Firm settles with borough over brick issue on bridge

Bricks that line the Whittemore Memorial Bridge in Naugatuck shifted due to a design flaw after a reconstruction project finished last year, causing bumps and depressions along the road. The engineering consulting firm that did the design work for the project recently agreed to pay the borough $90,000 as part of a settlement. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — An engineering consulting firm has agreed to pay the borough $90,000 as part of a settlement over problems with the bricks that line the Whittemore Memorial Bridge.

The borough completed reconstructing the bridge, which spans the Naugatuck River along Maple Street, last year. The project was designed to restore the bridge to how it looked before the Flood of 1955, including laying bricks along the bridge instead of paving the road. Shortly after the bridge reopened to two-way traffic, the bricks along the bridge shifted, creating bumps and depressions along the road.

The problems with the bricks stemmed from drainage issues and a flaw in the design of the project, according to officials. The bridge had gravel and stone under the bricks when it was originally built, which allowed for proper draining. After the Flood of 1955, the bridge was paved. The bridge was filled with concrete under the bricks during the reconstruction project to make it structurally stronger, officials previously said, but this changed the bridge’s permeability.

CHA Consulting Inc., a firm with headquarters in Albany, N.Y. and formerly known as Clough, Harbour & Associates, did the design work for the project.

“Both sides recognized that there was an error in the design for the bricks,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess. “They immediately acknowledged the error and agreed to participate in a settlement of the issue.”

Under the settlement, the firm will pay the borough $90,000 and the borough will release it from any responsibility connected with work done on the project.

Hess said the $90,000 figure was settled on because that’s how much more it contractually cost for the bricks over paving the road. He said both sides agreed it’s a “fair and reasonable settlement.”

“They (CHA Consulting) are a very reputable company and they accepted responsibility immediately and acted in a very responsible manner,” Hess said.

CHA Consulting Chief Executive Officer and President Mike Carroll didn’t respond to a message left with his office and an email seeking comment.

The money from the settlement will be put toward repairing the bridge. What shape the repairs take will be up for discussion.

Hess said officials are exploring potential options to determine whether it’s feasible to save the bricks on the bridge. If they don’t work, he said, officials will pick one of several options to remove the bricks and pave the road.

“This is a situation where we can’t make everyone happy and we will pick the best long-term solution for the borough,” Hess said.

Hess wants to try to save the bricks. He said the bridge is a tribute to John Howard Whittemore, who he described as the most important contributor to the borough.

“He deserves an honor,” Hess said. “The bridge was originally brick and we would like to try and preserve it. But because of the concrete structural portion of the bridge, it’s much more difficult.”