NAUGATUCK — The borough wants to make sure everybody can see its new, state-of-the-art high school that should be completed within the next couple of years.
In an attempt to make the building and its upscale amenities more noticeable, Naugatuck officials may purchase up to five houses along Rubber Avenue in front of the school. They plan to tear them down.
“Now that we’re spending $81 million on this school project, this would open up the whole entrance to the school and would be nice for Rubber Avenue,” said Burgess Bob Neth, chairman of the Naugatuck High School Renovation Committee. “It would give us additional parking that we desperately need for that facility. It will also make it so that we may be able to have a different entryway, a different setup for how we enter the cars and exit the cars.”
Hank Witkoski, a real estate agent who represents two of the homeowners, has approached the borough about the sale. The two homeowners, who combined own three houses, are interested in selling, but at least one homeowner is not at this point, Neth said.
Neth said he would not, under any circumstances, consider trying to take the properties through eminent domain.
If the borough can come to an agreement with the homeowners, Neth said, Naugatuck would likely have money from the project’s contingency account to pay for the properties, which could cost more than $300,000. Neth’s committee is trying to decide whether it would be best to purchase the homes in the near future, while the money is available, or wait until the project is complete and see what money is left.
“We don’t want people out there to feel like we’re pressuring them into selling. If they decide they want to, great. If not, oh well. … Since we were approached by homeowners, we have a responsibility to explore this option because it could be good for the town if it happens.” – Robert Neth
Several other details need to be worked out, such as whether the borough would try to purchase the three homes whose owners definitely want to sell if they can’t strike a deal with the other two homeowners.
The borough also needs to negotiate with homeowners over the sale prices. The home addresses are 507, 515, 521, 527, 533 Rubber Ave. They are Cape Cod-style houses built in the 1940s. They are appraised between $62,920 to $74,650, according to Naugatuck land records.
If the borough paid the current appraised value of all five homes, it would have to shell out $337,130.
Neth said the only way he would move forward with bringing the plan to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses is if his committee came to a consensus.
“We had discussed this possibility a while ago and everyone thought it was a great idea,” he said. “It kind of got put on the back burner because there was so much going on with the project itself. But since we’ve recently been approached by homeowners, we are considering this again.”
At least one homeowner in the area, Evelyn Sawicki, is not willing to sell at this point.
She owns a hair salon that she has operated out of her home since 1985 — she has lived in the house for 39 years.
“If they plan to move forward with this, they are going to face a little bit of a fight because this is my income. … I also don’t know if the taxpayers are going to want to pay for five houses that will be demolished,” she said.
Neth said he’s not looking to make people feel uncomfortable.
“We don’t want people out there to feel like we’re pressuring them into selling,” he said. “If they decide they want to, great. If not, oh well. … Since we were approached by homeowners, we have a responsibility to explore this option because it could be good for the town if it happens.”