New public works facility, recycling center in the works

Naugatuck is planning to build a new facility for the Department of Public Works on land known as ‘The Heights,’ pictured, behind the Naugatuck Police Department that is used now for storing materials and dumping brush. The plan also includes building a new recycling center on an adjacent piece of land. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — Officials are looking to kill two birds with one stone by relocating public works facilities and the recycling center from Rubber Avenue to borough-owned land between Spring Street and the Naugatuck River.

The plan, which is in the preliminary design phase, is to build a new facility for the Department of Public Works on land, known as “The Heights,” behind the Naugatuck Police Department, which is on Spring Street. Under the plan, a new recycling center will be built on a 13.36-acre parcel that is adjacent to The Heights and borders the railroad tracks along the Naugatuck River. An access road, roughly 800 to 1,000 feet long, would be built between the facility and center.

Public works uses The Heights now for storing materials, like sand and salt, and dumping brush.

“The site’s in pretty good shape right now, you need some grading,” said Borough Engineer Wayne Zirolli, who is working on conceptual designs for the new facility and center.

The preliminary design for the new facility includes a 25,000-square-foot building for the public works garage, which is roughly double the size of the garage at 510 Rubber Ave. the department uses now. The building will also include office space.

“We want it to be big enough not just for what we have, but for the future,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

The design also includes a 5,000-square-foot storage building, and a parking area has to be worked into the design, Zirolli said. The site will need some grading, and the driveway that leads up to The Heights will likely need to be repaved.

The new facility would allow public works to consolidate its facilities into one location. The department’s facilities are scattered along Rubber Avenue. Along with the garage, the department’s office is located at 246 Rubber Ave., the recycling center is down the street on Rubber Avenue, and there’s the former Park Department offices, which have moved to the former armory building, at 258 Rubber Ave.

Other needs, like sand storage and fuel locations, are elsewhere in the borough.

“That’s the biggest drawback to what we have going on now,” said Director of Public Works James Stewart about facilities being spread out in the borough.

Stewart said the garage, which was built in 1950, doesn’t meet the department’s needs. He said seasonal equipment is stored at the Naugatuck Event Center and the former Park Department building.

The garage, Stewart said, is also in need of repairs and lacks modern amenities for a public works garage, such as shower rooms and a wash bay to clean trucks in the winter.

Stewart added some of the department’s equipment doesn’t fit in the garage, and equipment that does is “stacked” to fit, which means it has to be shuffled around when workers need a specific piece of equipment.

“There’s certainly efficiencies to be gained,” Stewart said of a new facility.

The preliminary design for the new recycling center shows a roughly 700-foot-long-by-200-foot-wide loop with an area inside the loop for bulk trash disposal for residents and another area for public works employees to work.

The plan also includes bins for storing items that need to be kept separate, like mattresses and electronics, and a 1,500-square-foot office.

Zirolli said the land has been worked on in the past, but it will need some grading, paving and retaining walls.

“As much as possible, we’re trying to work with the land and keep it natural,” he said.

The plan is to build the entrance to the recycling center at the end of School Street Extension, which is a dead-end, residential road. Zirolli said the road will need improvements, including widening it.

Hess stressed the plan is to build the center and facility in a way to minimize the impact on existing residential neighborhoods.

“Our plans are in the design phase, and we intend to take extreme measures to protect the existing neighborhood and to locate the uses far away from the terminus of School Street Extension,” Hess said.

The plan is about more than building new facilities for public works. The overarching idea is to improve Rubber Avenue, Hess said.

Once the new facility and center are built, Hess said, the four public works properties on Rubber Avenue will be sold to be developed and get them back on the tax rolls. Naugatuck Ambulance, Inc. leases space from the borough in the public works building at 246 Rubber Ave. The lease runs through Aug. 31, 2019.

“We definitely want to upgrade Rubber Avenue, and these four properties would be a catalyst toward redefining and improving the entire street,” Hess said.

Combined, the four properties on Rubber Avenue total about 8 acres, according to the property cards.

“I think when we make these changes it’ll spur other people to make improvements,” Hess said. “It’s going to take some time, but we believe that Rubber Avenue will improve dramatically over the years, and we want to have a better gateway to our beautiful high school.”

There is no set timeline or cost estimates, yet, for the project, but officials are planning to build the new recycling center first.

“The recycling facility is probably the biggest eyesore on Rubber Avenue, which is one of the reasons we want to attack that project first,” Hess said.

Zirolli expects to have final designs ready to present to land use boards, which will have to approve the plans before they move forward, this winter.

If everything goes smoothly, Hess said he could see work starting after the winter, with the recycling center built in a couple of years and the new public works facility right after that.

Hess said the intent is to have borough employees do most of the work. Hess, who is in his third year in office, has made it a point to increase manpower in public works by one person each year and to buy more equipment, so the department has the capability to function more like a construction company.

“We intend to do this work with our own forces, using our own equipment, at a much lower price,” Hess said.