Officials eye new site for public works

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Naugatuck Public Works Director James Stewart is looking to move the recycling center from its current Rubber Avenue location to behind the police department on Spring Street. –RA ARCHIVE
Naugatuck Public Works Director James Stewart is looking to move the recycling center from its current Rubber Avenue location to behind the police department on Spring Street. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Officials are investigating a proposal to move the borough’s public works facilities, scattered throughout Rubber Avenue and Town Hall, to an 8-acre piece of land next to the water treatment plant off Cherry Street Extension.

The Chemtura Corp., owner of the former Uniroyal industrial property along the Naugatuck River, agreed five years ago to donate the land to the borough in order to subdivide two of its 77 acres. At the time, then-Mayor Mike Bronko and other borough officials discussed relocating the facilities there.

James Stewart, director of public works, said he has asked borough attorneys to determine whether the land belongs to the borough or whether it will eventually be donated.

The chemical manufacturing company wanted the subdivision in order to sell two buildings on the corner of Spencer and Elm streets. The company got approval for the subdivision but might never have filed the map needed for it to take effect, Stewart said.

The borough also has to determine whether any environmental cleaning would be necessary, or whether wetlands regulations would complicate moving public works buildings there, Stewart said.

Public works officials are prioritizing the relocation of the Recycling Center, which takes up about 38,000 square feet on Rubber Avenue just before the Andrew Avenue intersection. It was built in the early 1990s, possibly as a temporary site, but money and location issues have prevented the borough from replacing it, said Sheila Baummer, recycling and solid waste coordinator.

Stewart estimated earlier this year that a new recycling center would cost about $450,000 to build. The expenditure could be part of a bonding package sent to referendum as early as next year, Stewart said.

 “It’s just so expensive to put one in that you only get the chance once, so you want to make sure you can find a site that is the very best and is going to last,” Baummer said.

Mayor Robert Mezzo wrote in his economic development campaign platform that he wanted to facilitate redevelopment of the privately owned former Risdon property, which could be accessed through the land where the recycling center is located now. He asked public works management to analyze the logistics of relocating to the former Naugatuck Heights property behind the police station on Spring Street.

The hill would be too steep for a recycling center, and thefts and vandalism could become a problem in such an isolated place, Stewart and Baummer concluded. The property is now used to store sand, salt and leaves, and the department would have to find another place for those, Stewart said.

Conceptual drawings call for a new recycling center to take up about 80,000 square feet, comparable to similar facilities in Middlebury and New Britain. A new center could have more dropoffs so residents are dumping their recyclables downward instead of tossing them upward, Baummer said. It could also have a swap shed, where residents could trade recycled objects, such as bicycles, for other items.

“The ideal place has a larger setup and a different orientation as far as traffic flow, and there’s more options in there,” Baummer said.