NAUGATUCK — After spending most of her life at 10 Cotton Hollow Road, Anita Finkle will have to say goodbye to her childhood home.
The single-family house is one of two homes — the other is at 16 Cotton Hollow Road — the state Department of Transportation plans to buy to make way for a major reconstruction of Cross Street.
“I don’t want to give you a sob story. I grew up there. My brothers were playing football on Cotton Hollow Road with no problem because there were so few cars,” said Anita Finkle, following a public meeting on the project last week.
Anita Finkle’s parents bought the house in 1964 and raised three children there. When her mother passed away, the house was left to Anita Finkle and her husband, Frank, who also raised three children there.
The house at 16 Cotton Hollow Road is a two-family home owned by Mark and Donna Ferrari, who rent out the duplex. The house was built by Anita Finkle’s father.
If everything goes as planned, the two homes along with parts of seven other properties, including two cemeteries and Cross Street Intermediate School, will be owned by the state. Eleven other properties will require permanent easements.
The property acquisitions are a step in the reconstruction of Cross Street from Route 8 to New Haven Road, or Route 63. The project is slated to begin in the spring of 2018.
The plan calls for digging up and repaving the entire 3,640 linear feet of the road, explained Milone & MacBroom Project Manager Paul DeStefano.
The road, which currently varies in width from 22 feet to 40 feet, will be made 30 feet wide between Andrasko Road and Route 63, DeStefano said. This includes 11-foot travel lanes and 4-foot wide shoulders. There will be a 3-foot wide snow shelf between the roadway and the sidewalk, which will be 5 feet wide. The sidewalk will run from Andrasko Road to Route 63.
A new storm drainage system and retaining walls will also be built. A stone retaining wall supporting the roadway is crumbling, which would cost $180,000 to repair, Public Works Director Jim Stewart.
The intersection of Cross Street and Cotton Hollow Road will also be reconfigured.
The entire project is expected to cost $6.6 million. The federal government is covering 80 percent of the cost, the state is covering 10 percent, and the borough is covering 10 percent, or $660,000.
Milone & MacBroom Manager of Highway Design Michael Joyce said the road is being reconstructed mainly due to safety concerns.
A recently concluded three-year study found that 10 accidents occurred along Cross Street, Joyce said. Five of them were “fixed-object collisions,” which means the vehicle hit a stationary object along the road. In addition, the road has poor sightlines, including near the school.
“If you stand at Cross Street School and look left there are periods of time where you can have a car disappear near the cemetery driveway and then come back up again,” Joyce said.
According to Dennis McDonald, of the DOT’s Office of Rights of Way, all property rights have to be acquired by the design certification date. Currently that date is July 19, 2017.
McDonald said the state will work with property owners to reach a price that is agreeable to all parties. However, he said, the state will not shy away from invoking its power to ensure the properties are acquired.
“If an agreement cannot be reached the department will invoke its power of eminent domain. At that point the original offer amount will be deposited in the court system and you will receive a letter explaining your rights moving forward,” McDonald said.
The Finkles and the Ferraris are in the process of coming up with a price for their homes. State statute says homeowners are entitled to 125 percent of the fair market value of the house, which will be determined by appraisers for both the state and the homeowner. Currently, the borough has the Finkle property appraised at $122,350 and the Ferrari property appraised at $150,970.
Frank Finkle said the couple doesn’t plan to fight the project, but isn’t willing to simply walk away either.
“We’ve all read about Oxford, we’ve all read of other places where they just walked in and said, ‘this is what we are doing.’ You either become part of the solution or get out of the way,” Frank Finkle said.
Frank Finkle said the one thing he has asked is “to be treated fairly and respectfully.” And while that has happened so far, he is concerned about some of questions the state has been asking — particularly a question regarding how much they are willing to take on for a loan.
“We own this place. That’s what irritates me. I am 53 years old. I am not about to take on a 30-year mortgage because you are kicking me out of my house,” Frank Finkle said. “I am not expecting to walk away with $500,000 on this deal, but at the same time you are not about to walk up and hand me a $25,000 check and tell me to have a nice day. That’s not going to happen.”
The Republican-American contributed to this article.