NAUGATUCK — Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess sees an economic renaissance on the horizon for Naugatuck.
That was the message Hess had for the audience during the Naugatuck Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mayoral Breakfast Nov. 30 at Jesse Camille’s Restaurant.
Hess spoke of two major projects planned in the borough: the proposed “Port of Naugatuck” and the transit-oriented development on parcels A and B.
The Port of Naugatuck would be an inland port and intermodal transportation hub on the mostly-vacant 86.5 acre parcel of land along Elm Street that is owned by Lanxess, the successor of Chemtura Corp.
The plan is to utilize the Pan Am Railways line that runs through the property to deliver goods via rail and then ship them to their destination using tractor-trailer trucks. The plan also includes an inland port on the site, an area where goods coming from abroad could go through customs.
“This project is exciting because of the economic forces behind it. I wake up every morning working on it and thinking about it,” Hess said. “It’s a game-changer. This is the best way we can get our tax base back. Once we get it back we can use it to reduce the mill rate and have a nicer town and have everything multiply from there.”
The transit-oriented development project on parcels A and B, the former General DataComm building and the parking lot that runs along Old Firehouse Road, would be a mix of commercial and residential uses that would breathe new life into the borough’s downtown, Hess said.
Hess said the project relies on improvements being made to the Waterbury branch line of the Metro-North Railroad before it can move forward. These improvements include sidings that allow two trains to pass at once, more train cars and moving the train station from its current location at 195 Water St. to Parcel B.
These improvements are expected to take years to be completed, Hess said.
In the short term, Hess said he is working on a number of green energy projects that would have an immediate effect on Naugatuck.
“It is the best way I can find to actually save some money in the budget. There aren’t too many things we can cut, but we can make some significant savings in green energy projects,” Hess said.
The borough recently installed three fuel cells, which can generate a combined 12,089 megawatt hours per year, at the wastewater treatment plant at 500 Cherry St. Ext. The project is expected to save the borough $175,000 a year in energy costs, Hess said.
Hess is also looking to create a micro grid that would use combined heat and power technology to power Naugatuck High School, Western Elementary School, the former armory building and possibly businesses on Rubber Avenue.
“Why does that make sense? If we have a major disaster, a Hurricane Sandy-type event in Naugatuck, we are going to have an area where we have power. We are going to have ability to house and shelter people. We will have the ability to get food and gas. People will be able to survive,” Hess said.
Hess said the borough also wants to put solar panels at the Laurel Park landfill.
“That would be very exciting because we are taking a major liability and turning it into an asset,” Hess said.
There are a number of smaller projects in the works, including the restoration of parks and enforcing blight laws, that might not impact the overall grand list but will have a positive benefit on the borough, Hess added.
“I’ll tell you this, I am going to do the best I can in everything I am working on for the betterment of Naugatuck,” Hess said.
Mill rate at 49. That’s a paramount issue.