By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — The borough is exploring paths to increase pedestrian mobility with the development or repair of sidewalks throughout the municipality.
Borough officials are establishing a sidewalk group in order to develop a borough-wide plan that can include potential grants, town funds, incentives and penalties for residents who maintain or don’t maintain their portion of sidewalks. The group will include Deputy Mayor Robert Neth, Burgess Mike Bronko, Public Works Director Jim Stewart, and a possible Board of Education staff member.
The sidewalk issue is a long-standing headache in the borough, Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said at the Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting on Oct. 4.
“When I started as mayor, the roads were a nightmare and we’ve been spending a lot of money fixing the roads and we put a major dent into the problem. But we still have a way to go and we’re still spending money,” Hess said. “Every time you do a new road and you finish it, it highlights the woeful inadequacies of our sidewalks.”
Hess said the borough is responsible for sidewalks on borough property while homeowners are responsible for the remaining sidewalks. Despite an ordinance in place, officials say not all residents abide.
Bronko said Field Street, where people walk often, is particularly concerning.
“It’s very, very dangerous for them to be on that road,” Bronko said.
Hess said parts of community has sidewalks that aren’t necessary and others have none.
“We have to treat everyone the same. You can’t just fix one part of town and not the other,” Hess said. “We have to have a town-wide plan. There’s no doubt it’s a huge problem.”
Burgess Rocky Vitale said someone from the school board should be involved.
Burgess Meghan Smith said besides putting in sidewalks so students don’t have to walk in the street, there needs to be a new ordinance that is effective for people to maintain their portion of the sidewalk, such as shoveling snow.
Neth said it took a decade for sidewalks to be installed at City Hill Street and the only reason he was looking for sidewalks is because he used to watch students walk in the middle of road at times.
Burgess Charles P. Marenghi said the topic of sidewalks is the ultimate transportation-orientated district issue.
“It’s the oldest form of transportation – walking and with 16.2 square miles roughly here in town, our ability to walk around town safely on good sidewalks is important,” Marenghi said.
Burgess George Mudry said as important as having an ordinance is, officials need to praise residents who do what they’re supposed to as much as punish people who don’t take responsibility.
“I think it’ll be good that we get some sort of an incentive for folks to make them do it,” Mudry said.
Hess said officials will have the borough grant writer look into what grants are available.
Resident Karen Alaburda, who lives on Aetna Street, said she and her daughter are concerned for their area as she sees students walking in that area and it’s an alternate route for people walking on Rubber Avenue.
Aetna Street has sidewalks, but not for the entire street.
“If the sidewalks are in a deplorable condition, there are no sidewalks,” Alaburda said.
Alaburda said sidewalks will bring up property values, bring safety to walkers and drivers as well as bring curb appeal to the neighborhood.
Hess reiterated to Alaburda that the borough sidewalk group should prioritize streets and that certain streets could receive action before lesser-used roads.
“Good sidewalks make good community,” Bronko said.