Train station deal comes under question

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NAUGATUCK — The Board of Mayor and Burgesses Monday night overwhelmingly rejected a motion to reconsider its acceptance of an offer for the former train station.

The meeting was called at the request of Burgess Michael Bronko to discuss the proposed deal to sell the train station at 195 Water St.

The board unanimously voted July 7 to accept an the offer from Jim Perzhilla, owner of Spartan II Pizza Restaurant & Lounge in Southington, and attorney Carlos Santos, a partner in the Naugatuck-based firm Fitzpatrick, Mariano, Santos & Sousa, P.C., to buy the building for $300,000.

The Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation recommended the deal to the board.

Perzhilla and Santos, a NEDC member, also plan to spend about $500,000 renovating the building into a casual dining restaurant called “The Station.”

However, Bronko felt that the board didn’t give enough consideration to interest in the building from John Nasufi, owner of Vinny’s Restaurant & Pizzeria in Naugatuck.

Bronko contended the NEDC “swept the Nasufis under the rug” and he called the meeting so the board could “hear another side of the story.” Bronko made a motion to reconsider the offer from Perzhilla and Carlos in order to hear the proposal from Nasufi.

The motion was voted down 9 to 1, with Bronko the only one voting for it.

Borough officials and Tom Hill, the realtor who had been working with the borough to sell the train station, argued Nasufi had never presented the borough with a proposal.

Hill said he had contacted Nasufi numerous times, but could not get him to sign an official offer or put a deposit forward.

“In my world transactions are made with signatures, deposits and lawyers. And none of that was forthcoming,” Hill said. “They had every opportunity to transact, in my opinion.”

Nasufi said he had expressed interest in the train station even before Umberto Morale, who the borough had an agreement with previously, entered his offer.

“We were left out, without being heard. Is that how this town is doing business?” Nasufi said.

Nasufi said the borough continues to overlook his offer even though he believes it is viable.

NEDC President and CEO Ron Pugliese said, even though Nasufi never made a formal offer, the NEDC had discussed his interest in the train station and the consensus of the board was it was not a good fit for the building.

Bronko handed out an email chain that contained conversations between the Nasufi family and Hill as proof that Nasufi had made an offer.

The final email from Ali Nasufi, John Nasufi’s son, was declining an offer from the NEDC.

“I just spoke to my father John about this and he decided not to go forward with the deal,” Ali Nasufi wrote.

Ali Nasufi wrote that his father would be interested in paying $300,000, but if the NEDC couldn’t make it work the family would not be interested in the train station.

In contrast, Perzhilla had presented the NEDC with signed paperwork and a business proposal that included an offer price and a list detailing renovations to turn the station into a restaurant.

Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi said the emails from the Nasufi family were negotiations, not a proposal.

“These are negotiations and negotiations usually end up in a clear cut document. To me, this isn’t any kind of proposal,” Rossi said. “Where’s the proposal?”

Mezzo argued the board hadn’t heard the proposal from the Nasufi family because the proposals were all vetted by the NEDC. The NEDC, which Mezzo said is a non-political board, makes a recommendation to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses that it believes will be in the borough’s best interest.

“For the first time in 12 years, two of which you (Bronko) were mayor, you are challenging the credibility of the NEDC board, whether or not they did their job and whether or not they appropriately followed the process that had been set up for many years. I find the motion to reconsider a sad day for Naugatuck because you are saying we want to go back to the old days. We want to go back to when a developer can go to a burgess, a land use official, a zoning enforcement officer, somebody they know somehow in town government and start a process that is not done professionally,” Mezzo said.