Housing authority asks borough to waive fees

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NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck Housing Authority is hoping the borough will waive $77,000 in building fees for a major renovation project.

The housing authority is planning a $5.9 million renovation project at the Oak Terrace housing complex off of Conrad Street. The complex has 194 public housing units for low-income, elderly, and disable persons. The renovation project, which has been in the works since 2014, includes renovating the kitchens and bathrooms in the units, fixing sidewalks, repaving roads, asbestos abatement, and replacing siding on the units.

Naugatuck Housing Authority Executive Director Christine Warren and consultant Steve Ball came before the Board of Mayor and Burgesses during its regular meeting Dec. 5 to ask the borough to waive the building permit fees for the project.

Warren said the project will be paid for in part by a $3.7 million grant from the Connecticut Department of Housing and a $1.5 million loan the housing authority took from Ion Bank.

However, Ball told the board the housing authority is still short money to pay for everything.

“Right now, after engineering and putting reserves in, we have a shortfall of approximately $126,000. We are looking for any way to save money without having to take items out of the scope of work because the development definitely needs the improvements,” Ball said.

The fees are one of the places the housing authority is looking to save money. Ball said the housing authority didn’t have the pay the fees in the past, but that changed about a year ago.

“The building department just started to charge for the major renovation projects and building permit fees. Up until that point all we paid was an educational fee,” Ball said.

On Dec. 5, the board raised concerns about simply forgoing that amount of money.

“This is a very significant fee you are asking us to waive,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

Burgess Rocky Vitale asked if the cost would be split between the tenants.

Warren said it was impossible to do that at the housing authority since, by state law, the residents can’t be charged more than 30 percent of their income.

Vitale also questioned why the borough should do this for the housing authority if it can’t do it for any other resident.

“If a homeowner that is paying taxes comes to me and says, ‘I can’t afford the permitting fee, would you waive it,’ we couldn’t do that. So why would we do it for this group? Why should the taxpayers pay for these permits,” Vitale said.

Ball said the housing authority provides a service to people who would not otherwise be able to afford to live in the borough.

“We provide this service to the elderly and disabled tenants in the community that are the least likely to be able to pay these fees. It was a past practice of the borough to do this and they stopped that practice,” Ball said.

On Tuesday night, Warren came before the board again during a special meeting to discuss the issue.

Warren presented a list of projects where the borough had waived the building fees and said that it had been past practice to do so. However, Building Official Bill Herzman sent a letter to the board showing projects where building fees had been collected.

Deputy Mayor Robert Neth pointed out that the last project at Oak Terrace the borough waived fees on was an upgrade of 10 kitchens in 2013 to bring them into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. Neth said the fees would have been waived for anyone because it was an ADA project.

The board requested that Warren meet with the building inspector to create a comprehensive list, and expects to take the issue up again at its January meeting.