Repairs to flood damage at Hillside School underway

Hillside Intermediate School in Naugatuck sustained between $300,000 and $500,000 in damages from the Aug. 1 flash flood. The school board's flood insurance should pay for most of the repairs. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Hundreds of thousands of dollars in flood damage at Hillside Intermediate School will be repaired before staff and students return at the end of the month, Business Manager Wayne McAllister said Thursday.

During a fierce thunderstorm Aug. 1 that unleashed flash floods throughout the borough, water filled up a window well at the rear of the historic building, which is set into a hill overlooking the borough’s downtown.

The window, a skylight illuminating the first floor, was double-paned and only 15 years old, but the force of the water flowing into it from Hillside Avenue broke the glass and sent water pouring into the first floor of the building, McAllister told the Board of Education.

At the point of entry, the water was a foot deep, and it covered the entire first floor, including classrooms, the cafeteria and kitchen, McAllister said. Water also flowed down a stairwell to partially flood the basement, McAllister said.

Floor tiles must be replaced throughout the entire first floor, McAllister said. The school was built in 1905, and although it was restored after a fire in 1962, it still contains many asbestos tiles, McAllister said.

Asbestos abatement began Thursday.

After the fire 50 years ago, much of the original floor was overlaid with plywood, covering rather than replacing the old tiles, McAllister said.

Leaks in the stage must be repaired, and a quarter of the gym floor is being dried with hot air, McAllister said.

The total cost of damages is estimated between $300,000 and $500,000, McAllister said. All but $50,000 is being covered by the borough’s insurance company, Travelers Insurance, McAllister said.

The insurance company is authorizing overtime so crews can work weekends if need be to get the school ready before Aug. 27, opening day for employees, McAllister said.

“The other two floors in that school look spectacular,” Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson said, earning chuckles from the school board.

Of the borough’s 11 school buildings, only Naugatuck High School is in a flood zone, but the school system has flood insurance for all its buildings, McAllister said. That insurance does not cover school grounds outside the buildings.

A walkway leading from Hillside’s gym to the sidewalk below washed out when a connection point, where two pipes feed into one, failed to handle all the water, McAllister said.

The borough’s public works department might have to repair or replace pipes and will pave the path, McAllister said, adding that insurance will not cover those repairs.

JP Maguire of Waterbury is doing the restoration work inside the building.