Grants to fund trio of improvement projects

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By ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — The borough has been awarded three grants totaling just over $8 million and includes more than $5.7 million in a Community Investment Fund grant to improve a section of Rubber Avenue; a $650,000 state Department of Transportation grant for a pedestrian bridge downtown; and a $1.6 million federal grant for the Naugatuck Senior Center.

The CIF grant will be used for Scott Street and Nettleton Avenue area to address storm water/storm-water issues and enhance the development of the Risdon property, a 12-acre former manufacturing site at 0 Andrew Ave. The funds will also supplement the borough’s current Rubber Avenue project that is underway.

The current Rubber Avenue project calls for a reconstruction of about two-thirds of a mile of Rubber Avenue from the intersection of Melbourne and Hoadley streets to Elm Street. That project will include drainage improvements, new sidewalks, landscaping along the road and a new modern roundabout at the four-way intersection of Rubber Avenue and Meadow and Cherry streets.

“Their pipes are older and undersized. There’s a lot of problems. On a town wide basis, we’re working in many, many areas but when we get money from the state, it really helps expedite the process,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

“It’s going to really help improve quality of life in those neighborhoods. It’s an older part of Naugatuck and it needs attention and this will really help.”

The “Rubber Avenue Corridor Revitalization” will transform the Rubber Avenue Corridor by investing in infrastructure to promote private investment while enabling connectivity and increasing resiliency through storm water/storm-water drainage upgrades, according to the press release.

“Project funds will be directed toward fixing the drainage near the Rubber Avenue corridor and installing sidewalks, which will improve safety in the area. Naugatuck High School is on Rubber Avenue, which is why it was so important that sidewalks be a part of this project, giving our students and residents a path to safely get to school and back,” Rep. Seth Bronko, R-Naugatuck, said in a news release announcing the funding.

“Not only will this help students, residents living in the area and local businesses, but we anticipate this funding will help connect the area to ongoing projects, spurring economic growth.”

An important connection between the east and west side of the borough is another goal to boost economic development downtown through the DOT grant to design a pedestrian bridge from the southern side of Parcel B between the new proposed train station and the Naugatuck Event Center across the Naugatuck River to eastern side of the borough. DOT will be relocating the train station from near the Station Restaurant at 195 Water St. to a portion of Parcel B.

“People coming off Route 8 will be able to park and walk across the river to the train station without having to drive and fight for a parking spot in downtown Naugatuck,” Hess said. “It will really enhance the use of the Waterbury Branch Line and it will bring more people into downtown Naugatuck to visit our stores and our restaurants and the downtown area.”

The proposed crossing will be the second pedestrian bridge in the borough and similar to the bridge at Linden Park. The proposed bridge will allow for people to ride their bikes. DOT is encouraging the borough to make the connection across the river, Hess said.

“All connections are beneficial to the economic development. This connection is even more beneficial because Route 8 and the river and the train tracks have historically divided Naugatuck into two parts, the east side and the west side,” Hess said.

“So this will actually connect the two sides, bring everyone together and make it much easier for people to get from one side to the other.”

Borough officials will also be working with federal government to upgrade the Naugatuck Senior Center at 300 Meadow St. Although they won’t start with the project right away, funds have been secured, Hess said.

The initial proposed project includes connecting the garage to the building, expanding the building by putting in additional space in the garage with a connecting hallway and upgrading the interior and exterior of the building.

Hess gave praise to U.S. Senators Christopher S. Murphy and Richard Blumenthal as well as Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro who were instrumental for the senior center funding.

The grants are extremely helpful and the borough being awarded all three grants over a weekend period is exciting and signifies hard work done by borough grant writer Danielle Goeway, the entire development team as well as from the state and federal delegations, Hess said.

“All of these projects require not only competence but teamwork and I’m very excited to be working on these new plans,” Hess said. “We have a good team, a strong team.”