Taking a break from touring the flooded areas of the Naugatuck Valley, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal paid a visit to the borough Friday afternoon where he spoke with municipal officials about a massive downtown renovation project.
“At the federal level there’s the obvious problem with the need to cut the debt and deficit,” Blumenthal told Mayor Robert A. Mezzo as the two went over maps of the Renaissance Place project. “But a worthwhile project like this shouldn’t be abandoned.”
Blumenthal met with both Mezzo and Jay Carlson, chairman of the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation, late Friday at Town Hall. Besides some of Blumenthal’s staff the only other people in attendance were local reporters.
The junior senator visited towns through the Valley Friday — including Oxford, Shelton and Monroe — to observe the damage caused by flooding. Mezzo said he was grateful the senator came by on “short notice” to observe Naugatuck’s downtown renovation plan.
Mezzo and Carlson discussed their take on Renaissance Place, which is billed as a multi-million dollar private-public renovation project of the areas surrounding Church, Water and Maple Streets in the downtown. Implementation of the plan has been stagnant since it passed a 2007 referendum, although the borough is still seeking funding from both the state and federal governments.
“The naysayers will say it’s a pipe dream, but there are a lot of us who believe otherwise,” Mezzo said.
The borough has sought funding through the state bonding commission, which operates through Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management. The main catalyst for Renaissance Place to get going at the moment is a parking garage, which St. Mary’s Hospital requires before it begins construction of a medical facility at Parcel C.
Blumenthal voiced his support for the project, saying Renaissance Place provides opportunities for job growth and economic development.
“So I’m here to try to help with federal support,” Blumenthal told the press. “Which is scarcer than it used to be, but certainly still should be available for these kinds of project.”
Blumenthal said he wants to “continue to work for Naugatuck, because it has worked for Connecticut as a source of job and employment,” the senator said.
When asked what specific areas federal funding could be sought, Blumenthal pointed “definitely” to renewable energy. Efforts to equip Renaissance Place with wind, solar and fuel cell products could be available “with united support from the public and private sector.”
While noting that cuts at the federal level is necessary, Blumenthal said the government needs to support job creation “which is what this project will do.”