New superintendent joins turbulent Fairfield Public Works Department

FAIRFIELD — The controversy-ridden Department of Public Works finally has a new superintendent.

Doug Novak, a Milford resident and former Ansonia DPW director, joined the town as interim superintendent of public works Monday. The position in the town’s largest department had been vacant since July, when former superintendent Scott Bartlett was fired following criminal accusations.

Bartlett has been charged with conspiring with Joseph Michelangelo, who served as the town’s public works director since 2012, to allow Julian Enterprises to dump truck loads of contaminated waste into the town’s fill pile — and to resell it as clean soil for construction projects at local parks, fields and playgrounds.

The town is now trying to clean up the mess by testing and remediating local sites that used the contaminated soil. Over 70 sites have been tested so far, and nine require cleanup to get rid of contaminants including arsenic and asbestos. The cost of the entire process is expected to exceed $1.8 million.

The DPW is also facing questions about what to do with the pile itself.

On Wednesday, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick met with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) about continued contamination at the pile. DEEP issued a notice of violation at the end of October, warning the town to clean up the PCBs there at risk of incurring finds.

Novak is now charged with getting the DPW in shape after months without a director or superintendent.

The 24-year veteran of the state Department of Transportation worked as Ansonia’s director of public works from 2014 to 2015, and previous reporting described him as a tough taskmaster during his time in the city.

Novak’s accomplishments in Ansonia included advocating for new equipment and supervising the ongoing construction of the city’s new transfer station.

In the town’s announcement of his appointment, Novak expressed excitement to bring his expertise to Fairfield.

“I’m looking forward to working with the dedicated men and women in the town’s Public Works Department, as well as providing a high level of quality service for the residents of Fairfield,” Novak said.

Reached for additional comment, Novak said he views the DPW as a team that needs to work together.

“Like I told my crew - think of me as the new coach,” Novak explained. “We’re a team, and we’re going to score that touchdown by making the team work as a whole.”

Novak still has a lot to learn, but he plans to always put the people of Fairfield first.

“I’m a customer service kinda guy,” he said. “We work for the taxpayer.”

Kupchick, who appointed Novak, believes he’s up to the challenge.

“Mr. Novak’s years of experience and depth of knowledge will be helpful in serving our community’s needs and, I’m hopeful, will complement the good men and women who work in the Public Works Department,” Kupchick said in the town’s announcement.