NAUGATUCK — The old carpet at the east side firehouse on May Street was more than 40 years old.
It was stained, it was ripped and it stunk.
Firefighters wanted to replace it and make other necessary improvements to the building, which hadn’t seen many upgrades since it was built in 1969. But they knew any requests for money to make the repairs likely wouldn’t make it past the desk of Fire Chief Ken Hanks, let alone the Board of Finance.
So the firefighters took a different approach — they made the repairs themselves.
Firefighter Todd Gallino led the charge. In his other life, he lays tile professionally. So he and other firefighters thought it was best to remove the old carpet and have Gallino replace it with new brown, porcelain tiles in the kitchen and living room.
And the firefighters didn’t stop there — they installed new countertops, a backsplash over the sink and refurbished cupboards in the kitchen.
“Our guys are always willing to go the extra mile to help out the town,” Gallino said. “We knew this was a cost the borough couldn’t absorb right now, so we wanted to do it to help. And we were glad to do it because it’s our home away from home.”
He said several area stores provided materials at a discount, including Valley Floor Covering in Naugatuck, Lowe’s in Plainville and American Flag Countertops in Beacon Falls.
Firefighters also recycled materials from Naugatuck High School, which is undergoing an $81 million renovation. The school had replaced drop ceiling tiles in the library/media center a few years before the project started, so those materials were nearly new. Officials from O&G Industries, which is doing the renovation, were not going to use the ceiling tiles, so they gave them to the fire department.
Retired firefighter Jim Roberts, who had experience installing ceiling tiles, replaced the entire ceiling at the east side firehouse.
The firefighters either did the work during down time on their shifts or on their days off.
All told, the repairs cost the borough $5,000, which is the amount typically allocated to the department annually for building repairs. If they had done it through a capital projects request, it could have cost about $40,000 or more, officials estimate.
Just about all of the firefighters pitched in, though most of the work was done by Greg McKirryher, John Lauer, Glen Noll and Kevin Grotke. Retired firefighters, including Roberts, Jim Trzaski and Bob Ragauskus were instrumental, as well, Gallino said.
Hanks said he was impressed by his staff. And he said it’s not the first time they have done something like this — a few years ago, the same crew helped renovate and expand the dispatch room at the fire department headquarters on Old Firehouse Road downtown.
Board of Finance member Julie Branco Sampaio expressed her appreciation after last week’s meeting.
“I am all about giving back to the town, and it’s always so nice to see people who do the same,” she said. “These guys didn’t have to do any of this but they did it out of the goodness of their hearts for the betterment of the town. Those are the types of town employees we have and it’s wonderful to see.”