State cuts grant for agency

NAUGATUCK — With the recent loss of a significant state grant to the Human Resource Development Agency, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess is exploring ways to offer the same programs for less money.

The independent, nonprofit agency manages the senior bus and medical bus for Naugatuck and offers assistance with oil, gas, electric and rent for struggling residents.

The $200,000 grant it lost was to facilitate a program for the Western CT Mental Health Network, according to Lynn Donovan, who manages social services for the agency.

“We’re just trying to move forward,” Donovan said, stressing that the agency is continuing all its services for borough residents. “We’re doing fine. We’re very busy. We’re really positive down here.”

The Naugatuck Police Department is holding a toy drive at Walmart on New Haven Road on Dec. 18. The toys will be donated to the agency for distribution to Naugatuck residents who cannot afford Christmas presents for their children. One 86-year-old woman has already donated 100 scarves to the cause, Donovan said.

Borough taxpayers contribute about $105,000 for the bus and another $30,000 for social services to the agency. The nonprofit receives another roughly $29,000 from two other grants, Donovan said.

Hess said he’d like to salvage the Human Resource Development Agency’s programs and relocate them somewhere else, possibly to the Naugatuck Senior Center. Although he hasn’t discussed it with the other burgesses, it is not a new idea.

In 2013, consulting firm Blum Shapiro of West Hartford suggested that transportation services offered by the Human Resources Development Agency and the senior center should be combined.

Hess’ plan would put the agency’s Rubber Avenue building back on the town’s tax rolls and may save money which could be used to upgrade the senior center facilities, he said. Also, he said, the agency’s executive director is planning to retire soon.

In 2010, HRD was on the brink of folding due to cuts in state grants. At the time, the borough considered cutting its $30,000 allocation to pay for Donovan’s part-time position there. However, that borough funding was preserved when social services advocates argued that Donovan helps secure grant money from other organizations to help Naugatuck residents get back on their feet.

Donovan takes requests for money and other forms of assistance, investigates each request, and monitors grants from the government and organizations, the Republican-American reported.

“We’ll work with them so they can retain the nuts and bolts of what they do,” Hess said.