July 31, 2014

CT Construction Digest July 31, 2014

Enabling a Stroll to Saybrook Station

OLD SAYBROOK - By this time next year, pedestrians will be able to walk on sidewalks from the train station along North Main Street to the Boston Post Road and then along Main Street. That's because a $999,900 state grant the town just received will pay for new sidewalks along both sides of that road. The State Department of Transportation (DOT) grant funding ensures that planned North Main Street upgrades will be completed before the end of 2015. On the list of fixes are the installation of new sidewalks along both sides of the road, a new stormwater drainage system, and full re-construction of the road from road-bed to new surface paving. First Selectman Carl Fortuna, Jr., said that Town Engineer Jeff Jacobson now can develop the detailed engineering drawings that will support the bidding process. North Main Street, the focus of this improvement project, is a two-block long town road that extends northward from the Boston Post Road to the train tracks adjacent to the Old Saybrook train station. Currently, train commuters park on the grassy area on both sides of this road every work day because the state's parking area is too small to accommodate all of the commuters' cars. That will soon change, however, since the state is moving forward on a project that will put a new 200-space parking lot on a 3.6 acre parcel bounded by the train tracks and North Main Street. DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said that the state acquired the future parking lot land for a price of $1.577 million from Jandin Realty, LLC, in March 2014. The owner has appealed the purchase arrangement not due to the acquisition price set by the state's process but to better define the terms of the purchase agreement. "We are in friendly and professional discussions with the owner," said Nursick. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

WPCA asks for funds for phase 2

OLD SAYBROOK - With Phase One almost complete, the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) this month applied for $3.68 million in grant funds and $11.6 million in loans from the state's Clean Water Fund program to pay for the second phase of the decentralized wastewater management program. Once the state approves the town's new application, the WPCA will start work on Phase Two. First on the Phase Two task list will be septic upgrades for the 55 homes in the Meadowood and Ingham Hill neighborhoods. As originally approved, the WPCA's decentralized wastewater management program's costs are financed by Clean Water Fund loans and grants. Fifty percent of each septic system upgrade's costs and an allocation for program management costs are borne by the homeowner whose property is upgraded. To date in Phase One, 265 properties in the wastewater management district (WWMD) have had their septic systems upgraded or replaced with support from Clean Water Fund loans and grants. When Phase One ends on Oct. 31, the WPCA will have upgraded the septic systems of more than 300 properties. Under the WPCA's decentralized wastewater management program, WWMD homeowners who opt for Clean Water Funds get a low-interest rate loan to finance their share of the septic upgrade's costs. Participating homeowners' share is 50 percent of the site-specific construction costs and an allocated share, as yet undetermined, of the town's project management costs (soft costs). The mechanism for payment of the cost-share for hard construction costs and soft project management costs is via a benefit assessment levied on each participating property by the WPCA. When the WPCA approves a property's specific benefit assessment, the homeowner can then be billed by the WPCA. The annual bill the homeowner receives for the benefit assessment charge is one-twentieth of the total cost-share plus interest due on the two-percent, 20-year loan. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Construction set to begin at Big Y in Simsbury

 SIMSBURY — Construction is set to begin on a 54,000-square-foot Big Y World Class Supermarket on Hopmeadow Street in the north end of town. Demolition and grading is expected to begin in September, according to Hiram Peck, the town's director of planning and development. The construction is expected to take about a year to complete, Peck said. The supermarket will be next to the International Skating Center, in the spot once occupied by the Wagner Ford dealership on Hopmeadow Street, also Route 10. "This will bring more business to the north side of town," zoning commission Chairman Robert Pomeroy said. "There's finally starting to have activity up there."
The commission approved the supermarket in September 2012, and the board of selectmen approved the final agreement in January this year. Peck said construction was delayed by negotiations over the proposed shared used of the skating center's driveway for deliveries the supermarket. The town leases the land to the skating center, so the town needed permission from the center to allow delivery trucks on the driveway. "It's all resolved now," Peck said. "I hope it makes its way along."
Peck said the agreement the town approved specified that the supermarket must be completed by the fall of 2015. "I look forward to seeing the development," Pomeroy said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Seymour senior housing gets funding boost for developer

SEYMOUR >> A project slated to bring 26 affordable senior housing apartments downtown recently received a financial shot in the arm from the state. The State Bond Commission last week approved a low-interest loan for the construction of the apartments at 38 Columbus St. According to a press release from state Rep. Theresa Conroy, D-Seymour, the $4.95 million loan, with a one percent interest rate, will enable payments to be deferred for the first 15 years of the 40-year term. “This project will be a piece of continuing to revitalize downtown Seymour,” Conroy said. “Having people move into a downtown area will not only give them close resources, but will also help local businesses. I envision further projects that will expand the mix to include young adults and couples as the town and state work together to help make Seymour a local and transit oriented district.”
Local architect Joseph Migani of Seymour-based O’Riordan Migani Architects is the developer behind the $5.9 million building project. Migani was previously tapped by the state Department of Housing to receive a $250,000 loan under its Predevelopment Cost Revolving Loan Program.
The 26 proposed apartments are part of the second phase of Migani’s existing senior apartment complex at 16 Bank St., which was built in the 2008 in the former Eckhardt Furniture building. Migani received local approvals last year to build Phase II which calls for construction of a five-story building at 38 Columbus St. housing 26, handicapped-accessible, one-bedroom elderly apartments, a community room, elevator and 15 onsite parking spaces. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Refinancing debt clears way for Seymour projects

SEYMOUR >> The town’s recent bond rating upgrade is really paying off. Thanks to refinancing some $5.8 million in debt it took on back in 2004 for various school construction, sewer upgrades and other projects, Seymour stands to realize nearly $450,000 in savings over the next six years. And those savings, according to First Selectman Kurt Miller, will enable the town to tackle some much-needed road and infrastructure improvement projects, without impacting taxpayer’s pocketbooks. “We have worked very hard to save the taxpayers a substantial sum,” Miller said. “These savings will give the Town a lot of options moving forward.” Back in April, the Manhattan-based financial ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, upgraded Seymour’s bond rating two levels to an AA+. That level is S&P’s second highest rating, and officials said a strong credit rating makes it easier for borrowers to gain access to capital, at very low interest rates. The AA+ rating, Miller had said, puts Seymour in the same category as the United States of America and one level higher than the State of Connecticut.
In this case, Miller said the upgrade has enabled Seymour to refinance some of its debt at incredibly low interest rates “below one percent.” Miller said the series of bonds the town took on in 2004 will mature in 2020, and thanks to refinancing, the town will begin realizing savings in the 2015-16 annual town budget. Next year, he said the town will recoup more than $133,000 in savings alone, followed by another $194,000 the year after that, and so on, until a total of $448,743.89 in savings through 2020 is realized. Miller said the savings can potentially be used to fund a new set of bonds “designed to tackle some of the $12 million in road work” projects that Town Engineer Jim Galligan outlined in the Town of Seymour Road Maintenance Program, which the selectmen approved earlier this month. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

School Board may again extend O&G's contract

WATERBURY — A series of contract extensions has kept Torrington-based O&G Industries working as Waterbury's chief school construction consultant since 2005. The city's school administration is seeking to extend that contract for the coming year, making for a decade-long contractural relationship with O&G. The company has already helped oversee hundreds of millions of dollars in construction and expansion of Waterbury schools. The Board of Education today will be presented with the latest proposed one-year extension, worth up to $1.3 million between this Sept. 1 and Aug 31, 2015. This is a $263,945, or 18 percent, reduction from the current $1.5 million contract.
Schools Chief Operating Officer Paul Guidone said the lower figure stems from a reduction in the amount of work expected. "This period we are going into now has less construction than past years," Guidone said. O&G will still be needed to oversee an ongoing $23.2 million expansion of Kennedy High School, $3 million environmental cleanup of a 1-acre wetland behind Reed Elementary School, completion of a $15.8 million addition to Wallace Middle School, along with final sign-offs on the construction of Carrington Elementary School and the Waterbury Career Academy high school, Guidone noted. City officials first hired O&G to a three-year contract in 2005. At the time, O&G's construction experts helped oversee design and construction of additions to Wilby, Crosby and Kennedy high schools, along with construction of Duggan, Reed and Gilmartin elementary schools.
The city has since granted three one-year extensions and one three-year extension of the O&G contract. O&G recieves largely positive reviews from most city and school officials. It has faced some criticism and consistent questioning from Independent Party Alderman Lawrence V. De Pillo.
De Pillo's qualms led the district to end O&G's practice of bringing sandwich platters to meetings of the Board of Education's Building Committee. District officials have since assumed that expense.
De Pillo also complains of a relatively constant year-to-year fee in excess of $1 million, seemingly unaffected by the amount of work. De Pillo believes the city could save money by putting the contract out to bid. Guidone said the contract values are really just the maximum possible charge. Actual charges have varied and have always been under the maximum, Guidone said Tuesday. He will provide those figures to the school board Thursday. As for putting the contract to bid, Guidone said the district has been so busy revamping its building stock in the past decade that switching consultants would have created a disruption. With an expected lull after the coming year, it may be time to put these services out to bid, Guidone said. The school board will receive information about the proposal Thursday. A vote is expected at its Aug. 7 meeting. The Board of Aldermen would also have to approve the contract extension. That vote is expected to take place Aug. 25.
Today's school board meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at Maloney Magnet School.     

July 30, 2014

CT Construction Digest July 30, 2014

Zoning board forgives developer's up-sized garage for now

STAMFORD -- The Zoning Board authorized Building and Land Technology to begin using extra entrances and exits added to a parking garage it built at an office and residential complex across from the Stamford train station without permission.  Earlier this year, the board threatened to order the developer to demolish the unauthorized lanes, but on Monday night the body revised the general development plan for the Gateway project to incorporate a minimum of 100 units of housing at the development and obligated BLT to build a section of walkway to link with the Mill River Collaborative's planned greenway. The developer would have to submit plans for the riverwalk before getting a certificate of occupancy for two 10-story office towers that are the central part of the project. The board reserved the right to tinker with lane configurations, depending on future evaluations of whether traffic is backing up outside the garage, especially south on Washington Boulevard.  The board granted BLT the right to begin renting 500 of the 2,000 planned spaces in the garage, recognizing strong demand for spaces near the station. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Senate tires of patching highway programs

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate delivered an unexpectedly strong vote Tuesday in favor of taking action later this year to resolve the chronic funding problems that have bedeviled highway and transit programs, a sign that Congress may have reached the limit of its patience with short-term fixes. The bill, which passed 79 to 18, provides $8.1 billion to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund — the chief source of highway and transit aid to states — solvent through December. That's enough time, supporters said, for Congress to return to work after the November election, when partisan fervor will have cooled, and make the politically difficult decisions on whether to raise federal gas taxes or find some other means to shore up the fund. The House passed a bill last week that would provide $10.8 billion to keep transportation aid flowing to states through May of next year, with GOP leaders saying more time is needed to deal with the issue. But the Senate rejected that plan in favor of a short-term patch now while setting up a showdown on the matter later this year.
"The Senate has now made a clear and undeniable statement in favor of action on a long-term transportation bill in this Congress," declared Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., one of three lead sponsors of the bill passed by the Senate. But he also cautioned, "We have a lot of work in front of us to strike the principled compromise that will be needed to pass" a long-term bill. The trust fund is in its current straits because the federal 18.4-cent-a-gallon gas tax and the 24.4-cent-a-gallon diesel tax— the fund's chief sources of revenue — haven't been increased in more than 20 years, while the cost of maintaining and expanding the nation's aging infrastructure has gone up. The fuel efficiency of cars and trucks is also increasing while people are driving less per capita. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
EAST HAMPTON >> The Board of Education has approved the revised plans for the renovation of the high school. With the school board’s approval, the plans have now been submitted to the state Department of Education for review and final approval. The chairwoman of the School Building Committee said she hopes the state will act quickly to approve the plans so that construction can begin later this year. Building committee officials said they expect the Department of Education’s review of the plans to take at least two months. If the state sticks to that scheduled, committee chairwoman Sharon Smith said the SBC could put the job out to bid in October and make the bid award in November. “You’re talking about the building being under construction this year,” Board of Education member William Marshall said. “We’re anxious to get shovels in the ground,” Smith said.
Residents in 2013 approved a $51.695 million project to renovate and expand the high school.
The state has agreed to reimburse the town for 52.5 percent of the project costs. Included in the documents that the board of education reviewed and approved was a series of “add/alts” – additions and alternatives. “These are items that can be added if the funds permit,” Marshall said. The building at present is underinsulated and, in some instances, is devoid of insulation altogether, Marshall noted.
The design for the renovations calls for major efforts to improve its energy efficiency. Not only will insulation be added, by a 50-year-old furnace is scheduled to be replaced. Among the “add/alts” is funding for a solar hot-water heater as well as a geothermal heating system that carries an estimated cost of $1.7 million, Marshall said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Meriden Public Works updates State Street sewer line

MERIDEN — The Water and Sewer Department is in the process of making infrastructure improvements downtown in advance of some of the larger projects expected to come to fruition in the coming year, including the new train station and the Hub park. A metal bypass sewer line will run over the State Street sidewalk for about a week as a 24-inch sanitary sewer line is installed. A crew was working Tuesday afternoon along State Street. Department Director Dennis Waz expects work to continue through the end of the week. “We had to set (the piping) up in order to bypass that section being replaced,” Waz said. “It’ll be about a week.” The ongoing State Street project stretches more than 750 feet adjacent to the Hub site and is estimated to cost $100,000, Waz said. The piping being replaced dates back to the 1920s, Waz said. “It’s really old,” he said. “They had all sorts of factories and businesses in the area that it connected to.” Some of the piping it likely connected to years ago was recently dug up on the Hub site as part of the ongoing Hub redevelopment. Large sections of piping were in a pile on the east side of the Hub Tuesday near Pratt Street. The piping, unused for years, connected to various businesses and ran along the abandoned streets that crossed through the Hub from Pratt to State street, Public Works Director Robert Bass said. As for the pipes still in use, Waz said some work was already completed earlier this summer along State Street, in addition to Cross and Brooks streets. The rehabilitation of the sewer lines was necessary and Waz said the Water and Sewer Department wanted to avoid interfering with upcoming projects like the new train station. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Carpenter's council protests at New Haven work sites hit with stop work orders

NEW HAVEN >> Only four protesters stood Tuesday in front of the building at 205 Church St., but they made their voices heard — fist-bumping, waving and handing out fliers to passers-by.   The site is one of two in the city where the state Department of Labor issued stop-work orders Friday, after allegedly finding no payroll records and, at one site, workers being paid in cash. “This is not the way business is done in New Haven,” said New England Regional Council of Carpenters representative/organizer Tim Sullivan. “This is not acceptable.” The subcontractor, Regional Wall Systems of Florida, had 24 people doing drywall at 205 Church St., and workers fled when the Department of Labor showed up. HG Painting, the New Haven subcontractor at the other site, 205 Elm St., was unable to show payroll records and could show no proof of having workers’ compensation coverage for employees, the Labor Department said. The workers were not fined, and the stop-work order will be lifted when proper documentation can be shown to the Labor Department. The stop-work orders remained on the doors Tuesday. Neither Regional Wall Systems nor HG Painting could be reached for comment. Sullivan said the goal of the protest was to call for enforcing accountability and to promote local hiring.  “We read about the tremendous amount of unemployment in the city,” he said. “This would have been an opportunity to do something about it.” Carpenters union organizer David Jarvis said a larger demonstration would be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday near the Green. “It’s educational,” he said. “We are not really causing trouble.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

July 29, 2014

CT Construction Digest July 29, 2014

Senate to vote on highway money as deadline looms

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate is set to take up legislation to keep federal highway money flowing to states, with just three days left before the government plans to start slowing down payments. The House passed a $10.8 billion bill last week that would pay for highway and transit aid through the end of May 2015 if transportation spending is maintained at current levels. Under a schedule outlined by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate would take up that bill Tuesday. But senators who say the House bill uses budgetary gimmicks to pay for roads and bridges or who want to force Congress to act before the end of the year on a long-term plan to pay for transportation programs are expected to offer amendments. If any amendment passes, it would alter the underlying House bill and set up an 11th-hour showdown between the House and Senate on how to resolve the differences between their bills. The Transportation Department says that by Aug. 1 the federal Highway Trust Fund will no longer have enough money to cover promised aid to states, and the government will begin to stretch out payments. Congress has kept the trust fund teetering on the edge of bankruptcy since 2008 through a series of temporary fixes because lawmakers have been unable to find a politically acceptable, long-term funding plan. States have been warned to expect an average reduction of 28 percent in aid payments. Without action from Congress, the balance in the fund is expected to drop to zero by late August or early September. Some states already have cut back on construction projects because of the uncertainty over federal funding. President Barack Obama and other state and local officials have complained that the uncertainty over funding is costing jobs. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Sandy Goldstein, President of Downtown Special Services District, speaks during a ceremony to commemorate the beginning of steel construction on Summer House, a 21-story building on lower Summer Street which will contain retail and restaurant space, 226 residential units and amenities including a pool. Photo: Lindsay Perry / Stamford Advocate
Sandy Goldstein, President of Downtown Special Services District, speaks during a ceremony to commemorate the beginning of steel construction on Summer House, a 21-story building on lower Summer Street which will contain retail and restaurant space, 226 residential units and amenities including a pool.
Photo: Lindsay Perry
STAMFORD -- They seem to be everywhere in downtown Stamford, dominating the skyline and hovering above the gaping, dusty construction sites that sit like missing teeth on the city's landscape. They are the markers of progress and renewal in the city, but for many, the construction cranes that are forging the downtown's redevelopment represent a mixed blessing, part of the cost of doing business in a growing urban center. With more than 1,000 residential units currently under construction in downtown Stamford, the work poses a dilemma for business owners, who must weigh the present inconveniences against the promise of future rewards. On one hand, there is the annoyance of the building under construction amid partially closed streets, limited parking spaces and grumbling customers. On the other, the potential for a new flow of business from completed residential projects is often enough incentive for businesses to wait out the building process.
According to Sandy Goldstein, president of the Downtown Special Services District, construction is the worst and best thing that can happen to a business. Goldstein estimated the new housing units could bring as many as 3,000 residents downtown. These are people, she said, "who will at one point eat in your restaurant, shop in your shoe store, or get their hair done at your salon."  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Plainville manager backs demolition of old Linden Street school

PLAINVILLE — With the fate of the old Linden Street School hanging in the balance, Town Manager Robert E. Lee recommends demolition.
 A public hearing to discuss the fate of the school at 69 Linden St. has been set for Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the municipal center at 1 Central Square. The Capital Projects Building Committee held two public information meetings — on Oct. 11, 2012, and Jan. 17, 2013 — to ask for input from citizens. According to Lee, the meetings were sparsely attended, and the committee ultimately made the recommendation to demolish the school. Lee said he agrees with their decision. “Their minds weren’t made up going in and many wanted to save it, but because the building is located on school grounds, there is very limited use for it,” he said. “We don’t want to allow just anyone to walk onto school grounds unless it is after hours. That is a pure safety issue. Also, there is really no parking in the area. The cost to renovate is estimated to be between $4 million and $6 million: why would anyone want to invest that much in a building with such limited use? Also, there are bricks on the upper level coming loose and the interior is not in very good shape.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Newington community project presentation gets feedback, opposition from residents

NEWINGTON — Town Manager John Salomone shared details on the proposed Town Hall/Community Center Project with the Newington Rotary Club this week.
This was among his first presentations to various community groups before voters weigh in on the $30 million project at a Sept. 9 referendum. On Monday, July 28, Salomone will make a presentation about the center at Paradise Pizza in New Britain during a meeting of the Newington Kiwanis Club.
Architectural renderings and an informational brochure that was just finalized and approved by the State Bond Commission and Town Council guides presentations. This very same brochure will be mailed to all Newington households of registered voters in the next few weeks. “I am obliged and honored to be as neutral as I can,” Salomone told Rotarians Wednesday. “I’ve been in this business for 38 years and I really trust citizens in making good choices,” he added. The project includes an interior renovation to Town Hall and construction of a new community center in Mill Pond Park, adjacent to the Town Hall complex. Moving the center to open park land has sparked the most opposition from residents, who came to the council’s meeting Tuesday sporting blue and yellow T-shirts that read “Save Mill Pond Park” and hand-written “Say No Sept. 9” stickers. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Documents reveal details of plan of former Waterford school

Waterford — The proposed multi-family development on the property of the former Cohanzie School includes four new buildings containing 154 apartments plus a swimming pool and children's play area, according to documents obtained by The Day through a Freedom of Information Act request. Centerplan Companies is slated to present its proposal for an apartment complex on the property of the former school to the Board of Selectmen on Aug. 11 at 5 p.m at Town Hall.
Also scheduled is a public hearing and possible vote to sell the property to the firm for $1 million. The firm plans to restore the original 1923 section of the school and use it as a recreation facility.
"The site plan was designed to locate smaller two-story buildings at the front of the site along the existing roadway [Dayton Road] and to locate the larger four-story buildings at the rear of the site in order to take advantage of this steep slope and natural site topography," states materials submitted by Centerplan to the town's building department. The materials include a conceptual map and rendering of what the development would look like. Centerplan CEO Robert Landino referred to the map as a "schematic design" that the firm will refine if the town approves the sale. Landino said the four residential buildings will include studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments and would satisfy town requirements for minimum parking with 270 spots. Some of the parking would be on the first floor of the four-floor buildings located by a portion of the Jordan Brook watershed, while some parking would be in separate single garages with the two-story buildings, and other parking would be in parking lots, he said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Time to abandon CT Studios project?

It's no secret economic development projects can be a tough slog in Connecticut. Whether it's attempting to build a new minor league ballpark in the Capital City, or a billion-dollar residential-commercial development in Windsor's Great Pond Village, new and significant developments can take years of planning and politicking before the first shovel sifts dirt. Many projects often fail to see the light of day, overwhelmed by a tough and costly regulatory environment, the high cost of doing business in the state, and local politics. In some cases, however, the slow process serves businesses and residents well, providing time for the necessary oversight to ensure developers have well thought-out plans that don't leave taxpayers carrying all the risk. In that respect, citizen outrage over the Rock Cats' planned move to Hartford has been a good thing, forcing city officials to re-think plans to finance a $60 million stadium fully on the backs of taxpayers. There is a question of "How long is too long?" for a town or city to consider a proposed development before a project is abandoned. South Windsor officials need to start asking themselves that as they weigh the future of a proposed $100 million film studio, which has been planned since 2008, but still hasn't broken ground.
It may be time to pull the plug on the deal. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

E. Hampton High's redo embraces chilled-beam AC

East Hampton schoolkids and their parents have waited decades for their aging high school to undergo the kinds of improvements that will facilitate 21st-century learning.
If antiquated classroom space unconducive to a modern science/technology curricula wasn't bad enough, on sweltering days, pupils and teachers find it even more challenging to keep cool, because much of the schoolhouse isn't air conditioned. High-school A/C has topped residents' and town educators' complaint- and wish-lists for years. Now, countdown has begun toward the scheduled November start of a $52 million inside-out, "as-new" renovation of the approximately 123,000-square-foot, single-story hilltop structure at 15 N. Maple St. Construction is expected to be finished by summer 2017. When completed, the 52-year-old building that underwent a 47,000-square-foot addition in 1974, with minor handicapped-access upgrades in 1989, will be the most modern of the town's four schools. The new science wing, gymnasium and an overhead cooling system found in only a handful of Connecticut buildings but used mostly outside the U.S., stand out among the lengthy list of enhancements, according to S/L/A/M Collaborative Inc. architect Glenn Gollenberg, principal in charge of East Hampton High's makeover.
Downes Construction in New Britain has been hired as general contractor. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

CT borrows $725M for roads, housing, schools and non-profits

The Bond Commission authorized approximately $725 million in borrowing, the bulk of which will go to transportation infrastructure. Repair, replacement and equipment programs for roads, bridges, bus and rail projects received more than $524 million. Housing was the second-largest category, with approximately $49 million. Dakota Partners' conversion of Hartford's 390 Capitol Ave. into 112 apartments and commercial space and Spruce Meadows' construction of 43 apartments on South Broad Street in Meriden each received a $5 million loan from the state's housing trust fund. Four multi-family housing owners also received a total of $12.2 million in improvement loans.
Business-related borrowing totaled approximately $40 million. The bulk, $30 million, was split among replenishing the Small Business Express Fund — which provides loans and assistance to business — and a reallocation of Manufacturing Assistance Act funds to six companies.
Area companies receiving MAA assistance include C. Cowles & Co. in North Haven for property and training costs and Marsam Metal Finishing Co. in New Britain for construction and equipment purchases. The Subsidized Employment and Training Program (STEP), which subsidizes the cost of hiring and training employees, received $3.7 million. Meanwhile, the Hartford Economic Development Loan Fund received $2.5 million to provide revolving grants and loans to small and minority-owned businesses. The Connecticut Science Center received $4 million for HVAC improvements and technology and exhibit upgrades. The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford received $2.2 million for renovations and improvements. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Ansonia gets $500K grant to help redevelop former industrial sites

ANSONIA >> The city plans to redevelop nearly 60 acres of former industrial sites with a $500,000 grant the state Bonding Commission approved Friday. Economic Development Director Sheila O’Malley said she credits state Rep. Linda M. Gentile, D-Ansonia, for her efforts in getting the bond funding for Ansonia. “I have to thank Linda Gentile, she saw the need for economic development money and took (our request) to Hartford,” O’Malley said. “She was just wonderful; our hats are off to her.” Gentile said she and O’Malley started working on the grant application in late March. She said state officials “have an understanding of the needs and challenges that Ansonia is facing as a mill town.”  Gentile and state Sen. Joseph J. Crisco, D-Woodbridge, joined Mayor David S. Cassetti, O’Malley and state and city officials Monday to announce the funding at a press conference at the former ATP Building.  The city owns the ATP building at 497 E. Main St. and the adjoining Palmer Building at 153 Main St. It would like to develop both into residential sites.  Other buildings being considered for redevelopment include the former Ansonia Copper and Brass offices at 75 Liberty St., and the cavernous former Ansonia Copper factory on Riverside Drive. Some funds will also be used for an access to Fountain Lake Industrial Park.  O’Malley said the city will also “try to beef up the revolving loan fund to make it more of a substantial business loan.” Most of the $500,000 would be used for demolition, acquisition and cleanup. O’Malley said the funding request was made “because the properties that remain in Ansonia are difficult to develop.” They’re the more complex sites, she said, and require a partnership with developers. Standing Monday at the Riverside Drive entrance to the former Ansonia Copper and Brass site, Cassetti called it “an albatross. It’s 44 acres of desolation.”  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Soil sampling has begun at Litchfield Courthouse

TORRINGTON >> Preliminary work for the Litchfield County Courthouse complex started Monday as crews began soil sampling on the site on Field Street. Rob Brautigam, a field engineer at GeoDesin of Middlebury, is overseeing the week-long phase of the project this week, working alongside the father and son team of John DeAngelis, Jr., and John DeAngelis III, of SITE, LLC, which is based in Beacon Falls.  The DeAngelis are operating a drill rig with a hollow-stem auger made of heat-treated steel. Brautigam said the parking lot cap has about three inches of asphalt before turning into soil. The drilling is a form of a geotechnical engineering exploration, Brautigam said, as it will help determine the kind of foundation the 147,000 square-foot courthouse will need.  “These guys are doing the soil boring up to 30 feet deep,” Brautigam said. “Basically, we are going to take all this data soil samples, send them off to a lab, bring them back to an office and our professional engineers will put together some designs for either a shallow or deep foundation for the courthouse itself.”
The week-long project will drill 20 holes, four per day, throughout the 3.2 acre lot, which will include a bulk of the courthouse facility and adjacent parking.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

July 28, 2014

CT Construction Digest July 28, 2014

Stamford downturn to shift south under plan

STAMFORD -- After a decade of spectacular growth within and around the downtown and South End, a new city master plan is looking to rein in the most intense levels of development in burgeoning surrounding neighborhoods. Begun last year, the prospective plan restricts the decisions of land-use officials when determining whether proposed new projects meet the city's established land-use goals. Several neighborhoods bordering the central downtown district have been placed in a new land-use category calling for significantly lower density than downtown, where regulations allow the most intense development. Jay Tepper, a Planning Board member, said choices to control density in and around downtown are some of the most important economic tools in the plan.
"To me the downtown of the city is the core of the city," Tepper said. "I hate to say that it is more important, but changes to the downtown has radiating effects on surrounding neighborhoods and has an impact on whether you have a vibrant downtown." Included in the new so-called urban mixed-use category are areas of the South End on Washington Boulevard where the city's largest developer, Building and Land Technology, is in the midst of a $3.5 billion development known as Harbor Point. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

CT seeking upgraded freight rail line

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — From the port of New London on Long Island Sound north through Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and into Canada, a 390-mile freight rail system linking New England to the rest of the Northeast lacks a key element: a 21st-century rail line in Connecticut.
Elected officials in Connecticut, backed by regional business owners and Genesee & Wyoming Inc., owner of New England Central Railroad, are lobbying federal transportation officials for $8.3 million to upgrade railroad tracks to accommodate heavier freight and move more products to market. New England Central is contributing $2 million. Officials say it would be the first north-south heavy rail capacity corridor in Connecticut and could lead to expanded passenger rail service in eastern Connecticut. "You can see point-blank the rail line is rusty, bolted together, not that stable in terms of bearing weight," said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., one of several elected officials lobbying for the federal money. The New England Central Railroad moves commodities such as lumber, panels, plywood, newsprint, printing paper, compressed gas, chemicals, fuel oil and construction debris. The Great Recession hit New England hard, but business is returning, said Charles Hunter, assistant vice president of government affairs at Genesee & Wyoming. Rail also looks attractive in comparison with truck transport, which relies on rising gasoline prices, he said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
POMFRET — Justin Dingle installed windows after graduating from Meriden’s Wilcox Technical High School in 2013. But Dingle wanted something more and approached a group of construction workers at Platt High School about getting a job on the $111.8 million renovation project.
Dingle could soon be one of 10 Wilcox graduates to work on the city’s two high school renovation projects. The group is spending four weeks in Pomfret at the Laborers’ International Union of North America training center. After that, they will begin apprenticeships on the projects. Later, there’s a good chance they will be hired to work on both schools. “I wanted to be involved in more hands-on work,” said Dingle, a Meriden resident. “We are learning a lot here that is getting us prepared for the real world.” The high school projects opened opportunities for union construction workers from Meriden. The combined projects total close to $220 million and will include interior and exterior renovations and new additions at Platt and Maloney High School. The Meriden City Council agreed, in a divided vote, to use a project labor agreement for the school work. The PLA sets hiring goals, including 30 percent Meriden residents, 15 percent minorities, 5 percent veterans and 5 percent women. Those opposed to the PLAs argued the agreement drove up costs because work is directed toward union workers.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
MERIDEN — A downtown housing and commercial development received a financial boost Friday when the state Bond Commission voted to support a $6 million loan to help construct the four-story building. The proposed 24 Colony St. development will have 64 housing units, including 56 that are considered affordable housing. There will also be about 11,000 square feet of commercial space.
 The development is estimated to cost $22.865 million. In addition to the $6 million loan, there will be other funding sources. A total of $12.74 million will come from federal low-income housing tax credits, $3.67 million from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, $158,000 from energy rebates, and $297,000 from a deferred developer fee. Branford-based Westmount Management, doing business as Colony Residences LLC, is the project developer. The company is working closely with the Meriden Housing Authority, as about 25 percent of the housing units will be replacement units for Mills Memorial Apartments. MHA Executive Director Robert Cappelletti and Westmount Management Director Rick Ross could not be reached for comment Friday. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
WATERBURY — The car parked across the street from Lisa Lessard's Pearl Lake Road home on a recent weekday was not hers. It belonged to one of the many workers reconstructing the road.
Lessard, a type-1 diabetic, needs to walk several houses down the rocky, bumpy road under construction to get to her own car. But when she asked the worker if he would mind switching spaces, she said he told her he needed to be there to access his water bottle, because it was hot out.
Down the street, the top of Kim Wilkins's driveway was cracked; the result, she said, of heavy construction equipment using it to turn around. But when she pointed it out to a worker, he simply replied, "We got to tear it up, anyway," she said. Across the street, Marc Morgan's front yard has been sliced into like a wedge of cheese, leaving a precipitous drop he said poses a danger to his children. He said he hopes it will eventually be graded properly, but a resident up the street said her yard was left the same way when workers moved on. While officials have said reconstruction of the heavily traveled road is proceeding smoothly and on time, neighbors say what little interaction they have had with the workers has usually been nasty. "You know what it is? There's no respect," Wilkins said. "They're rude." LAST WEEK, CITY OFFICIALS praised Dayton Construction for its handling of the complex task of reconstructing the key thoroughfare between the South and East Ends of the city. It's a massive, two-year project, stretching a mile and costing $5.3 million. Lessard and fellow resident Susan Cegelka have long spoken out against the project. Officials said they have heard complaints from few others. But a short walk through that neighborhood one afternoon last week turned up several who were upset not just by the project itself — which some acknowledged as necessary and beneficial — but by how it's proceeding and a lack of positive communication between the workers and the residents. "They broke my water about three times since it started," said Effiong Esenyie, who said he has lived on Pearl Lake Road for about 20 years. "It's really inconvenient, I'll tell you now." In Wilkins's yard, the stump of a tree sat partially cut, its logs strewn about after having been felled as part of the road reconstruction. No one ever came back to haul them away.
And, she said, it was her understanding that when workers repave her driveway, it would be in a way that provided for proper drainage, instead of pooling at the bottom. But when she asked the project foreman about it, she said, he told her he knew nothing of that. Wilkins said she has been living on Pearl Lake Road for more than 50 years, and will be sad to see her front hedges, which are at least that old, removed as part of the grading portion of the project. "Granted, we need all this," she said. "But there was, I believe, a better way of going about it." NOT ALL NEIGHBORS are convinced the project was needed. "A lot of us protested the whole idea initially, but eventually they won their way," local businessman Marc Morgan, a Pearl Lake Road resident since 1999, said. Morgan, who has a new baby and a 9-year-old, said the amount of noise that comes from the construction job — sometimes as early as 5:30 a.m. — disrupts the children's sleep and at one point shook the house so violently it seemed like an earthquake. His car always is covered in dust and stones are constantly hitting the undercarriage, especially, he said, when it hits at the bottom of his driveway, where there is now a dip. "I'm not pleased with the amount of land they've taken," he said, standing at the edge of his yard, where the grass gives way to a steep pitch of dirt and rubble. "The thing I'm concerned about is the degree to which it drops off." Cegelka said she had been concerned about the same thing. But when the construction project moved down the street, her land was left that way. "They did a terrible job at the bottom of my yard," she said. "I have a sloping front yard... my yard goes in and drops a 90-degree precipitous drop." Her neighbor's yard, she later wrote in an email, looks even worse. "He has a very steep slope verging on 90 degrees that is now full of grass that can't be mowed," she wrote. "I don't think that it can even be weed-whacked because of the severity of the slope." WHILE THE CITY DISTRIBUTES a daily email update about the project, Cegelka was one of several who said communication to the residents has been spotty to nil. On a single day, she said, sanitation workers told her they couldn't negotiate the street through the construction, her water was turned off unexpectedly, then a Connecticut Light & Power worker rang her bell to inform her the house's electricity would be shut off. "I said, 'When?'" she recalled. "They, said, 'Now.'" None of this, she said, had been communicated to her in advance. Lessard said her house lost water unexpectedly five times. But what angers her most, she said, is a lack of consideration and courtesy by the workers, who she said have littered her yard with trash and construction debris, and have her home blocked in so badly she needs to take a circuitous route just to get in her front door. At one point, she said, she found twisted metal bars jutting out of a rock in her driveway, which could have potentially injured someone or damaged a car. "They just leave stuff. There's pipes and stuff. They just throw it in your yard and leave it there," she said. "They just don't care. There's no respect for us." City Engineer Mark Pronovost said most of the neighbors his staff and inspectors have talked to on Pearl Lake Road are pleased with the project. "Their attitude was, the contractor is working hard, very accommodating, doing a good job," he said. "I'm not sure you have a representative example of everybody out there." Pronovost suggested residents who have concerns should direct them to the appropriate people. He said he has two full-time inspectors on the project who would be able to answer questions, and that the construction company's foremen would more likely know about the ins and outs of the project than a day laborer or truck driver would. A person who answered the phone Friday at Dayton Construction said its president, Alan Dayton, had left for the day.

July 25, 2014

CT Construction Digest July 25, 2014


Malloy releases $3M Walk Bridge repair plan

Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday released a $3 million plan to make emergency repairs on the crippled Walk Railroad Bridge over the Norwalk River.
The emergency measures will allow the span to open and close automatically, allow marine traffic to flow past the bridge again, then close to allow Metro-North trains to cross the river on the New Haven line. After it was stuck in an open position on May 29, then again on June 6, the Coast Guard called the 118-year old bridge “inoperable” and ordered it closed until it could be repaired. It is now opened and closed once a day manually, when necessary, for marine traffic.
The plan released on Thursday calls for six to nine months of repairs at a cost of $3 million that would be raised through state bonds.  After the bridge breakdowns snarled traffic, Malloy held a “crisis summit” with Metro-North officials and established a "short term action team" (STAT) charged with determining the best approach to improve the mechanical reliability of the Walk Bridge. The team consisted of Connecticut Department of Transportation engineers and bridge inspectors, Metro-North engineers, and consultants. The STAT report makes a series of recommendations to modify the mechanical operations of the bridge. Some can be made over six months, others would take nine months. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Condo complex coming to Yalesville

WALLINGFORD — Construction of a 14-unit condominium complex on Main Street in Yalesville is set to begin next week. The complex, which will have three separate buildings at 404 Main St., will be built and managed by Verna Properties. Foundations will be poured next week, said Liz Verna, co-owner of the local company. Each 1,700-square-foot unit includes a two-car garage, full basement and three bedrooms. Each unit will have 3.5 bathrooms, she said.  Verna thinks the condominiums will attract young, single professionals that will live together as roommates. The units will start at $269,000. “We did some market research in the area, and found that there’s still a need for condos,” Verna said. “People don’t want the maintenance.” Verna said the company recently demolished two vacant homes on the property to make room for the condominium complex. Plans are based in part on a project proposed by the property’s previous owner, Town Planner Kacie Costello said. The previous owner did not move forward and sold the land to Verna Properties. The company has made a few modifications, Costello said.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

$4M state grant to kick off CT Science Center expansion

HARTFORD — Just five years after it opened, the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford is scheduled to get a $4 million state grant this week to launch an ambitious 10-year plan to expand and upgrade its exhibits and facilities. State officials said that some of the center's expansion plans include creating more educational lab space, transforming one portion of the existing building into a greenhouse and butterfly conservatory, and paying off debts related to the center's heating, cooling and ventilation systems. The money is part of a $10.5 million bond authorization for the project approved by the General Assembly. State officials say the science center's staff also expects to raise $3.5 million to $5 million to help pay for the expansion, which is intended to broaden the center's appeal and attract more visitors. "It's the first step in a longer-range plan," said Gian-Carl Casa, a spokesman for the state's Office of Policy and Management.  "This is the beginning of the project," said Rie Poirier-Campbell, the science center's vice president for advancement. "We're building out the details right now." She said the biggest parts of the overall expansion involve the additional lab space for education and new exhibits to explain to young people the fields of genomics and engineering. "These new exhibits are really geared around future careers," Poirier-Campbell said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

CT DOT employee accused of impersonating state official

TORRINGTON >> A city man who works for the state Department of Transportation has been charged with criminal impersonation after he was accused of sending an email to a local newspaper purporting to be a state official. State police Lt. J. Paul Vance said in a press release that Brian Mercure, 52, was arrested Thursday on a warrant. He was released on $2,500 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 7 at state Superior Court in Bantam. Vance said in the release that Mercure, of 208 Oxford Way, was taken into custody without incident at his place of employment in New Haven. Mercure is the assistant director for ConnDOT’s District 3A Construction Office in New Haven, working on the I-95 New Haven Harbor Crossing Corridor Improvement Program, according to the DOT’s website. According to Vance, state police received a complaint on Dec. 4 requesting a criminal investigation into an email that had been sent to the Waterbury Republican American newspaper, in which the author claimed to be a state official. Vance said the official told investigators he didn’t send the email and it was not authorized to be sent by someone else on his behalf. Vance did not say how the official discovered the letter. Vance also declined to name the state official who made the complaint. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

More extreme rain for CT, and no way to drain it

It’s no secret that the Northeast is experiencing dramatic increases in the number of extreme storms -- and more precipitation from those storms. The change has been well documented, most recently by the National Climate Assessment, released in May, that showed a 71 percent increase since 1958 in the amount of precipitation in the heaviest one percent of precipitation events in the Northeast.
More rain isn't necessarily a bad thing, but Connecticut may be ill-equipped to handle all that extra water. Due to the ongoing use of badly outdated data, much of the drainage installed in Connecticut in the last several decades may prove to be too small to handle today’s rainwater volumes.
“We’re using very, very old data to design our infrastructure on,” said Art DeGaetano, director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center housed at Cornell University. “An update was long overdue particularly with climate change.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

July 24, 2014

CT Construction Digest July 24, 2014

Pension Smoothing

A few years ago, during the depth of the economic crisis, John Q. Public learned a new phrase: “quantitative easing.” While it’s a bit more complicated than simply printing money, quantitative easing does increase the money supply. As to whether it has worked to get us out of the worldwide slump, The Economist says the jury is still out. And now Washington brings us “pension smoothing.” Those of us who are unfamiliar with the workings of high finance — but can smell a euphemism at 50 yards — may marvel at such linguistic creativity even while we assume that its real purpose is to make things sound better than they probably are. Whenever anything is given a happy-face name, it may be time to look deeper. The “smoothing” tactic — to temporarily reduce private pension contribution requirements in order to increase companies’ taxable income, and thereby raise government revenue — may sound like a Rube Goldberg arrangement, but it’s one of the ways the House plans to keep the Highway Trust Fund going for a few more months, according to news accounts.  The highway fund is the main source of money for road and bridge construction projects all over the country, and it’s about to go broke. The Senate will vote on this short-term plan soon, and since there’s little prospect of a long-term solution, this Band-Aid measure may very well pass. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Global Spectrum, which operates Hartford’s XL Center, has launched the first of planned weekly updates on the $35 million renovations at the arena.
Here is the first installment with Peter Stevens, president of JCJ Architecture and Robert Saint, director of construction services for the Capital Region Development Authority:


Work starts at new Army training site in Branford

BRANFORD >> Crews have begun moving earth off of East Main Street at the future site of the Bridgeport Army Reserve Center, as a Mississippi-based construction company secured a $13.5 million contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Army Corps spokeswoman Carol Labashosky said Wednesday the project, which includes building a 37,000-square-foot training building expected to house classes for 300 weekend reservists at the 15-acre site, is expected to be completed in January 2016. “It should be weeks before construction workers break ground on the building itself,” she said. Carothers Construction of Oxford, Mississippi, secured the contract.
First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove said the payloaders and backhoes that can be seen moving dirt along the side of the road are prepping the facility’s entrance.  The property itself is part of what once was Bittersweet Farm, home to thousands of chickens. In the late 1980s, the sprawling property was used as a mecca for artists and was dubbed the Branford Crafts Village at Bittersweet Farm.  Planning and Zoning Commission meeting minutes from April 2014 indicate that a 400-foot road will connect the training facility with East Main Street. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Barkhamsted receives grant to repair bridges

BARKHAMSTED >> The town is set to receive a state Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant (STEAP) worth half a million dollars to help repair two bridges. Town First Selectmen Don Stein said he first learned that the town would receive the $500,000 grant — the maximum amount available through the program — last week. The announcement was made public Tuesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office.  The money was requested to repair bridges that cross Beaver Crook on Park Road. The northern-most bridge is heavily damaged and requires extensive repairs. The second bridge was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, which caused damage to nearby roads as well, endangering public safety, Stein said. The grant enables the town to pay for the projects without an additional burden on taxpayers, Stein said.  “It’s a great bonus for a small community to fund projects,” Stein said. The project will cost $512,700, Stein said in his grant application, with the town funding the remaining $12,700.  The first bridge is located on Park Road, 2.9 miles north of the intersection of Route 181, according to the grant application. The bridge, which is 17 feet long and 22 feet wide, is considered “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete” by the state’s Department of Transportation. The estimated cost for replacement and road repairs is $340,300.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Money can't outrun roads

THOMASTON — With 45 roads reconstructed, the town has reached the end of its $10.7 million bond to repair 62 roads over seven years. Before paving North Main Street this summer, First Selectman Edmond V. Mone said there was $366,883 left in the bond. He said he doesn't know how much is left now because the bills for that project have not all come in, but it's not likely to cover the cost of reconstructing another road. With the last of the bond money nearly used up, construction on Thomaston roads is over for the time being, Mone said. "I know we didn't get as far as we wanted to," he said. Unforeseen costs — including some roads that were paved over sand or dirt with no proper base, as well as increased costs in asphalt — prevented Thomaston from completing all the roads on the list. He said he wants to wait three to five years for the town's debt limit to go down before considering another bond package. The next round of bonding may be $15 million, Mone estimated.
In addition to the 17 roads that were supposed to be reconstructed under the last bond package, Mone said others are likely to be added to a new list in a few years. The Web section of town, including Hillside Avenue, Gilbert Street, High Street and others in that neighborhood, previously was identified as an area in need of work but was not included on the bond, Mone said. He said that area needs more than $1 million in sanitary sewer work before roads can be reconstructed. The sewer work likely would be included in the next round of bonds, Mone said. Mone added that when the time comes, an engineer will assess and rank all the roads in town and give a projected cost.
For now, Mone said, other capital expenses — including a recently completed communications upgrade, and new roofs for schools and other town buildings — have taken precedence.
In the interim, Thomaston will use state Town Road Aid to repair potholes and skim coat small sections of road, Mone said. At one time, Mone said, the town put aside money each year for road repairs, but more pressing needs and the desire to control taxation put an end to that practice.

July 23, 2014

CT Construction Digest July 23, 2014

Link to this Friday's Bond Agenda

Construction Employment: Where are the jobs

Construction firms added jobs in 38 states and the District of Columbia over the past 12 months, but they reduced headcount in 27 states between May and June, according to an analysis July 18 of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said the employment gains help, but that construction employment remains below peak levels in every location except North Dakota. "The overall trend in construction employment remains favorable, with three-fourths of states adding jobs on a year-over-year basis," said Ken Simonson, the association's chief economist. "But the recovery remains choppy, not steady. In June, monthly gains occurred in fewer than half the states and the nation added just 6,000 construction jobs."
Florida led all states in percentage and total gains in construction employment (11.5 percent, 41,700 jobs) between June 2013 and June 2014. Other states adding a high percentage of new construction jobs for the past 12 months included Nevada (10.5 percent, 5,900 jobs), Utah (9.3 percent, 6,800 jobs), North Dakota (7.9 percent, 2,600 jobs) and Minnesota (7,900 jobs, 7.8 percent). Other states adding a high total of new construction jobs during the past year included California (29,800 jobs, 4.7 percent), Texas (19,100 jobs, 3.1 percent), Pennsylvania (13,000 jobs, 5.8 percent) and Minnesota. CLICK ON TITLE TO CONTINUE

Costco plan faces new roadblock

NEW BRITAIN — The three-year saga of Costco added another chapter Tuesday when the co-owner of the company that manages the Target store property at the Hartford Road site emailed the city’s Common Council to say that Costco should not be offered a tax abatement.
James Basile of Basile Enterprise Inc., West Hartford, wrote that “If . . . it is determined that the Costco deal is an absolute necessity and the only way to facilitate it is to provide a tax abatement, then, rather than reward a new company, why not reallocate that savings to NB-BTMC, LLC [Basile’s parent company] in return for a shared-access project that provides a greater benefit to all?”
Alluding to the city’s request for a $865,000 state grant for off-site improvements, Basile suggested the state keep some of its grant money or reallocate it “to more important projects where the funding is actually necessary to improve the City of New Britain.” Basile added that he never assumed the city would award Costco $2.1 million to pay for increased construction and cost overruns.
Mayor Erin Stewart who supports plans for the warehouse store on Hartford Road, argues that a tax abatement gives Costco a minimal tax break over seven years. CLICK ON TITLE TO CONTINUE

State grant to help fund bridge in Middlefield

MIDDLEFIELD >> The state will send $131,000 to help repair the Miller Road Bridge over the Coginchaug River. In a statement Tuesday, Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office announced $2.4 million in Small Town Economic Assistance Program awards for eight different towns. Of that, the state designated “$131,000 to rehabilitate the Miller Road Bridge over the Coginchaug River. This award would be combined with a 2012 STEAP award to complete the project. The bridge was built in 1936 and in need of the structural repairs to ensure public safety,” wrote David Bednarz, a spokesman for Malloy.  In financial year 2012, the Office of Policy Management granted $250,000 in STEAP money to help repair the bridge. In July of last year, First Selectman Jon Brayshaw met with officials from the Department of Transportation, and they agreed to suspend the repair project until this year. At the time, another nearby bridge on Route 147 was still undergoing construction, and state and town officials did not want to exacerbate possible traffic problems in the area. Brayshaw had emphasized that there was no immediate danger to forestalling the repair work, and that there had simply been “no compelling reason” to embark on construction projects in two locations at the same time. Barkhamsted, Cornwall, Kent, Ledyard, North Stonington, Rocky Hill and Waterford also received awards as part of the $2.4 million package announced Tuesday.

Resurrecting the rock pile

Back in 2008, just before the economy took a major turn for the worst, the Guilford Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) approved plans for a 149,000-square-foot shopping center to be constructed on the Rockpile, the 26-acre parcel known as Guilford Commons at 1919 Boston Post Road. Almost seven years later, the Ohio-based DDR Corporation was back in front of the Planning & Zoning Commission on July 16, seeking approval once again to build a shopping center on the site.
The commission again voted to approve the project. The only real change in seven years is that the project has been reduced from 149,000 square feet down to 135,000 square feet. Besides the size change, the shopping center project follows an almost identical design plan as the one previously approved with just a few minor tweaks. "There is a period of 15 days after the PZC takes action during which anyone who has a grievance with the decision can appeal," explained Guiford Town Planner George Kral. "I suspect that after the 15 days is up, [DDR] will be looking for building permits soon, and they will start getting to work as soon as possible." DDR is an owner and manager of 546 primarily open-air shopping centers. The company operates a total of 126 million square feet in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, concentrated in high barrier-to-entry markets with stable populations and high growth potential. Although the entire shopping center project was approved in the past, a proposal had to once again be brought before the town's Design Review Committee, as well as the PZC to move forward this time around. No specific tenants for the new shopping center have been formally identified, however, the single largest tenant space would occupy a maximum of 25,000 square feet. CLICK ON TITLE TO CONTINUE

Union to picket contractor at Raymond Library job site

 EAST HARTFORD — A Glastonbury contractor with a history of labor law violations is working on the Raymond Memorial Library renovation and expansion project, according to the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. The union is planning to picket the construction site Wednesday morning, even though there is no evidence of violations by Intext Building Systems Inc. at the East Hartford job site, union organizer Dean Pallotti said. "We're just going off their proven track record. Maybe they're not doing it today, but they did it yesterday and the day before," he said. Intext has been issued between four and five "stop work" orders this years on different projects after the state Department of Labor found instances of the company not paying workers, not placing workers on payroll, not paying taxes and not covering employees with workers compensation, said department spokesman Gary Pechie. CLICK ON TITLE TO CONTINUE

July 22, 2014

CT Construction Digest July 22, 2014

Himes calls for end to bridge-repair money squabbles

NORWALK -- Standing in front of one of the state's most structurally deficient bridges, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes said Monday that Congress must move beyond short-term fixes to find revenue for trillions of dollars in transportation repairs and upgrades nationwide.
"This nation's infrastructure is far too important to get caught up in the squabbling between Democrats and Republicans, or state, federal or municipal offices, or any other squabbling," Himes said. "This is not a partisan issue."  Himes joined Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, other elected officials, and construction labor groups in front of the Yankee Doodle Bridge in Norwalk to tout new funding mechanisms, including leveraging private investment to pay for highway, bridge and rail repairs. The bridge, which carries Interstate 95 over the Norwalk River, is slated for $15 million in repairs to the steel superstructure starting in 2017. The bridge was originally built in 1958.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a $10.8 billion package last week to prevent the National Highway Trust Fund from becoming insolvent next month, but the Senate has yet to approve it. The stop-gap measure would keep thousands of projects moving until next May.
Rilling said losing that funding would be a serious blow.  "If you look at the bridge behind me, it is the fourth-worst bridge in Connecticut," Rilling said. "A stop in the highway trust fund that would delay the construction of this bridge would certainly be a cause of concern for all people who travel on Interstate 95 in Norwalk."  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Doubts about mall plan

BRISTOL — There’s a growing sense among some city officials that the nearly five-year quest to create a new urban neighborhood on the former mall site downtown is going to fall short.
At a recent meeting of a special committee created to find a location for a synthetic-turf athletic field, for example, talk turned to the possibility of putting the field on the 15 vacant acres in the city center.
“Ideally, it would make sense” to put a playing field there, said Paul Tonon, a Board of Finance member. The problem, he said, is that developer Renaissance Downtowns “has this illusion that somebody will put up this fabulous complex” on the parcel. Renaissance has won conceptual approval for a $280 million project it calls Depot Square that aims to create a walkable, vibrant urban project that includes shops, restaurants, offices and housing. The developer is trying to come up with a solid financial plan to begin the first phase of the multiyear project with a building near or on Main Street that would consist mostly of market-rate apartments targeted at young professionals and empty nesters. It is looking for taxpayers to help with $6 million or more toward the bottom line in order to kick start the work. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

State receives Wallingford ZBA approval to acquire land for rail line expansion

WALLINGFORD — The state Department of Transportation is looking to acquire a small parcel on Old Colony Road to install signaling equipment for the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter railway. Steve Deegan, a property agent for the DOT, was before the Zoning Board of Appeals Monday for a variance that would allow the state to acquire a 222-square-foot parcel at 1258 Old Colony Road. The 23,958-square-foot property has been owned by Kevin Lohmann for the past 15 years, and includes a house. A variance is necessary because zoning regulations require parcels with a minimum of 30,000 square feet in the area. The non-conforming property has been grandfathered in because the residence was built in 1940, prior to the town adopting zoning regulations. A variance allows the property’s square footage to be further reduced. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Spring Rd bridge coming late August

First Selectman Michael J. Freda announced that the Town of North Haven, due to reconstruction improvements, will be preparing for full closure of the Spring Road Bridge over the Muddy River in late August. The Spring Road Bridge is located between Potter and Mill Roads and will be closed to accommodate reconstruction efforts. A bid opening was held at the Town’s Department of Finance for the reconstruction of the Spring Road Bridge on March 26, 2014. Dewberry Engineers of New Haven worked closely with the State of Connecticut Department of Transportation (“DOT”) to secure the necessary permits and design approvals related to the project. The project was awarded to Nagy Brothers Construction of Monroe for $393,507, which is less than the original estimated price of $600,000. Materials have been ordered and construction is expected to commence during the week of August 25, 2014. The bridge will remain shut down for up to four months duration. Total reimbursable costs by the DOT will be approximately 30%. The Office of the First Selectman and Department of Public Works apologize in advance for any inconveniences that will result from construction efforts. The options to repair the superstructure were carefully weighed and the final decision has been concluded to be the best option for the Town after considering the welfare of the residents, time to complete project, viable cost options, and quality of reconstruction. In preparation for closure, North Haven school buses will be re-routed and appropriate detours and signage will be provided. After a short discussion, the board unanimously approved the variance. If the variance wasn’t approved, the state would be forced to pursue an easement or potentially use eminent domain, Deegan said.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Plainville anticipates grant for athletic field

PLAINVILLE — The high school will get an artificial turf athletic field if the state approves a $950,000 grant on Friday. The $950,000 grant is on the agenda of the State Bond Commission, which will meet at 10 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford to consider numerous bonding requests. School Superintendent Jeffrey Kitching said Monday the artificial turf field will provide a safer playing surface for athletes and lessen the chance of concussions. The new surface will also allow the fields to be used by more local teams. "Our current field is in good condition because we limit usage," Kitching said. "Having an artificial turf field will aloow us to have more groups use the field because it will hold up better than grass." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Time-lapse video of I-84 bridge replacement


A time-lapse video released by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office Monday shows the massive $6 million bridge replacement project on I-84 in Southington last month. The project was completed the weekend of June 28 to June 29 using a process known as accelerated bridge construction, where the new bridge is built on-site next to the old one and swapped into place once it is complete.The highway was shut down in both directions for the weekend while the work took place but state Department of Transportation officials said it was better than the alternative of months of continued lane closures and construction. “This project not only demonstrates the unprecedented investments we are making to improve and modernize our transportation infrastructure but also the steps we are taking to ensure these kinds of projects are completed ahead of schedule and with as little interruption as possible to area residents and travelers,” Malloy said in a statement. “By employing ABC principles, CTDOT took a creative approach to virtually eliminate what would have been many months or even years of traffic disruptions and congestion on I-84 and the local roads surrounding the project.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Portions of Clark St close in preparation of courthouse construction

TORRINGTON >> A portion of Clark Street is being discontinued as the city gears up for construction on the Litchfield County Courthouse complex.  The City Council voted in favor of discontinuing a portion of Clark Street between Field and Clinton streets during a roll call vote at Monday evening’s meeting. Talk of discounting that portion of the street in preparation of construction emerged in January; similar votes had been tabled during council meetings on March 3 and March 17. The decision arrives at an opportune time: Mayor Elinor Carbone confirmed Monday that a groundbreaking date for the courthouse project is set for Aug. 12, though she cautioned the date is subject to change. She said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman is expected to attend the ceremony.  Jeffery Beckham, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Administrative Services, said he couldn’t confirm the date of the groundbreaking last week, which the Register Citizen learned of through a document obtained Friday.  Carbone said the city had tabled a vote to discontinue the street twice in March as it awaited more information about the state’s plans, specifically in regards to how they would handle the catch basins and storm water lines in the areas. The site’s footprint extends from the parking lot on Field Street, across the discontinued Clark Street portion, into a lot that once housed a 40,000-square-foot building that was demolished this month and will serve as parking space for the complex. The courthouse complex itself will rest atop the existing parking lot on Field Street.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

O&G Ind retirees remember days on the job

TORRINGTON More than 160 retirees of O&G Industries demonstrated their pride for their former longtime employer by attending a reunion at Elk's Pond on Guerdat Road. One of them was James A. Savanella, 83, who now splits his time living in Harwinton and Arizona. He said he worked for O&G for 41 years performing an assortment of jobs before retiring 18 years ago as an assistant vice president. Savanella, a former Harwinton selectman, said he gave up his own grating and landscaping business in his early 20s when O&G asked him to work for it after the Flood of '55. There was plenty of work as many roads and bridges needed to be rebuilt. Savanella said he liked the work as well as his co-workers and bosses. He also enjoyed experiencing the growth of the company from road construction to building construction. "They got a passion," he said of the family-run business. "They used to know everybody and they were always there when you needed them. They weren't afraid to get in there and work and you got to respect that."
At age 74 and after 52 years of employment, Tony Damiano of Thomaston is still working for O&G. His son, Joey, has been working for O&G since 1978; his son-in-law, Steve Walker, since the mid-1980s; and his grandson, Daniel, for the last 12 or 13 years. His father also worked there as a mason.
So why have they worked for O&G for so long? "They have a lot of respect for their people," Damiano said. "They treat everybody decently. I think it's what the founders instilled into their offspring, starting with Andrew." O&G was founded in 1923 by Andrew Onegila and Flaviano Gervasini. They started with two trucks and a steamroller, according to a written history compiled by the company. As O&G began to build more roads, it developed a network of quarries, concrete and asphalt plants throughout Connecticut and New York. The first quarry opened in Woodbury in the 1930s and O&G now has more than a dozen. In 1960, O&G completed its first building project. Today, the company has overseen the construction of hundreds of schools, high-rise office buildings, industrial projects, health care facilities, sports complexes, environmental projects and power plants.
The third generation of Oneglias run the company now, with the fourth generation taking key leadership roles. The idea behind the reunion belongs to Barbara Buys, whose husband, Billy, worked for O&G for 40 years. She said they were at a wake in December for a former O&G employee and she noted how many of the attendees who were also retired O&G employees were enjoying talking with one another, despite the sad occasion. So she suggested the company hold a reunion while many of the retirees are still alive and can truly enjoy each other's company. One of the organizers, Tracy McKeon of Torrington, worked for O&G for 30 years, and her husband, Gene, for 50. She said co-workers became like family because of the loyalty people held for their employer.
"Back in the day, people worked the same job for their whole career," McKeon said. "Today, five years is a long time." O&G Vice Chairman Raymond R. Oneglia, part of the third generation, thanked both past and present employees for their "dedication, expertise and hard work."
The company, headquartered at 122 Wall St., employs more than 900 people and generates $500
million in volume per year.     

$15M for Waterbury

HARTFORD — The State Bond Commission is poised to approve $15 million to finance economic development, housing and school improvement projects in Waterbury. Some of the financing will go for projects that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy highlighted during a visit to the city earlier this month.
The bond commission is expected to approve $5.2 million to fund the initiation of the so-called Waterbury Downtown Next program. The Malloy administration has committed to providing an additional $7 million in funding in the future. The $5.2 million will support the redevelopment of the Howland Hughes building, infrastructure improvements, the acquisition and cleanup of the abandoned Anamet property on Washington Avenue, the demolition of the dilapidated Prospect Street garage, and the purchase and repurposing of the historic Rose Hill campus on Prospect Street.
The commission is also set to approve $5.2 million to assist Omni Warner Gardens Limited Partnership fund the first phase of a project to develop new rental housing at 154 Warner St.
Warner Gardens is a housing cooperative in the Long Hill section of the city that developers proposed to demolish and rebuild. The first phase will consist of the construction of 58 rent-restricted units, including 12 dedicated to supportive housing. The commission's agenda includes $2,896,825 for the Carroll Partners-Waterbury Limited Partnership for rehabilitating the Carroll Apartments at 44 Willow St. Carroll Apartments is a historic, vacant, five-story, 35-unit apartment building at 44 Willow St. As proposed, the project will provide 35 units for renters at 25 percent to 100 percent of the median income for the area. Additionally, the commission is scheduled to approve $736,372 to fund the next phase of the rehabilitation of the Brookside housing complex. The panel previously released nearly $3.3 million in funding for the project.