NAUGATUCK — Borough leaders have asked school officials to apply for state grant money that could be used to purchase five homes in front of Naugatuck High School on Rubber Avenue.
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses agreed to ask the Board of Education to include the request in its application to the state for school construction reimbursement grants for the ongoing high school renovate-to-new project. Naugatuck officials believe removing the homes would give better access to the high school, a better view of the structure and would provide for more parking spaces.
“This just gives us the means to be able to pursue purchasing properties if the owners want to sell,” said Burgess Robert Neth, chairman of the Naugatuck High School Renovation Committee. “This does not mean we are necessarily going to do it.”
The idea of purchasing the homes popped up two years ago when a homeowner approached borough officials saying he would be willing to sell. So far, some of the homeowners who have properties in front of the high school have said they would be willing to discuss a sale. One homeowner is against the idea.
Whether the borough would buy some of the properties but not all remains to be seen, Neth said. The home addresses are 507, 515, 521, 527 and 533 Rubber Ave. They are Cape Cod-style homes built in the 1940s. They are appraised at between $62,920 and $74,650.
The borough and the homeowners would have to discuss a price. Plus, Naugatuck would need to set aside money to demolish the homes and landscape the area after they are gone. The homes alone would cost $338,000 if Naugatuck buys them all for the value of the current appraisals. If Naugatuck does not end up purchasing the homes, the borough would not get that money.
Neth has made it clear that he will not consider trying to take the properties through eminent domain.
Homeowner Evelyn Sawicki, whose yellow house at 533 Rubber Ave. abuts the high school’s main entrance, has said she does not want to sell. She has lived in the house for about 40 years and operates a hair salon from her home.
Neth said if the deal goes through, he believes it would be a good thing for the school and the borough. But, he said, he is not trying to force people to sell.
“It is just an idea at this point,” he said.
The borough’s $81 million renovate-to-new project at NHS, which voters approved at a referendum, has been ongoing for about two years and is expected to be completed by the beginning of the next school year. Naugatuck is eligible for up to 75 percent reimbursement from the state Department of Education.