plan to build a dog park in Naugatuck stirred up some controversy.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess wants to move forward with building a dog park on roughly 3 acres of vacant borough-owned land on Andrew Mountain Road. He plans to ask burgesses for authority to use $50,000 in state grant money that Naugatuck has left over from previous, completed projects to pay for fencing around the park.

“We have land that is the perfect size,” Hess said. “And we have permission from the state of Connecticut to use the grant funds from former years, so no money would be applied toward this project from this year’s budget or next year’s.”

On top of a dog park, Hess’ plans call for a community garden, walking trails and, in the future, a portion of the area can be used for athletics.

The issue is expected to be on the board’s agenda for its Feb. 2 meeting.

The plan for the new dog park has meet some resistance.

Michael Stopa, a Republican who ran for burgess in November, started an online petition last week calling for borough officials “to freeze all plans for future parks (both for people and animals) until further notice.” As of Monday, the online petition had 30 supporters.

Stopa feels that due to the borough’s current financial situation officials shouldn’t be wasting time and energy discussing new projects, and that existing funds and manpower should be used to take better care of existing parks and properties

“The equipment is laced with graffiti and a lot of it is fade with wear and tear,” Stopa said in an email. “The grass on most properties in the borough, including our own town Green, is nonexistent and full of weeds. It basically becomes a dust ball by midsummer.”

Due to the poor conditions, Stopa contended, the parks make residents feel uneasy and unwelcomed.

Stopa said he’s also concerned that if the dog park gets built it will fall into disrepair in the future.

“I fear the dog park will be unkempt and like most fads will die out after a year or two. The liability for the borough should an accident or dog attack happen is far too great. Dog parks put too many unknown variables into the mix as you don’t know each dog’s temperament, training levels or health conditions,” Stopa said.

Hess responded to the opposition in a prepared statement.

In the release, Hess said the money to pay for the dog park will come from grants, not from the borough’s budget. Once the park is completed, he said, it will only require minimum maintenance from the borough.

“The only maintenance performed by town employees will be to mow the grass with all other matters tended to by the Volunteer Dog Park Committee,” Hess said.

Hess argued the dog park would help begin to change the perception of Naugatuck and have an effect on property values.

“We need to understand that there is a direct relationship between real property values and a town where there are things to do. Naugatuck has been perceived for too long as a town where there is nothing to do,” Hess said.

Hess said having things to do, such as a park that contained a dog park, a community garden, and an athletic field, would help bring people to the borough.

“We want people to have the desire to move to Naugatuck and we want our children and grandchildren to come back to live in Naugatuck after they finish school.  We need to stop the downward spiral in real property values and continue to expand the grand list,” Hess said.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.