Borough seeks grant to help flood-prone area

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A driver passes through the intersection of Charles Street and Cherry Street Extension in Naugatuck following a heavy rain storm last August. The borough is seeking a grant to make drainage improvements to the area. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Help could be on the way for residents of the flood-prone Nettleton Avenue and Cherry Street areas.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses agreed last Tuesday night to apply for an $11.3 million hazard mitigation grant from the state, which has money left over from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s allotment after Hurricane Irene two years ago.

“We certainly don’t expect to get all $11.3 million, but it’s our hope that we would get a reasonable figure to help out,” Borough Engineer Wayne Zirolli said.

The state only has about $6 million to give, said James Stewart, director of public works.

However, upon inspection, Zirolli said Nettleton Avenue needs improvements — mainly larger pipes — that would cost $5.3 million. All the desired improvements to the drainage on Cherry Street would cost an additional $6 million, Zirolli said.

Those areas have antiquated drainage systems that could not handle a freak storm last August. Residents of Cherry Street Extension had their basements fill up with several feet of water, which formed a river in the street.

Although storms like that do not come around often, the houses on those streets tend to flood during any heavy rain, residents and officials have said.

Stewart said he and Zirolli submitted a preliminary application for the state to review, but they are months away from a final application because they are working to identify which parts of Nettleton Avenue and Cherry Street could benefit most from the money.

“We have to figure out an area that has had enough damage and that can work as an independent project,” Stewart said.

Burgesses expressed concern over the requirement the borough include a commitment letter indicating it will match 25 percent of the grant funding.

The burgesses voted to have borough attorney Edward Fitzpatrick review the letter so the borough is not required to contribute the funds without knowing the exact amount.

The allocation might need approval from the Board of Finance, Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi said.

Officials have also considered bonding the money necessary for drainage repairs through the five-year capital committee, Mayor Robert Mezzo said. The borough is in the final stages of repairing and widening one section of a storm water drain pipe on Nettleton Avenue, which has cost about $600,000 in state grant money allotted in 2009 and 2010.

“In many cases the costs are quite high to address the flooding areas,” Mezzo said. “That’s really the reason that they haven’t been addressed over the years.”