Restoration of WWI monument back on track

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Scaffolding encircles the World War I monument in downtown Naugatuck last August. Events, such as Hurricane Irene and the October nor’easter, have caused delays in the restoration effort. But, after a several month hiatus, restoration work on the monument is expected to begin again within weeks. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — After a hiatus of several months, the restoration of the World War I monument downtown is scheduled to begin again within weeks.

“It seems like every time we get started on it, we have a major disaster,” said Ron Fischer, chairman of the World War I Monument Fund Committee. “Hopefully we’ll get it started soon and we’ll finally get this thing done,”

Fischer’s grassroots committee began raising money two years ago to repair the monument, which is stained and deteriorating after 92 years of existence. The committee raised enough to hire a restoration company, ConservArt of Hamden, which began working on the monument last summer. After several weeks, the scaffolding came down and work stopped in anticipation of Hurricane Irene.

The company, dividing its time among multiple projects, planned to finish the work in October, but the blizzard at the end of the month delayed the project again.

Fischer said he had been informed the company would begin again late this month or early next month. Workers have managed to repair the fountain’s built-in drainage system to prevent further staining, and have sandblasted the rosette that rings a 50-foot flagpole. They still must replace missing stones at the monument’s base, clean the limestone pedestal and reattach a piece that has crumbled away.

Age and weather caused much of the damage, but locals blame skateboarding teens for the blackened rear edge of the monument’s concrete base and for conspicuous holes where round rocks were set into the cement.

The committee discussed fencing it off, but determined that would go against the original vision of an accessible monument. Fischer said he would like to propose to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses an ordinance that would make parents financially responsible for the damage their children cause to the structure.

Fischer said he thought such an ordinance would ensure enforcement of current anti-vandalism laws.

“It will depend heavily on people keeping an eye on it,” Fischer said. “I think that would curtail people quite a bit.”

Mayor Robert Mezzo said Fischer was welcome to bring the topic before the board.

“We’d be open to a discussion and willing to analyze the issue, but there are criminal statutes in place that prohibit vandalism,” Mezzo said. “Many times, part of the adjudication in the court system requires restitution.”

The monument, designed by the noted architect Evelyn Beatrice Longman, carries the names of 30 local men who died in World War I. It is the focal point of the borough’s Veterans Day ceremonies every year, but does not play as great a role in Memorial Day celebrations.

Work is not likely to be finished by Memorial Day, Fischer said, adding that he plans to hold a rededication ceremony in the fall.

The contract signed last year with ConservArt called for more than $39,000 to repair the monument, but the committee raised nearly $42,000. Some of the extra money could be used for possible cost overruns, or it could be put toward a maintenance contract once the monument is repaired.

“If everything works out right, then maybe I’ll do a yearly thing where I can raise up enough money to get the contract going,” Fischer said.