NAUGATUCK — One of the most visible owners of blighted property in Naugatuck turns out to be — Naugatuck.
Last week, a citizen-led committee charged with beautifying the community showed local officials several photos depicting what will be considered blight when a new ordinance takes effect Nov. 1.
When the screen displayed the town-owned eyesore known as Building 25 — the former main office building for the U.S. Rubber Co. on Maple Street next to Town Hall — Blight and Beautification Committee co-chairwoman B.J. Forlenzo succinctly summed up the consensus of people in the audience.
“Now that’s blight with a capital B,” she proclaimed.
Her point was that, like some private residential and business owners, the borough has its own dilapidated buildings, land swaths where grass is more than three feet tall and generally rundown properties. Committee members and the elected borough officials they are working with admit there are blighted public properties. The question is, what do they plan to do about it?
Deputy Mayor Tamath K. Rossi, who worked with the committee over the past year on the 12-page blight ordinance, said the group recognizes there are “several areas of borough-owned property that could fit into any one of the definitions of blight” listed in ordinance language that was unanimously adopted by the Board of Mayor and Burgesses last week. The ordinance allows fines up to $100 a day for each day owners do not comply with orders to clean up their homes or clean overgrown grass and brush.
“We realize that we have to get our house in order before we go out and start fining people for failing to take care of their own properties,” Rossi said.
Mayor Robert A. Mezzo recognizes the need to spruce up two public properties widely considered to be offensive: Building 25 and the Naugatuck Recycling Center on the Rubber Avenue corridor.
Naugatuck Economic Development Corp. has been in discussions for more than three years with Waterbury-based Seven Angels Theatre group to reconstruct part of Building 25 into a black box theater capable of seating 200 people. Plans for that building also call for the relocation of the NEDC office and the Naugatuck Historical Society’s headquarters, both of which are located in the former train station at 195 Water St. Plans for transformation of Building 25, which would cost more than $2 million, also include the installation of office space for town meetings.
Mezzo said officials are working with NEDC to obtain economic development funds to revitalize the building.
The immediate future of the recycling center is even more unclear than that of Building 25.
The borough wants to relocate its Department of Public Works facility as well as the recycling center, both of which sit on heavily traveled Rubber Avenue and mar the image of the community. Ideally, officials want both facilities in the same location.
“There is no denying that we’d like to have the recycling center off of Rubber Avenue,” Mezzo said. “We’re still looking at all options, but at this point we don’t have a suitable location or funding for that very costly endeavor.”