By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — A proposed agreement between the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation and Beacon Falls is on hold.
In February, the Beacon Falls Board of Selectmen unanimously approved an agreement with the NEDC to provide economic development services for the town from March 1 through June 30. The NEDC board of directors subsequently formed a subcommittee to review and possibly propose changes to the agency’s bylaws to make sure there were no liability issues.
NEDC President Ronald Pugliese said during the NEDC’s March 22 meeting that he spoke with Beacon Falls officials and the agreement is on pause for the time being.
“I mentioned some pushback, not a lot of pushback from the (NEDC) board, but there’s been good questions and good things and good suggestions,” Pugliese said. “There’s been, from what I understand, some pushback in Beacon Falls, as well.”
Beacon Falls First Selectman Gerard Smith said he didn’t want to enter into a short-term agreement with NEDC while simultaneously trying to figure out how the arrangement would work. It would be unchartered waters for the NEDC, he added.
“Both parties were pretty unclear on how this would work,” Smith said.
The NEDC is a quasi-public agency that oversees economic development for Naugatuck and receives some funding from the borough. Under the proposed agreement, Beacon Falls would have paid the NEDC $11,666.
NEDC Chairman Rebecca Zandvliet said during the meeting the delay gives the agency some added insight and time to establish its bylaw committee.
“I think that’s the best scenario because it was starting to look like it wasn’t going to go anywhere anyway,” Zandvliet said. “I just didn’t want Naugatuck to look like we were the ones that were putting the kibosh on it.”
Smith said he favors waiting until town officials have a clear direction of which way to go. All options are on the table, he added.
Beacon Falls Economic Development Commission Chairman John W. “Jack” Betkoski III said, “It would’ve been kind of premature to enter an MOU with Naugatuck,” Betkoski said.
Beacon Falls officials are exploring their options for economic development, including the newly formed Naugatuck Valley Regional Development Corporation.
Waterbury and Naugatuck are the only members of the Naugatuck Valley Regional Development Corporation, which was formed last year with an eye on handling regional economic development projects.
Waterbury and Naugatuck officials are seeking funding from the state for the quasi-public agency. A new pilot program proposed in Senate Bill 1020 would have the state match dollar-for-dollar funding put up by economic development agencies focused on the Naugatuck Valley. The matching state funds would only become available after the NVRDC has a minimum of five, member municipalities.
“It’s the perfect time to jump on,” Smith said.
Betkoski said NVRDC Executive Director Thomas Hyde is expected to meet with officials from Valley towns in the near future.
“I’m very excited to do a regional approach to economic development,” Betkoski said.