Borough seeks funds for drainage repairs

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Workers clean up at the intersection of Hillside Avenue and Meadow Street in Naugatuck following flooding Aug. 1. The borough is seeking state funds to make drainage repairs in areas throughout Naugatuck. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are hoping to get some leftover state funds from last year’s Hurricane Irene cleanup to make drainage repairs in the wake of a severe rainstorm last month that caused flash flooding.

The borough’s oldest areas, including downtown, Andrew Avenue and Cherry Street Extension, are served by antiquated drainage systems that need upgrading, Mayor Robert Mezzo said. Comprehensive repairs for six to eight problem areas scattered throughout the borough would cost untold millions of dollars, Mezzo said.

“The problems are immense and the solutions are extremely expensive and they’ve developed over the course of 50 to 100 years,” Mezzo said. “The problem becomes the cost of the solution, not the desire to enact it.”

State officials began working with the borough after Gov. Dannel Malloy toured flood-damaged areas last month, Mezzo said. Whether any money will be available has not yet been determined. If the state can give money, borough officials will have to rank which areas need the most attention and hire an engineer to determine solutions, Mezzo said.

Mezzo said he is working with the Public Works Department to determine possible projects that could be eligible for a state grant.

More than 5 inches of rain fell on Naugatuck in an hour Aug. 1 during a highly localized storm that flooded areas all over the borough. The downtown area along Meadow Street was one of the hardest hit.

The basement of Alderson Funeral Home at 201 Meadow St. filled up with almost 7 feet of water, said owner John Ford, who is chair of the Street Commission. Ford had gutted the basement, a former smoking room, after a flood last October, but said he still paid about $12,000 to replace the furnace and electrical system.

The experience caused Ford and other property owners on Meadow Street to meet last month and ask for help from borough officials, including Mezzo, Mayoral Aide Ed Carter and Jim Stewart, director of public works.

“There’s major problems throughout downtown because of the overflow,” Ford said. “It’s like having a straw at the end of the pipeline instead of a pipe.”

The state is responsible for some storm water lines connected to Meadow Street, which is part of state Route 63, Stewart said. Those pipes, as well as the borough-owned lines they connect to, were overloaded Aug. 1 with water flowing down from Terrace and Hillside Avenues, Stewart said. The pipes had not been clogged, he said.

“The whole town was overflowing, obviously,” Stewart said. “The pipes need to be bigger.”

Stewart said he hopes to submit a preliminary plan this month to the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Officials said they are also considering an application to the borough’s five-year capital improvements committee for repairs the state does not cover.

“That is the quickest way to address all our drainage issues, is to bond it, but money is not free,” Mezzo said.