Repairs to Hillside Avenue will have to wait


Repairs to Hillside Avenue, a historic brick road in Naugatuck, will have to wait at least another year. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Hillside Avenue, the borough’s deteriorating brick road, is not likely to receive major repairs for another year.

No money has been budgeted for the repairs during the fiscal year that begins Sunday. James Stewart, director of public works, said he did not request money for the road because he knew it would not be approved in the same year as hundreds of thousands of dollars for new equipment and repairs to other structures.

Repairing Hillside Avenue would also require work on the concrete underneath and the drainage system, Stewart said. Restoring the road with new bricks is estimated to cost nearly $1.2 million. Paving it in asphalt would be a cheaper option, but would still cost about $550,000.

The Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses allocate $250,000 every year for road resurfacing throughout the borough.

“The road definitely needs repair, but how it gets repaired and how it gets paid for is two different things,” Stewart said. “It’s a huge project.”

The borough does not have money now for that kind of repair, even though the costs could increase as time goes by, officials said.

“It’s constantly getting more expensive,” Stewart said.

Stewart said he has also been awaiting a decision by the long-term school facilities planning committee, which is tasked with determining the configuration of borough schools. The committee last year discussed combining Salem and Hillside Schools but keeping the students in separate campuses, reducing the brick road to a footpath connecting the two buildings while school is in session.

That option has been rejected as being too expensive, but the future of those two buildings has not yet been decided, Mayor Robert Mezzo said. If they cease to function as schools, deed restrictions prevent both historic buildings from serving commercial purposes.

The borough hopes to repair the Whittemore Bridge downtown using money bonded years ago and reimbursement from the state, but is not so lucky in its funding sources for Hillside Avenue. Few grants exist that fund brick road restoration, Mezzo said.

“There’s never been a simple solution to that, and there is some historical affinity to maintaining the brick road,” Mezzo said. “Reconstructing a brick road from many, many years ago is not as easily funded as bridge repair.”

Stewart and Mezzo said they do not receive many complaints about the road. Stewart said he would like to keep Hillside as a brick road to maintain its historical significance, an opinion Mezzo said many have shared with the mayor’s office.

The road was laid in 1922 with about 170,000 bricks specially designed to give horses traction on the steep slope. It curves around Hillside School, which exits onto the road from all three stories.