By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — Hillside Avenue, the borough’s deteriorating and century-old brick road, looks to be repaired and its bricks preserved as much as possible as options are weighed out.
Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the brick road has deteriorated over the years due to a faulty storm water management plan. The borough has delayed improving the road for many reasons, including cost and its role in keeping drivers speed under control in the Hillside Intermediate School zone.
“It’s not an emergency but it’s an eyesore and it’s one of the most integral parts of our history and it’s very important to us,” Hess said at a meeting last Tuesday with officials.
Borough officials were able to have the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments reclassify Hillside Avenue as an arterial road which qualifies the borough to apply for a state Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LOTCIP) grant.
The concrete in the road has turned into sand and the groundwater causes the bed to move up and down when freeze and thaw happens, causing all sorts of problems, Public Works Director Jim Stewart said.
“The storm water system is totally flawed and has lost its way over the years and there would be no point in even attempting to repair the road without addressing the storm water system,” Hess said.
The road was laid in 1922 with an estimated 170,000 bricks specially designed to give horses traction on the steep slope.
The total project would cost about $3.9 million and includes using bricks again. The LOTCIP grant would cover the $2.24 million price tag associated with redoing the storm water management system and other improvements. The remaining $1.66 million would be covered by the borough.
Borough officials have multiple options for the Hillside Avenue Reconstruction Project: all bricks, mostly bricks and part bricks.
“I will say that the historical society and many, many people in Naugatuck want to see the brick remain and probably should remain from a historical standpoint,” Hess said. “In my opinion, it’s part of our culture but it’s still a big-ticket cost item.”
Hess said he’s in favor of mostly brick and maintaining the traditional look while continuing to upgrade the rest of the area.
Stewart said NVCOG has approved a preliminary application from the borough and will be submitting a second application within the next five months to get an answer in the spring.
Once the borough is approved by LOTCIP, it will take at least a year to go through the process, Hess said.
Burgesses expressed their concerns and deliberated how to move ahead with the reconstruction in the most cost-effective manner while preserving as many of the bricks as possible.
Burgess Charles Marenghi said the brick road is an integral part of the borough’s history and said his only fear is finding sources to pay for the bricks.
“I agree brick is what we should do there if we can find a way to do it,” Marenghi said.
Deputy Mayor Robert Neth said borough officials have been talking about this road for the last 30 years and unsuccessfully tried to get funding through any historic grants. The bricks were deemed unsuccessful at the Maple Street Bridge project which caused some skepticism, Neth added.
“Concern is that longevity, number one,” Neth said. “Number two, you really need to sell me on this and show me an area that has a brick road, that has last for a period of time, not just a straight road because this road is also a hilly road.”
Hess said the road is different from the bridge because there is a concrete base underneath the bridge with drainage that isn’t effective.
Burgess George Mudry said snowplows are his biggest concern on a brick road and thought of a hybrid approach.
“I don’t want to get rid of the history of it but do the two lanes of the road in asphalt and do the sides of the road in bricks,” Mudry said. “So you’re still keeping your brick, the historic factor of it but switching the main travel lanes over to asphalt.”
Marenghi said drainage issues can eventually affect Hillside Intermediate School in terms of possible mold and other possible issues to the building.