Town leaders in Naugatuck, Prospect, and Beacon Falls all echoed the same manta — “we’ll do the best we can with what little we have.” With the economy seemingly at a standstill, the coming year promises to be a slim one for town budgets. Even so, local town leaders have a lot of projects on their plates for 2011.
Moving forward on Renaissance Place
Naugatuck is waiting to see if state grant money comes through for Renaissance Place, the downtown revitalization project town officials have been working on for the past several years.
“We’ve gotten a lot of things in place,” Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi said.
The biggest focus is on the Saint Mary’s project to build a new medical center because that component is coming to the forefront very quickly, Rossi said.
“If we can get that off the ground, that would be huge,” she said.
The borough has already completed the Environmental Impact Evaluation and Municipal Development Plan for downtown revitalization.
The remediation of Parcel C should be complete by the end of January and a remedial action plan for Parcel B, the General DataComm property, should be finished in early 2011.
The borough will also enact phase I environmental examination of the town-owned train station. Cleaning contaminated soil on all these properties is an important step to prepare them for redevelopment.
As plans move forward, the borough will continue negotiations with state and federal stakeholders for assistance with the borough’s infrastructure upgrades, including a new parking garage, to leverage private investment for Renaissance Place, Mayor Robert Mezzo said.
Naugatuck positioning itself for economic development
Naugatuck has big plans during hard times.
“While the nation still suffers from the effects of the ‘Great Recession’ and painfully slow recovery, Naugatuck has positioned itself for revitalization by proactively planning during the past two years,” Mezzo wrote in an e-mail. He said the town would continue investigation of the possibility of creating additional, smaller lots for industrial development in the industrial park and negotiations regarding the expansion of operations at a portion of the Chemtura property, the former Uniroyal Chemical.
“We will continue to work on all related projects … so that we will be in the best position to take advantage of increased private investment as the economy recovers,” Mezzo said.
Rossi said she plans to act proactively to make sure Naugatuck can continue to sustain itself through this difficult period at a minimal impact for the taxpayers.
As a taxpayer herself, Rossi said she is aware of the difficulty people are facing financially. She said she is confident the joint boards would present a lean budget without jeopardizing the essential services the town provides.
“We’ll be scrutinizing every line, as we do every year,” Rossi said.
Sound financial management by Comptroller Wayne McAllister and his staff resulted in a surplus from the 2009-2010 budget, according to Mezzo. He said he hoped to use the surplus to fund one-time expenses.
“We have resisted the urge to utilize budgetary gimmicks during difficult economic times. We properly funded our pension and debt service obligations while appropriately using dollars from fund balance, commonly referred to as a ‘rainy day fund,’ only for one time revenues and with adequate reserves,” Mezzo said in an e-mail.
Mezzo looks ahead to 2011
Since taking office, Mezzo said he achieved several of his goals to change how the local government operates, but he still hopes to work on some areas in the coming year.
In 2011, Mezzo hopes to reduce duplication of services between the municipality and board of education for business related functions; produce a credible and inclusive strategic plan to will improve the long term operation of our municipal government; explore new and practical regional collaborations that will further reduce the cost of service delivery in the near and long-term future, and investigate and implement charter revisions that will improve how the borough operates.
A blight officer may also be in store for Naugatuck in 2011.
While resources are still scarce, the Board of Mayor and Burgesses believes that the borough can afford a part-time blight officer who will not only enforce the borough’s new blight ordinance, but assist with on-going beautification efforts currently being done by volunteers, Mezzo said.
Mezzo is also eying a long-term plan for the treatment plant.
Naugatuck needs to create a comprehensive facilities plan and implementation strategy that will address the long term needs of Naugatuck’s wastewater and sewage treatment plant, according to Mezzo.
“Such a plan will not only plan the way to address any outstanding issues of odor, but also any upgrades associated with increased mandates requiring decreases in phosphate and mercury emissions and upgrades to the facility’s incinerator,” Mezzo said in an e-mail.
New parks to provide Naugatuck residents with recreation
Over the past year, the borough has worked on several new recreational parks scheduled to open in 2011.
Gunntown Passive Park and Nature Preserve should be ready for an official opening in the spring of 2011, with programs scheduled to start in January. This will be the first truly passive nature park in Naugatuck’s history, according to Mezzo.
A new field at Fawn Meadow will represent the first addition of active recreational space in Naugatuck in over a decade, Mezzo said.
The Parks and Recreation Department is also planning a baseball field on the land to be granted to the borough as part of the Apple Estates subdivision. The new field would serve high-school level leagues.
In addition, the borough plans to install synthetic grass at the Veterans Field sports complex and further pursue the possibility of a dog park in Naugatuck, Mezzo said.
Once every dozen years, every property in Naugatuck must be assessed to determine its value for tax purposes. This is that year for both Naugatuck and Beacon Falls.
In order to set a direction for Naugatuck to thrive in the coming years, we need to all get together sand build on the projects and idea put forth by Mayoer Mezzo and those that came before him. Success should be measured not just by projects that provide instant gratification, but build a base for future growth and income.
The current administration has done a good job in setting direction and forming a base to build on. Now we need to all cooperate to keep moving forward, sometimes in small steps, sometimes in leaps, and ignore those who simply bring forth the negative on all issues for personal publicity.