Derby Aldermen are scheduled to meet 7 p.m. Thursday to talk about school consolidation, City Hall salaries, blight, and the Route 34 widening project.
Regional School District?
The Aldermen are scheduled to vote in the Aldermanic Chambers on whether to establish a committee to study creating a new, regional school district.
A draft agenda for the meeting shows Derby wants to talk to both Seymour and Ansonia about the issue.
Ansonia Aldermen are taking up a similar resolution Thursday.
Mayor Rich Dziekan talked to the Derby Board of Education last month, saying he thinks the matter is worth at least researching since cash-strapped state government is pushing towns to regionalize wherever possible.
Valley school boards are already talking about “sharing services.”
But what’s on the table Thursday in Derby is much more concrete — a formal study process defined by state education law.
Click here for a separate Valley Indy update on this issue.
After a brief discussion last month, the salaries of Andrew Baklik, the mayor’s chief of staff, and Carmen DiCenso, the city’s economic development liason, are back on the agenda.
According to an information packet provided to the Aldermen, Dziekan wants to create a new position in the mayor’s office to be called “director of operations.”
It’ll be Baklik’s position, and he is to be paid $75,000. That’s $3,000 less than what the Aldermen considered but did not vote on last month.
Dziekan, in a letter to the Aldermen last month, said he’s still spending less on staff than his predecessor, Anita Dugatto.
Salaries in the mayor’s office were an election issue, with GOPers accusing the former mayor of spending far too much on a chief of staff who was paid $60,000 despite being part-time.
Dziekan told the Valley Indy in a podcast that Baklik is basically taking on roles in his office traditionally handled by two staffers.
Click here for a previous Valley Indy story.
DiCenso is scheduled to be paid $25 an hour for part-time work not expected to exceed 20 hours.
Route 34 Widening
A draft agenda of the meeting also shows a resolution about Route 34 promulgated by the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments will be tackled by Derby Aldermen.
The city and state have been talking about widening Route 34 — known locally as Main Street — from the Derby-Shelton bridge to roughly Home Depot for years.
The latest resolution concerns the road’s design.
The resolution again confirms the road’s design, which has been in the planning stages since 2011, at least.
Mayor Anita Dugatto’s administration suggested changes to the design plans in late 2016 after the city’s “Downtown Now” initiative.
“Downtown Now” was a series of public forums to determine what Derby residents, merchants and investors want to see in Derby’s Redevelopment Zone, the long-stagnant stretch of land immediately to the south of Route 34/Main Street along the Housatonic River.
Derby, using public grant money, hired DPZ Partners, a nationally-known firm, to facilitate the “Downtown Now” planning process for the redevelopment zone and then make recommendations.
Surprisingly, the forums climaxed with a leader from DPZ Partners referring to the city/state/NVCOG plan for Route 34 as “lipstick on a pig:” one that would result in nothing more than a highway splitting existing downtown Derby from anything to be developed in the Redevelopment Zone to the south.
Part of the surprise — “Downtown Now” was billed as being geared toward the redevelopment zone, not the years-in-the-making Route 34 project.
The summation took then-Mayor Dugatto by surprise, not to mention the planners who had been working for years on the Route 34 design.
Mayor Dugatto, after participating in another public forum (click here to watch video), asked NVCOG and the state’s Department of Transportation to make some changes to the design.
The move was risky politically, because so many people in Derby are tired with the lack of visible progress in the Redevelopment Zone, and the seemingly endless planning for the separate Route 34 planning.
It also allowed Derby Republicans, in the run-up to the mayoral election, to criticize the Dugatto administration for what GOPers called a lack of progress with both the convoluted widening project and the redevelopment zone.
The suggestions also caused a behind-the-scenes rift between the various parties, and the project has been on “hold” since 2016, according to a memo from VCOG.
Now, with a new administration in office, the “stakeholders” are moving forward with essentially “the original 2011 Preliminary Design Plan,” according to an email from Rick Dunne, the executive director of the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments.
That means, according to Dunne, most of the substantive changes, if any, that came from DPZ have been tossed.
“We received no functional comments from the design team other than to restore on-street parking to Main Street and a desire to eliminate the one-way circulation pattern for the lower block of both Elizabeth and Minerva Streets,” Dunne said.
“Through our additional public comment period and conversation with the new administration we anticipate proceeding with what is essentially the original 2011 Preliminary Design Plan. Given the number of times that prior administrations have changed their minds about this project, we have asked for a single resolution outlining the city’s commitment to the design so we can proceed to construction documents without wasting any more limited state and federal resources.”
The resolution Thursday is meant to get everyone on the same page again regarding the road’s design, which includes parking and one-way traffic circulation on some streets downtown.
The images below are from a VCOG memo referenced in the Aldermen’s draft agenda packet:
Here are the list of changes that had been requested by Derby after a meeting in May:
Here are the list of technical changes to the project requested by the City of Derby:
1. Inclusion of on-street parking on both sides of Main Street (included in the 2011 PD Plan) with a surface treatment or texture to contrast with the travel lanes
2. 11’ lanes with 2’ shoulders, preferably with a surface treatment or texture to contrast the travel lanes with the shoulders to create a narrowing effect (The 2011 PD Plan has 11’ lanes with 4’ shoulders)
3. Elimination of the dedicated left turn lane from Main Street EB onto Minerva Street. The City accepts that left turns onto Main Street will be prohibited at unsignalized intersections and the median will be continuous at the Minerva Street intersection
4. Reduction in the median to a consistent 8’ from Elizabeth Street to Caroline Street, subsequent to the removal of the aforementioned left turn lane
5. Reduction in the length of the left turn lane from Main Street EB onto Water Street
6. The cycle-track between Bridge Street and Factory Street will be eliminated from the project and relocated in the redevelopment site. The construction of the bicycle facility would no longer be eligible under the Route 34 project
7. Removal of the parking lot at Bridge Street. The gateway park at the Bridge Street corner shall remain in the plan
8. Drop Elizabeth, Minerva, and Caroline streets from the project as the City does not desire a change in circulation and prefers these roads to remain two-way
9. Convert Third Street to one-way as was being proposed for the semi-final design submission.
Here is the resolution to be discussed: