Former armory’s transition almost complete

Sisters Julie Tiedamann, 13, and Megan Tiedamann, 9, dance in the gym of the former Naugatuck Armory on Rubber Avenue on Friday. The borough plans to open the gym to the public in a few weeks. -LARAINE WESCHLER/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — The borough is getting ready to open a new recreation center at the former U.S. Army National Guard Armory on Rubber Avenue in the next few weeks.

Borough employees from the Department of Public Works are installing backboards for the basketball court. As soon as that’s complete, they’ll paint the lines on the gym floor and put on a final coat of polyurethane, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said. He said the gym should be open for basketball, volleyball and other sports activities within two weeks.

He said borough workers are doing the work during their regular shifts and not costing anything for overtime.

The Parks and Recreation Department is also getting ready to move its offices to the armory soon, Hess said. Parks and Recreation and Naugatuck Youth Services will each take two of the rooms on either side of the gym, leaving several rooms empty for future use.

Parks and Recreation will be in charge of scheduling the use of the building for community groups. The department is currently headquartered on Rubber Avenue. The borough is in discussions with Chemtura to release property restrictions on the borough’s Rubber Avenue properties with the goal of eventually selling those properties for commercial use, Hess said. In the meantime, the borough will use the building for storage.

The borough is also in negotiations to acquire the 86-acre former Uniroyal Chemical Co. property, which is owned by Chemtura Corp. If that happens, the borough may relocate the public works facility on Rubber Avenue there.

The Parks Department started using the armory’s garage when the borough took possession of the 3.5-acre property in November. The borough paid about $500 in conveyance fees and $3,500 to have a licensed environmental professional conduct analysis of the property.

Naugatuck Youth Services Director Kristin Mabrouk said the nonprofit plans to use the space for after-school programs for teens.

“We know that there’s always been a need for places for teens to go and be safe and wanted,” Mabrouk said.

She said the organization has been training a group of peer leaders to help organize and facilitate programs at least three days a week.

The program will include structured, supervised free time and an engaging learning activity.

The teen advisory board hopes the program will increase teens’ feelings of being connected to the community, provide positive role models and opportunities to become a role model, promote a positive outlook on life and self-confidence, improve life skills and the ability to work with a team.

In the fall, the nonprofit’s after-school program averaged 27 teens per day, maxing out the space at Youth Services headquarters on Scott Street.

Mabrouk said she recently brought some volunteers to see the new facility.

“They couldn’t wipe the smiles off their face because they were so excited about the programs we were able to do in that big space,” she said.