December 17, 2015

CT Construction Digest December 17, 2015

The CT Construction Digest will resume on a regular basis on January 4. Thanks to everyone who views this on a daily basis. Merry Christmas.  Nate

Groundbreaking Delayed On Outlet Shoppes At Rentschler Field

EAST HARTFORD — The groundbreaking for The Outlet Shoppes at Rentschler Field has been delayed as the developer waits to hear if it will get financial assistance through a quasi-public group that invests state money, a city official said this week.
Groundbreaking for the mall had been planned for late this fall for an early 2017 opening.
However, Town Council Chairman Richard Kehoe said on Tuesday that the groundbreaking has been pushed back as the developer waits for an answer from Connecticut Innovations on whether the group will invest in the outlet mall.
"The state is reviewing the project in order to make a determination of whether to provide financial assistance," Kehoe said.
It was not clear how much money the developer, Horizon Group Properties Inc., is seeking from Connecticut Innovations.
A representative from Horizon Group confirmed on Tuesday that there is no groundbreaking scheduled but declined to comment on the request for financial assistance.
Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-public entity, receives state money and invests in Connecticut companies and developments that benefit an entire region. A spokeswoman, Lauren Carmody, said Connecticut Innovations is in the contract stage of beginning an economic feasibility study that will examine whether The Outlet Shoppes at Rentschler Field is a smart investment for the state.
She said there is no time line for when the study might be completed or when Connecticut Innovations would make a decision regarding financial assistance.
"There has been no determination in terms of funding," Carmody said. "There has been no commitment on our end."
"With many of these large projects we look at the income they generate," she said. "We want to make sure the investments we are making are good for the state."
Carmody said the study would look at the economic impact to the state, including how much the development would generate in taxes, how many jobs the outlet would create, and any other potential benefits to the region. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Plan calls for Connecticut to spend $200 million to improve Wilbur Cross Parkway tunnel

NEW HAVEN >> A state plan to repair the 66-year-old tunnel that carries the Wilbur Cross Parkway through West Rock involves drilling a third tube through the trap rock ridge.
The project, part of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s statewide transportation plan, could cost “somewhere upwards of $200 million,” according to Tom Maziarz, chief of planning for the state Department of Transportation. The state Bond Commission recently approved $2 million for preliminary design work, which Maziarz said will be complete by 2019. Improvements to Exit 59 on the parkway (Route 15) may be included in the job, he said.
The tunnel, built in 1949 and named the Heroes Tunnel in 2003, consists of two quarter-mile-long tubes and is in dire need of repair, Maziarz said Wednesday. “It’s always damp, it’s always got groundwater flowing around it or through it,” he said. Chunks of concrete have fallen and illumination is poor, according to the state. And there are no shoulders, so making repairs requires tying up traffic.
Traffic tie-ups also would be major if both directions of traffic were routed through one tube while the other was being rebuilt, Maziarz said. “Do you want to put everyone through pain for up to five years, real significant pain?” he asked.
Under the DOT’s plan, a third tube will be built to modern specifications, including space for a future additional lane, and northbound traffic then will be transferred to it permanently. One of the original tubes then will be reconstructed. The second original tube, which would not be upgraded, would then be available if repair work needed to be done on the working tubes or during an emergency.
State Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, who has been critical of the governor’s spending plans, said he didn’t think drilling a new tunnel would be the best way to go. “To create another tunnel seems a little bit egregious,” Fasano said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New Haven ground-breaking a step toward new Farnam Courts

NEW HAVEN >> Replacement of the deteriorated Farnam Courts housing project was one step closer to reality with a ground-breaking Wednesday for a portion of it in Fair Haven Heights.
The new Farnam Courts will be the third successful partnership using public and private funds to build sustainable public housing in the city under the state Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program, HUD and local officials said.
Karen DuBois-Walton, executive director of Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of New Haven, said over the years they have found what kind of public housing and programs help low-income families the most, a model that they keep replicating.
Farnam Courts, now located on Grand Avenue, is being rebuilt over three sites.
The current tenants will have first shot at the replacement units. If they don’t want to take them, they will be given a Section 8 voucher to live anywhere in the country.
A total of 57 apartments will be split between the East View Terrace site in Fair Haven Heights and the former Cott factory between Rowe and Ferry streets in Fair Haven.
There will be 27 two-bedroom units, 28 three-bedroom units, and 2 four-bedroom units totaling $30 million. When all phases of the Farnam Redevelopment are completed, 228 affordable RAD family units, 5,900 square feet of commercial space, a new community center and new park will be built.

December 16, 2015

CT Construction Digest 16, 2015

‘Major’ construction proposal on table at meeting Thursday

BRISTOL — City councilors will consider a “major construction proposal” for the former mall site at a special meeting Thursday.
“This is huge for downtown,” Mayor Ken Cockayne said Tuesday.
Cockayne said the proposal for the corner of Riverside Avenue and Main Street “is going to jump start our development” of the entire area.
Details of the proposal remain secret. The mayor would not discuss them further except to say the project involved private money.
Councilors will meet at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to hear about the plan in a closed-door session related to a land sale. Cockayne said he expects a vote to follow that may disclose more information.
The plan would apparently include the city selling a lot across from Webster Bank. It’s not clear what the proposed use is except that it doesn’t involve housing.
Most of the 15-acre lot would not be included in the deal, leaving plenty of space for future buildings and parking. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Connecticut Siting Council to rule in ’16 on Beacon Falls fuel cell power plant

The Connecticut Siting Council has taken the first step toward issuing a ruling on a fuel cell power plant in Beacon Falls.
The Siting Council issued a 16-page draft fact-finding report on the Beacon Falls Energy Park at a meeting last Thursday in New Britain. Now that the fact-finding report has been issued, the Siting Council is expected to rule early next year on whether the 63.3-megawatt fuel cell power plant can be built on part of a 25-acre parcel of land that used to be a sand and gravel pit.
If the Siting Council, which is responsible for determining where utility infrastructure can be located in the state, approves the project, construction of the power plant would start next May, said William Corvo, president of CT Energy & Technology, a Middletown company that will own the facility once it is completed.  Construction of the power plant would be done in phases, with the first part of the project done by July 2017. Corvo said Tuesday that the Beacon Falls Energy Park will be fully operational by the end of 2019. As part of the power generation process, the Beacon Falls Energy Park will use 300,000 gallons of water per day, according to the Siting Council’s fact-finding report.It will be the world’s largest fuel cell power plant when it is operational, Corvo said, and will provide energy to 60,000 Connecticut residents and businesses. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Major I-84, Route 15 improvements coming

Funding has been approved to advance the upgrade of two major infrastructure projects: I-84 in West Hartford and Route 15 between New Haven and Woodbridge. The funds are part of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's ongoing "Let's Go CT!" transportation plan. The State Bond Commission released the money on Dec. 11.
Malloy said the projects will improve driver safety, capacity, and traffic flow on two of the state's busiest highways: I-84 in West Hartford and Route 15 in New Haven.
A total of $3 million in funds have been approved for the final design of safety and capacity improvements that are coming to I-84 in West Hartford, an area that sees over 175,000 vehicles per day. Construction on the project is anticipated to begin within the next five years.
The project will include:
A westbound thru lane from Interchange 39A (Route 9) to Interchange 43;   CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Mystic Aquarium to break ground on new research center

Mystic Aquarium will break ground on a new, state-of-the-art Ocean Conservation and Research Center that will expand its scientific focus on aquatic animal health and behavior. The nearly 9,000-square-foot facility will house Mystic Aquarium's animal care, water quality and research operations.
The Mystic-based aquarium said in a statement the new center will be a key component as it strengthens its mission programs – conservation, education, exhibits and research – under an interdisciplinary and collaborative model entitled "One Ocean, One Mission." The entirety of the projects – Phases I and II – is approximately $5 million.
Mystic Aquarium's Ocean Conservation and Research Center project has two principal components:
renovation of the existing Aquatic Animal Study Center and,
construction of a new building that will physically attach to the Aquatic Animal Study Center. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Judge Rules Gold Street Relocation May Resume

HARTFORD — A Superior Court judge has lifted a stop-work order on the Gold Street relocation, clearing the way for resuming construction on the downtown project.
In court documents, Judge Marshall K. Berger wrote that the city could resume work — part of the larger iQuilt plan — now that it has held all the hearings required for moving the street.
The Bushnell Tower Condominium Association lost a monthslong court battle to block the relocation, arguing that it would move the street too close to its building, adding noise and potentially threatening property values. The association said there were less drastic alternatives that would be cheaper.
Keith R. Ainsworth, a New Haven lawyer representing the association's board, said Tuesday the association is not ready to drop the issue.
"The Bushnell Tower Condominium Association has demonstrated a remarkable resiliency," Ainsworth said, in an email. "They have not completed their efforts to seek redress for the violations of law by the city of Hartford." Ainsworth declined to elaborate. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Mixed Response To Windsor Locks Casino Proposals

WINDSOR LOCKS — Residents offered mixed responses Tuesday night to the idea of local casino development during an hour-long public hearing at Windsor Locks High School.
Of the 24 people who spoke, about half said they were in favor of casino development, many citing job creation. The other half said they were against the idea, citing potential increases in addiction, safety concerns and increased wear-and-tear to local roads.
About 300 people attended the public hearing.
Several suggested that any deal with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes should require them to make investments in the town.
Some suggested that work be done to Route 75, the riverfront and Main Street, that the project be cost-neutral to the town, and that investments be made in schools and first-responding agencies. Others suggested that the casino be subject to town property and real property taxes and that the tribes support programs that work with people with addictions. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Is Malloy planning tunnel to nowhere?

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The state is proposing to blast a new tunnel at West Rock in New Haven, use it for a while, and then close it down. Blasting a temporary, quarter mile long highway tunnel may sound wasteful at first, but the Governor says it’s the only way to do it.
75,000 cars a day pass through the two tunnels on the Wilbur Cross Parkway at West Rock Ridge in New Haven now officially known as “Heroes Tunnel.”
Opened in 1949, the nearly quarter mile tunnel is showing its age.
Water is leaking through the concrete liner causing frequent large chips to fall endangering the public. Closing one of the tunnels for repairs and shifting traffic to the other is considered impractical because it would cause a 24-hour a day traffic jam in both directions every day.
So, the Governor is clearing the way to blast a third tunnel through the ridge that can be used while one of the old tunnels is shut down and repaired.
“It’s because we cannot close a tunnel and have that kind of an economic impact on the commuters of Connecticut,” said Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker.
There is no plan on what the third tunnel would be used for after repairs to the old tunnels, and re-configuring of the interchange at Whalley Avenue is completed. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

December 15, 2015

CT Construction Digest December 15, 2015

Metro-North: 100,000 rail ties replaced in two years

A two-year-plus project to rebuild rails and track beds is already delivering smoother, safer and more reliable service, Metro-North Railroad officials said Monday.
The railroad has replaced nearly 100,000 ties, laid 16.5 miles of continuous welded rails, rebuilt 88 switches and made other systemwide improvements, according to a progress report on the Metro-North website.
“The reconstruction work has significantly enhanced the state of our infrastructure,” said Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti. “Our rails are safer today as a result of this concerted increase in track renewal work. This is a team effort that requires the coordination of dispatch operations and the dedication of our employees to be able to accomplish.”
 The Federal Railroad Administration is loaning Metro-North $967 million for its infrastructure upgrades and the state of Connecticut has allocated $115 million for its share.
The upgrades come at a time when ridership is increasing.
In its September report, Metro-North claims to have carried 375,400 more New Haven Line passengers through the first seven months of this year than over the first seven months of 2014, an increase of 1.7 percent.
The latest work has largely gone unnoticed by regular riders, said Jim Cameron, head of the Commuter Action Group.
“The ride is a bit smoother and undoubtedly safer, but the absence of a rough ride or an accident isn’t what riders are looking for,” Cameron said.
“They assume the tracks and ties are in good shape,” Cameron said Monday. “They expect a safe ride. Still, the railroad deserves a lot of credit for how far they have come in recent months. Service seems much more reliable and on time.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

City Council hesitant on Route 82 overhaul

NORWICH — Norwich’s new City Council appears slow to embrace a proposed $42 million overhaul of a 1.3-mile section of Route 82 that would include the installation of a half-dozen roundabouts.
Though no votes were taken during a Monday informational session presented by the state Department of Transportation, engineers said without support from Norwich, the venture would not move forward. “I’m not sold on this. I’ll be very honest with you,” alderman Peter Nystrom said, expressing concern about access by firefighters. Others on the Republican-heavy council said the roughly two-year construction window could have a negative financial impact on existing businesses. DOT is proposing an estimated $42 million plan to raise the median, place six roundabouts between New London Turnpike and Asylum Street, and reduce the four lanes between Osgood Street and Mechanic Street to two.  State planners have identified the roadway as a top priority because of the number of crashes in the area since 2010 – an average of 11 a month through 2014, officials said Monday. “This is more than a local problem. It’s a regionally significant problem,” Will Britnell, a principal engineer in the DOT’s highway division, said Monday. “There’s a lot of crashes out here, and it’s really something we feel compelled to address.” Of the state’s 2,500 locations identified as having higher-than-normal crash ratios, nine of them are on the Route 82 site, Britnell said. But transforming the roadway is a complicated proposition that involves property acquisition, raising medians and other steps over a two-year period during which businesses on the route would be impacted by construction.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Winter power, gas supplies, new pipelines – a volatile mix in CT

Another winter, another warning from the folks who run the power grid.
“Especially during the coldest weeks of the year, the natural gas infrastructure in New England is inadequate to meet the demand for gas for both heating and power generation,” said a recently emailed statement from Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ISO-New England, the Independent System Operator that runs the New England power grid.
The warning has become a seasonal ritual, along with the announcement, for the third consecutive year now, that ISO’s Winter Reliability Program will be in effect during the Dec. 1 to March 1 heating season.
The warning once again focuses all eyes on natural gas pipelines – viewed as either a big answer to the region’s power difficulties or a big problem, depending on whom you talk to.
“We have a system that’s only working when the weather is mild or when world oil prices are low. We need a grid that can work all the time – especially in the winter,” said Katie Dykes, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s energy chief, who oversees implementing the state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, created three years ago.
The strategy’s core is increased use of natural gas, which is seen as cleaner than oil or coal for electric generation or oil for heating. And even with oil at its lowest price in years, gas is still about 20 percent cheaper. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Hard Rock Plans Hotel, Cafe In Hartford

HARTFORD — The company that owns the chain of Hard Rock Cafes wants to open a hotel in Hartford's Downtown North neighborhood with the entertainment venue as a key attraction.
Orlando-based Hard Rock International said Monday the 170-room hotel would be privately financed and built by Centerplan Cos., the master developer of the Downtown North, or "DoNo." Hard Rock would manage the hotel — expected to open in 2018 — located at the corner of Main and Trumbull streets.
Hard Rock International operates more than 200 venues in 64 countries, including 157 cafes, 22 hotels and 11 casinos. In 2013, Hard Rock International sought to build an $800 million casino, hotel and live-entertainment venue in West Springfield, in a bid to win a casino license for western Massachusetts. Voters in West Springfield rejected the plan.
Now, Hard Rock has turned its attention 20 minutes to the south.
The hotel — Hard Rock Hartford — would be built as part of the next phase of the $400 million Downtown North project, which includes a minor league baseball stadium for the Yard Goats, now under construction. Cost estimates for the hotel are still being worked out, Centerplan officials said Monday, but it would be part of the $125 million mixed-use plan for the next phase, which also includes 180 apartments, a grocery store, restaurants, shops and other entertainment venues. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Financial woes confront firm behind New England gas pipeline

Kinder Morgan Inc., the energy giant proposing gas pipelines in the Northeast, is grappling with financial woes linked to falling energy prices and a steep drop in its stock price, forcing it to find new sources of capital. The Houston-based company announced Tuesday a 75 percent cut in its quarterly dividend to 12.5 cents per share to conserve cash for financing expansion projects. In addition to a $3.3 billion pipeline through western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, Kinder Morgan also is proposing a pipeline network in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania. Analysts say cutting the dividend helps reduce risk to financing pipeline construction.
The company avoids issuing stock to raise capital or take on debt that could jeopardize its credit rating.

December 14, 2015

CT Construction Digest December 14, 2015

Winter power, gas supplies, new pipelines – a volatile mix in CT

Another winter, another warning from the folks who run the power grid.
“Especially during the coldest weeks of the year, the natural gas infrastructure in New England is inadequate to meet the demand for gas for both heating and power generation,” said a recently emailed statement from Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ISO-New England, the Independent System Operator that runs the New England power grid.
The warning has become a seasonal ritual, along with the announcement, for the third consecutive year now, that ISO’s Winter Reliability Program will be in effect during the Dec. 1 to March 1 heating season.
The warning once again focuses all eyes on natural gas pipelines – viewed as either a big answer to the region’s power difficulties or a big problem, depending on whom you talk to.
“We have a system that’s only working when the weather is mild or when world oil prices are low. We need a grid that can work all the time – especially in the winter,” said Katie Dykes, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s energy chief, who oversees implementing the state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, created three years ago.
The strategy’s core is increased use of natural gas, which is seen as cleaner than oil or coal for electric generation or oil for heating. And even with oil at its lowest price in years, gas is still about 20 percent cheaper. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Rail project chugging toward 2017 goal

BERLIN — The new rail line from New Haven to Springfield, Mass., runs through Berlin, and that’s a good thing for the town, Economic Development Director Chris Edge said.
“The train station, and in particular, more frequent trains into Berlin, will bring additional people to the area,” he said. “We are hopeful that residents of Berlin as well as surrounding communities will decide to take the short trip to Berlin to grab the train instead of heading up to Hartford or down to New Haven.”
More people stopping in town, Edge added, means more visitors to local shops and more meals being served at local restaurants, boosting the local economy.
The town, he said, remains focused on making the area around the train station as attractive as possible. Edge said the Main Street streetscape project will begin in the spring, a new pathway from the train station to Town Hall is being planned, and several businesses are taking advantage of the fa├žade grant program to update their appearances.
The Hartford line is progressing. Last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy entered into an agreement with Amtrak to complete the line, receiving guaranteed agreements for cost ceilings and a clear timetable for work completion. Work is set to be finished in 2017.
“We are getting this project done. Instead of letting this languish for years and years, we are stepping up to the plate as a state to stand up for better transportation, more jobs, and economic development,” Malloy said. “This is a transformative project — and we have a commitment to get it done.”
The State Bond Commission, according to Malloy’s office, will approve an allocation of $155 million to complete construction of the rail line. The action brings the total funding to $643 million, of which $208 million is being provided by the federal government. An additional $73 million is being spent on related projects, including the revamping of Berlin’s station.
The work on the Berlin station carries a price tag of $22.25 million. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Stamford firm builds in wrong place, even after battle over water views,

STAMFORD — What a difference 9 feet can make.
Neighbors of an apartment building going up on Southfield Avenue in Waterside had fought to keep their water views, and demanded the developer build 132 feet back from the high water line. The developer, Belpointe Capital, wanted 102 feet. The two sides eventually settled on 111 feet.
Maybe it was a mistake, maybe not, but the builder put the foundation for the new apartments at the 102-foot mark, shorting the neighbors 9 feet. The neighbors question whether it really was a mistake, or the developer is trying to pull a fast one. Belpointe officials declined to comment Friday when contacted.
It’s not an easy situation to undo, and it’s unclear how it will be resolved. For now, nothing is happening. “They can’t work on the building itself until the foundation issue is resolved,” said Elizabeth Carlson, spokesperson for Mayor David Martin.  No official stop work order has been issued but the construction crew isn’t allowed to continue the work it was doing at 112 Southfield Ave.  A lawyer for the neighbors - the Stamford Landing Condominium Association - sent notice to developer Belpointe Capital and the city in late November that the Baypointe development under construction was being built with a 102 foot waterfront setback, instead of the 111 feet the two sides agreed to and which the Zoning Board approved late last year.
“[The association] considered the location of the waterfront setback to be a very important factor with regard to your development and sought to preserve its sight lines and its own property values,” wrote attorney Michael Cacace, of Cacace, Tusch & Santagata, in a letter addressed to Belpointe but hand delivered to city land use officials and others. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

State approves additional rail money; some lawmakers still wary of Amtrak

With an additional $155 million tacked on to the New Haven-to-Springfield commuter rail budget, some area legislators say they have continued concerns with Amtrak’s management of the project, while others are hopeful timing and cost-related issues have been resolved.
On Friday, the State Bond Commission unanimously approved borrowing $174 million for projects related to transportation improvements, including $155 million for the commuter rail project and $12 million to upgrade four locomotives. The additional funding brings the commuter rail project cost to $643 million.
Amtrak is managing the work, funded in part by the state and federal governments. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has attributed delays and overruns in the project to Amtrak’s failure to manage budgeting and staffing. In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox in May, Malloy requested that ownership of the track be transferred to the state.
Last Friday, Malloy said the state secured promises from Amtrak in return for additional funding necessary to complete upgrades to the line and construction of a track from New Haven to Hartford. The agreement includes a spending cap and deadline for completion. Initially, the project was expected to provide high-frequency service between New Haven and Hartford by 2016, but the opening date has been pushed to January 2018.
State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano said in a statement Friday that “improving transportation is key to enhancing economic development and quality of life across the state.”
Fasano, a North Haven Republican, also represents Wallingford, where construction is underway on a new train station as part of the commuter rail project. Meriden and Berlin will also have new train stations and extended platforms. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

GUILFORD >> The old Guilford High School is officially gone.
The new Guilford High opened this September, as the old one was getting knocked down. Guilford High School Building Committee member Mary Beeman said the new school continues to see improvements as the remains of the old are simply piles of rubble. “They’re pretty close to completing the bus loop and the parking, which will make a big difference,” Beeman said.
Demolition started last summer at the end of the school year, according to Beeman. The bulk of the demolition job wrapped up on schedule this week.
GHSBC member Scott Pickney said so far, he’s heard nothing but good things about the look of the new school, even at home. “I have a daughter that goes as a freshman next year and she’s thrilled,” he said. Beeman said people have told her the high school feels like a college. “I think we accomplished what we were shooting for,” she said. Beeman said the construction workers spent the first eight weeks making sure the school had no traces of asbestos. She said they knocked down the east part of the building first and moved westward.  There is one piece of the old Guilford High School that still remains, the science wing. Although the wing is still there, it is now owned and operated by the town and not part of the school, according to Beeman. There were talks that it will be used as a fitness center, but Beeman said she does not know if that is still the plan. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE



December 11, 2015

CT Construction Digest December 11, 2015

Southington developer Mat Florian buys Factory Square for $1.58 million

SOUTHINGTON — Developer and downtown property owner Mathew Florian bought the Factory Square complex on Center Street for $1.58 million earlier this month.
He purchased the property on Dec. 1 from Factory Square Realty LLC, a company whose principals include Edmund Donovan and Roy Florian. The former factory complex at 168 Center St. is appraised at $1.5 million, according to town records. It’s a 3.5-acre property with buildings totaling 116,000 square feet.
Factory Square is home to a host of businesses in addition to the Greater Southington Chamber of Commerce. Executive Director Liz Francis said the chamber and other tenants were notified of the sale and planned improvements.
“He has an interest in doing some structural updates to the building,” she said.
Mathew Florian could not be reached for comment Thursday.
“Mat has great judgment with properties and enhancing them,” Francis said. “All his buildings have a very high-quality look to them.”
Factory Square is across the street from the planned 14-acre Greenway Commons project, the site of the former Ideal Forging building that was demolished this year. Work had been delayed for years due to the economic slump, according to property owners, but in the past few months has moved forward. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Stonington — The K-12 School Building Committee has accelerated the time line of the $69 million elementary school expansion and renovation, a move that is expected to save taxpayers about $2.5 million in bonding costs.
In addition, the committee is finalizing a construction management contract with Gilbane Inc., the same firm that oversaw the $39 million renovation and expansion of the high school.
Residents overwhelmingly approved the elementary school project at a spring referendum. Committee Chairman Rob Marseglia said the initial plan was to wait for state reimbursement to be approved next June and then begin the design process. This would have meant the project would be completed in the fall of 2019.
But by beginning the design process now while the state is reviewing the town’s application, the project could be completed in the fall of 2018.
Because construction costs are expected to increase 5 percent a year, shortening the time frame will save between $2 and $3 million.
Marseglia said the project architect, DRA Associates, said there is low risk of beginning the design now because the state traditionally meets it obligations for school construction funding. He added DRA told the committee the strategy is used by many towns to save money.
“We’re trying to be smart with the money that the taxpayers entrusted us to spend,” he said. “If we can return that money to the town we will.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Ponemah Mills site plan extended

NORWICH — Developers working on a multi-million dollar project to convert Ponemah Mills into an affordable housing complex were given a five-year site plan extension by city officials on Thursday. And, an attorney representing the companies carrying out the $28 million venture said, environmental remediation at the 607 Norwich Ave. property has been completed after two years.“It’s probably the biggest development project in recent Norwich history, so it’s a big deal,” William Sweeney told the Commission on the City Plan after they unanimously approved the updated site plans that are now valid through 2020. Hackensack, N.J.-based Onekey LLC is managing construction of a multi-phase development that will create 314 affordable and market-rate housing units in five buildings across the Ponemah Mills complex. Company officials say phase one, which includes 116 apartments, should be ready for occupancy by early 2017. Peter Davis, Norwich’s director of planning and neighborhood services, told the Commission on the City Plan reauthorizing the plan was a “housekeeping item” necessary under zoning regulations. Financing for the development has come from several sources: $4.97 million from the state Department of Housing, $8.25 million from the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority in the form of tax-exempt bonds and $1 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credit proceeds. The city is supporting redevelopment of the mill with a 15-year tax abatement, and the project is also set to receive federal and state historic tax credits as well as 4 percent low-income housing tax credit proceeds.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Newington Approves $2,000 To Test Soil At Deming-Young Farm

NEWINGTON — The Newington town council moved Tuesday to settle long-standing allegations that topsoil was taken from the town-owned Deming-Young Farm property and debris-contaminated soil was left behind.
The council voted unanimously to hire an expert to test soil from the site used last year to store construction equipment and compare it with soil taken from elsewhere on the property.
Mayor Roy Zartarian said council members want to resolve claims by the former property owner and some town officials that topsoil was removed and never returned and that the restored soil contains unacceptable levels of rocks, asphalt and other debris.
"This has been a lot of discussion," Zartarian said. "There has been a lot of concern over it. We think getting this kind of test will put the problem to rest once and for all."
The contractor, the Metropolitan District, which hired the company for a piping project, has repeatedly denied that topsoil was improperly taken away or significant amounts of debris were left in the restored soil.
The council allocated up to $2,000 for the testing.
After the vote, MDC assistant counsel Christopher Stone, who attended the council meeting, called the testing unnecessary. "We think it's money that shouldn't be spent, but they've decided to spend it," Stone said. "It's their property." Asked his reaction to Stone's comment, Zartarian responded, "He's entitled to his opinion." Ed Young, whose family owned and farmed the property before selling it to the town, has repeatedly alleged that he witnessed dump trucks hauling away topsoil from the property. He has complained about debris on the site and called for testing.
Deputy Mayor Maureen Klett and Majority Leader Beth DelBuono have said they have found excess debris on the parcel. "I think we finally decided the only way to resolve this is to get some soil samples," Klett said. "The bottom line is if you walk the property, there's a lot of stuff."
But Stone and Victor Serrambana Jr., owner of VMS Construction, which was contracted for the pipe work, said Tuesday they have not found excessive amounts of debris on the site despite having returned to the site several times since September to address the complaints. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Aldermanic panel tables Hill land agreement in New Haven

NEW HAVEN >> A joint aldermanic committee Thursday tabled any action on a proposed new land agreement for parcels in the Hill neighborhood that was expected to lead to a $100 million development, until the neighbors have more of a say. The committee also tabled a zone change from BA to BD3 that would have allowed denser development and taller structures near the Route 34 corridor, but lower requirements for residences. A public hearing on a proposal to give alders a vote on institutional parking plans that officials feared would be challenged in the court, has been rescheduled to Dec. 30.
Randy Salvatore from Stamford, at the city’s request, became a partner with Cliff Winkle in an updated development agreement that would bring 140 apartments with first-floor retail, offices and possibly more biotech labs to some 20 acres in the Hill that now is a sea of parking lots in a zone that would limit his options.
Winkle has had the development rights for decades after constructing a number of structures for Yale University on adjacent properties. Unlike the original deal, Salvatore would have paid some $1.25 million to the city for the property that would have been sold for $150,000.
His plan was to convert the Prince School to housing, salvage some parts of the Welch Annex School and replace it with more residences, 10 percent of which would be affordable if the city could identify funds to help him. The other portions were less fleshed out, but he needed the zone change to move forward.
The developer had promised to work with St. Anthony’s Church to replace the parking spaces it now uses on the city’s land in a longtime informal deal.
Salvatore, who recently finished construction of the Novella apartments on Dwight and Chapel streets and will convert the closed C. Cowles Co. factory in Wooster Square to apartments, was taken aback by the committee’s vote. “I’m very disappointed,” Salvatore said as he left the meeting.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE



December 10, 2015

CT Construction Digest December 10, 2015

Bond Commission Agenda for Friday December 11

States throw money at military bases to keep them open

GROTON — States with large military bases are filling what is traditionally the federal government’s role by picking up the tab for construction and repairs, saying they can’t afford not to.
The number of states willing to spend taxpayer money to fix infrastructure in military facilities, and the scale of the projects, has increased steadily in the past five years. State officials argue that the Pentagon keeps asking for base closings and they want to protect their bases and the revenue they bring in.
Essentially, states are treating their bases like large corporations they want to keep within their borders, and at least one high-ranking Navy official says it’s a good idea. Connecticut has been a leader, setting aside $40 million to improve aging infrastructure at the naval submarine base there, much like it’s also spending hundreds of millions of dollars to keep companies in Connecticut and create jobs.
“We are changing the ways we think about military bases,” said Bob Ross, executive director of Connecticut’s Office of Military Affairs. “These are big commercial enterprises. They are publicly financed, but there is so much commercial activity that goes on at these bases, you have to look at them the same way you look at a corporation.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Old Middletown High School restored into 65 units of affordable housing

MIDDLETOWN >> City and state officials joined residents Wednesday to celebrate affordable housing with the nearly completed renovation of the Old Middletown High School Apartments done by the nonprofit developer Preservation of Affordable Housing. Senior citizens and disabled residents have called the Romanesque Revival-style complex home since the 1970s. POAH acquired the property in March 2014 and began a major rehab featuring masonry repair, new windows, energy-efficient boilers and upgraded kitchens and bathrooms, according to PAOH.
Current residents remained in their homes throughout the process.
Resident Barbara Salvati says the upgrades are wonderful. Salvati, who uses assistance of a walker, is one of several residents thrilled about upgrades like new kitchen cabinets, appliances and windows in her apartment.
Salvati also had a rave review about new community washers and dryers that cost residents just .35 cents per use, she said. Before their acquisition, POAH considered the property one of the state’s most “at risk” because of its downtown location and historical significance, according POAH.
Highlighting the stunning architecture now preserved and its ideal downtown location, speakers all touched on these major selling points of the property.
Middletown Deputy Mayor Robert P. Santangelo joked lightly that perhaps, one day, he too would be fortunate enough to become a resident. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Improvements To Athletic Facilities At Manchester High Moving Forward

MANCHESTER — Construction of a new playing field and locker room renovations at Manchester High School, with a total price tag of about $3 million, are expected to be finished around the time the next school year starts.
Consultants presented plans to the board of directors Tuesday night. Voters approved funding for the work last year as part of a school improvement bond.
The cost of installing synthetic turf on the field where football and soccer are played and laying a new surface on the track that surrounds the field is expected to be $1.75 million, Luke McCoy of Glastonbury-based BSC Group said. The project also includes work on field event areas, including shot put, high jump and steeplechase.
After bidding and a contract award, construction is to start in the spring and take about 90 days, McCoy said. The synthetic turf has a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years and will have an eight-year warrantee, he said. The track will have a life span of about 20 years, as long as it is recoated every six or seven years, McCoy said. Graduation could be held on the new synthetic field, with some precautions, such as no high heels, he said.
The concession stand, press box and bleachers are all code-compliant and can remain as they are, McCoy said. Directors also have been discussing construction of a field house for indoor track and other sports at the high school, a project that is in the conceptual state. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

PURA gives final OK to UIL-Iberdrola merger

The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority gave final approval Wednesday to the $3 billion merger of UIL Holdings Corp. and a U.S. subsidiary of Spanish utility giant Iberdrola.
PURA commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of approving a draft decision issued last month.
The companies have said they hope to close the deal by the end of this month.
Iberdrola said the deal will create a diversified power and utility company with seven regulated utilities operating in four Northeast states and combined revenue of approximately $2 billion. The combined entity will also have the second-largest wind generation portfolio in the United States, the company said.
PURA's final signoff comes after the regulator negotiated a series of concessions with UIL in September. That settlement followed an initial PURA ruling over the summer that found Iberdrola had not met public interest standards.
The combined entity, which will be 85-percent owned by Iberdrola USA, has committed to $40 million in ratepayer credits, $45 million in potential avoided cost recoveries related to infrastructure improvements, and $39 million in charitable contributions.
Also promised is an expenditure of at least $30 million to clean up a former power station in New Haven, the hiring of 150 workers in Connecticut over three years, and keeping UIL's headquarters and operations in the state. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Malloy calls ‘lockbox’ vote a milestone, not a setback

What do you say when your pitch for a constitutional amendment protecting transportation revenue is strongly endorsed by the General Assembly, just not by the three-fourths margin necessary to place it before the voters in 2016?
“This is a victory,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday. “It’s not a hundred-percent victory, but it’s a victory.”
Passage of a constitutional “lockbox” is a prerequisite to Malloy's eventually seeking additional revenue for his ambitious transportation infrastructure plans, and failure to win passage in 2016 could complicate any debate in 2017 over tolls, fuel taxes or other dedicated transportation revenue.
But the governor has time. A study panel is not expected to make recommendations about new sources of transportation funding until next year, and the legislature is unlikely to consider a vote on any tax increases until after the 2016 elections.
Malloy, a second-term Democrat trying to leave a legacy of long-term transportation improvements, said he sees the vote Tuesday by the General Assembly as progress, given the reluctance of legislators in his own party to take any steps that might restrict the uses of revenue.
“I don’t think it’s a complication. I think it really is a milestone,” Malloy said.
The Senate voted unanimously for the constitutional amendment, while the vote in the 151-member House vote was 100 to 40, with 11 absences. To reach the three-fourths threshold, Malloy needs 114 votes in the House. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Malloy Cancels MetroHartford Alliance Breakfast Appearance Over Griebel Letter

Governor Dannel P. Malloy is not a friend of diversity of thought. Malloy is in an alright twist over Nelson “Oz” Griebel’s recent letter to the legislature suggesting it slow the rush to adopting an amendment to the state constitution imposing a “lockbox” on transportation spending.
Griebel thinks the legislature should wait until a transportation study panel he serves on issues a report early next year. Malloy was not pleased. Griebel serves as the president of the MetroHartford Alliance, where the governor was scheduled to speak Wednesday at its Rising Star Breakfast. Fast as you can say aurora borealis, Malloy cancelled his speech and Griebel was summoned to the corporate woodshed. Offering measured advice in public that conflicts with the Malloy way is no longer allowed. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker seems more open to other people’s ideas. Sometimes that pays off.
A terse MetroAlliance email message announced the rising star to shooting star cancellation. Refunds are available from Roberto Capossela.
The next breakfast, scheduled for January 12th, will feature the newly elected mayor of Hartford, Luke Bronin Peron. Any zoning supplicants who did not respond to campaign fundraising solicitations from the Greenwich plutocrat may want to consider attending as the season on retribution continues.

Danella Companies Adopts SmartDrive Safety Program

SmartDrive Systems, a leader in driving performance solutions that reduce collisions and improve fuel efficiency, announced that Danella Companies Inc., a leader in construction services for the utility industry, has implemented SmartDrive’s video-based safety program across its fleet of nearly 200 vehicles. In the first three months following adoption, Danella saw critical improvements in key driver safety indicators, including a 79 percent increase in driver seatbelt usage, 40 percent reduction in speeding, 33 percent drop in unsafe following and a 29 percent decrease in handheld device usage. Overall, the fleet experienced a 79 percent improvement in its safety score complemented by a reduction in litigation expenses, better driver retention and greater operational efficiency, according to the company.
Danella Companies is a Pennsylvania-based provider of construction services to a broad range of utility and railroad customers. In its New York and Connecticut locations, the company operates a fleet of just under 200 vehicles, ranging from small pick-up trucks, cars and SUVs to tractor trailers, step vans, and dump, box and bucket trucks. Company leadership advocated for the adoption of SmartDrive’s video-based technology to maximize safety, mitigate litigation risks and minimize accident-related financial losses.
“Having long promoted a culture of safety at Danella, our deployment of SmartDrive’s platform further enhances and extends the safety programs we already had in place, while also exonerating drivers and positively impacting the bottom line. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


December 9, 2015

CT Construction Digest December 9, 2015

State to hold hearing on Harrison Road bridge project in Wallingford

WALLINGFORD — The state Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing at Town Hall Wednesday to provide information about improvements to the Harrison Road bridge over Interstate 91.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in room 315 of Town Hall, 45 S. Main St.
Project construction is slated to begin in spring 2017 and will be completed later that fall. The $4.4 million project, which is funded by the state and federal government, will be completed in two phases.
The first part will affect the northern half of the bridge, with alternating one-way traffic to the south of the bridge. The second part will impact the southern half of the bridge.
Town Engineer Rob Baltramaitis said a public hearing is needed because of the impact to traffic along Harrison Road.
Alternating one-way traffic, which will be controlled by a temporary signal, will be maintained throughout the duration of the project.
The bridge was built 50 years ago, but “certain bridge components have deteriorated over time,” according to Kevin Nursick, a Department of Transportation spokesman. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
FARMINGTON — Town officials on Tuesday praised a proposal for the redevelopment of the Farmington gateway area.
The town council heard a presentation of a study that lays out potential concepts for the redevelopment of a 40-acre area bisected by Route 4 adjacent to the Farmington Center historic district and bounded on the west by the Farmington River. The area includes seven historic structures.
The planned project stems from a state Department of Transportation initiative to improve Route 4 from Garden Street to Mountain Spring Road. The DOT project will start in 2016 after the town finishes upgrading the sewer system along Route 4.
"This is a great report," town council member Jon Landry said. "It's a great vision. It's a great future for the town of Farmington."
The study was paid for using grant money from the state Community Investment Act and was prepared by Dodson & Flinker Inc. and Mullin Associates Inc. It is the result of a series of community workshops held in March, during which close to 500 residents weighed and helped develop strategies and goals for the plan.
"The consistent theme was engagement, intense discussion and real investment by our residents who, make no mistake about it, really care about the development in our town," said Jeffrey P. Apuzzo, town council and committee member.
The study suggests design guidelines for the area, as well as four potential concepts: low density, moderate density, village density and a consultant-recommended concept. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

West Hartford Sees A Way To Break Exit 43 Gridlock

WEST HARTFORD — Town engineers say they can sharply reduce some of the chronic delays at Park Road and Trout Brook Drive by redesigning the I-84 interchange there.
The $5.1 million reconstruction will simplify the complex set of three Park Road intersections at Trout Brook, the I-84 on-ramp and the I-84 off-ramp, Project Manager Greg Sommer said.
The short stretch of Park is frequently gridlocked at morning and afternoon rush hours, and fender-benders there and on the long highway ramps are frequent, according to town officials.
A redesign will move traffic through more quickly and safely by reducing the number of intersections, synchronizing nearby traffic lights and creating new turn lanes and turn signals, Sommer told about 30 residents Tuesday night at an informational meeting at town hall.
Park Road has the busiest I-84 interchange in town; more than 29,000 vehicles use Exit 43's on- or off-ramps each day. Exit 43 leads to the chief route to the center of town and Blue Back Square, and it handles about 50 percent more traffic than any of the other interchanges in West Hartford.
Engineers blame part of the traffic backlog on the wide grassy field between the on- and off-ramps. They reach Park Road about 200 feet apart, creating two of the five intersections that dot Park along a 1,000-foot stretch. The dense concentration of road crossings leaves a series of spots where cars get stranded trying to make left turns. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

House Fails To Reach Magic Number of 114 On Lock Box

In a blow to the constitutional transportation lock box, the state House of Representatives failed Tuesday to reach the magic number of 114 votes.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other proponents needed 114 votes in the House to ensure that the constitutional amendment was on the ballot for voters in November.
While the resolution passed by 100 to 40 with 11 members absent, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey announced to the chamber that the measure had failed to reach the November ballot.
Three House Democrats who broke with their party members and voted against the resolution were Deputy House Speaker Bob Godfrey of Danbury, human services committee co-chairwoman Cathy Abercrombie of Meriden, and Rep. Gregg Haddad of Storrs.
"What's the bum's rush?" asked Godfrey, one of the chamber's longest-serving members. "Why are we doing this now in a special session? Why can't this be happening in the regular session ... when we can have the public come in and comment on it?"
An attorney, Godfrey said the language of the resolution troubled him.
"It doesn't create a lockbox,'' he said. "It creates an account item in a budget."
"The loopholes in this....are big enough to drive a truck through,'' Godfrey added.
A passionate and longtime opponent of tolls, Godfrey said he believes the lockbox is a prelude to bringing tolls back to Connecticut.
"I can see this going before the public, getting passed because it sounds good and then the answer is, 'we have to have tolls to fill up the lock box.' '' CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Obama Signs Five-Year Infrastructure Spending Bill

 WASHINGTON (AP) A 5-year, $305-billion bill to address the nation’s aging and congested transportation systems was signed into law Dec. 4 by President Barack Obama, who said it will put Americans to work and provide states with the federal help they need to commit to long-term projects.
The bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by Congress a day earlier, provides a modest increase to highway and transit spending but falls short of the $400 billion over six years administration officials said is necessary to keep traffic congestion from worsening. Nor does it resolve how to pay for transportation programs in the long term.
Obama said he’ll continue to push for greater transportation spending to meet the nation’s infrastructure needs and create jobs.
“This bill is not perfect, but it is a common-sense compromise, and an important first step in the right direction,” Obama said in a statement. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Demolition company fined $200,000 in tax case 

WATERBURY — A construction company connected to a past mayoral scandal was fined $200,000 and was sentenced to probation on Friday for filing a false tax return.In addition to the tax charge, Cherry Hill Construction of North Branford also pleaded guilty in January to making a false statement in connection with a federal act that regulates retirement plans in private industry, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The pleas were made in federal court in New Haven.
Federal authorities claim the company admitted to underfunding a 401(k) retirement plan for its workers by $950,000. They also claim the company filed a corporate tax return in 2010 that inflated the contributions to the plan, which led to increased deductions for employee benefits.
The company, which offers demolition services, Dumpster rentals and landscaping, has placed bids with municipalities in the area. Towns and cities pay the company based on payroll forms it submits. Authorities say the company was awarded work, but was supposed to pay its workers the prevailing wage, plus fringe benefits, which include retirement pay. Federal authorities say the company has now fully funded its retirement plan and has paid back $193,000 in back taxes, interest and penalties.
State records list the company's president as Ivan Sachs. A member of the Sachs family, Louis Sachs, pleaded guilty in 2005 to trading bribes and favors for demolition contracts for the business.
Louis Sachs was an official of Cherry Hill when the company received contracts to demolish blighted buildings in Waterbury while former mayor Philip Giordano was in office.
Sachs admitted to delivering a load of mulch to one official of the Giordano administration and delivering a Dumpster to another official, according to Republican-American archives.
Federal authorities said at the time that Sachs also paid about $8,000 in cash to one of the officials, and made contributions to Giordano's campaigns for mayor and U.S. Senate. Giordano was later convicted and sentenced to federal prison for sexually assaulting two young girls. Sachs was given a year of probation and was fined $5,000. That past federal case led Waterbury officials to temporarily suspend Cherry Hill's ability to bid on city projects.
The company lost a bid to demolish the Prospect Street parking garage in Waterbury in late 2014 when it failed to sign a bid document. City officials called it an oversight on the company's part, but said strict city procurement rules prevented Waterbury from awarding the work to the company.


December 8, 2015

CT Construction Digest December 8, 2015

Town planner objects to Greenwich substation plan

The final word on a proposed electrical substation in Greenwich has not yet come down from the Connecticut Siting Council, but Town Planner Katie DeLuca is renewing objections to the idea.
Under the current plan, Eversource would build the substation at 290 Railroad Ave., the current site of Pet Pantry. Underground electrical cable would then connect the substation to the existing one in Cos Cob.
 Eversource has said the new substation is needed to meet growing demand for electrical power in Greenwich.
But in a Nov. 23 letter to the Siting Council, which has the authority to decide whether or not the substation goes forward, DeLuca said the utility has not demonstrated the need for the substation.
Since the project was first announced, members of the community have questioned the need and expressed concerns about both the environmental and aesthetic impact on Railroad Avenue, Bruce Park and nearby neighborhoods.
The electrical load projections Eversource used to support the project are “in fact not there,” DeLuca wrote, adding “even if there was a need the ... vastly less expensive and certainly more environmentally sensitive alternatives have not been adequately explored”
Frank Poirot, spokesman for Eversource said Monday the utility was still reviewing DeLuca’s letter. He insisted the demand for energy is growing and making the need for a new substation more urgent. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Apartments Proposed For Glastonbury's Somerset Square

GLASTONBURY — A residential component may soon join the retail stores, restaurants, office buildings and hotels of Somerset Square.
Spinnaker Real Estate Partners of Norwalk is proposing to build a five-story apartment complex at 75 Glastonbury Boulevard — the lone remaining empty lot at Somerset Square. The lot is to the south of Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites hotels.
A plan to develop the land has been in existence since 2008 when PRA Development proposed a 155-unit apartment building with an underground garage. The plan never went forward. Spinnaker plans to use the same blueprint without the underground garage, which is no longer feasible due to floodplain and soil issues.
"Between the economic limitations and physical limitations, no developer could come up with a feasible plan for underground parking," said attorney Peter J. Alter, who is representing Spinnaker. The new proposal will include ground level parking underneath four floors of living space.
The proposal includes about 50, one-bedroom apartments with 800-850 square feet of living space and 102, two-bedroom apartments with 1,000-1,200 square feet of space. The rents would run $1,700 for the one-bedrooms and $2,500-$2,800 for the two-bedroom apartments. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Labor, Business and Municipalities Press For Reform Following Summit

Three groups often at odds came together last month to imagine a new economic future for Connecticut.
On Monday, they issued a joint report that calls for more regional cooperation, establishing a lock box for transportation funds and overhauling the process of crafting a state budget.
"The notion of bringing disparate groups together to find out the things they agree on...can [serve as a] model to go forward to get things done that would help Connecticut economy,'' said Kevin Maloney, spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.
CCM joined with the Connecticut Business and Industry Council and the Connecticut AFL-CIO at the summit last month. The groups recommendations include:
*Reforming the "implementer" bill for the state budget. The massive piece of legislation that sets the terms for the budget is often passed in the waning hours of the legislative session, with little opportunity for public input. "You can't have unvetted state laws,'' Maloney said. "There has to be a better way."
*Provide a clear and streamlined process for the consolidation of public schools with declining enrollment and provide financial incentives to school districts that cooperate on a regional level.
*Establish a "lock box" to ensure funding for transportation projects is not diverted to other needs.
*Create a unified panel of education and municipal leaders to best address the burdens of unfunded state mandates.
More than 175 officials from business, labor and government attended the first-of-its kind summit in mid-November.

Griebel: Rushing CT’s transportation ‘lockbox’ is a mistake

State officials will move forward Tuesday with new constitutional language to protect transportation spending, despite warnings Monday from one of Connecticut’s staunchest “lockbox” advocates that a hurried approach could lead to trouble.
R. Nelson “Oz” Griebel, president of the MetroHartford Alliance, wrote that while a constitutional lockbox remains crucial, officials should wait until after a transportation finance study panel finishes its work in January.
Griebel, who serves on the Transportation Finance Panel, also urged officials to learn from the example of Connecticut’s constitutional spending cap.
“While we fully understand the critical importance of passing a resolution to put a well-crafted amendment before the voters on Nov. 8, 2016, we urge you to postpone the requisite debate and action,” Griebel wrote to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, adding the matter could be addressed once the regular 2016 legislative session begins on Feb. 3.
The business leader, who chaired the former state Transportation Strategy Board, noted that the present study group will issue recommendations next month on how to finance state transportation investments for the next three decades?
How can lawmakers effectively shield the revenue streams that support transportation until it knows what funding sources — such as tolls or gasoline tax increases — will be chosen to pay for these improvements?
“Such increases and new sources will generate both concern and controversy, and the ultimate approval of the constitutional resolution by both the Senate and House will be achieved only with the broad support of voters and private-sector employers,” Griebel wrote. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Development at former New Haven bus depot site moves ahead

NEW HAVEN >> The city is moving closer to nailing down a final deal for the evolution of the former Connecticut Co.’s bus depot to a tech campus that will also offer entertainment options along the Mill River.
Alders have been sent the proposed development and land dispostion agreement for 470 James St. where the owners of Digital Surgeons and Urbane NewHaven have formed a new company, District NHV LLC, to construct the estimated $20 million project.
David Salinas of Digital Surgeons and Eric O’Brien of both CrossFit and Urbane NewHaven are the principals in the project that aims to provide a space for current digital companies to grow, while setting aside some 10 percent of the building as incubator space for up-and-coming tech operators.
The state will transfer the almost 7 acres of land near exits 5 and 6 off Interstate 91 to the city, which in turn will give the abandoned garage and maintenance facility to District NHV LLC for $1. In private hands, the large site would become a tax generator for the city, rather than tax-exempt state property.
“Adding more new, mixed-use space would bring even more vibrancy to the city and would be great news for the residents of New Haven,” Alder President Tyisha Walker of Ward 23 said in a statement.
Salinas’ and O’Brien’s plans were chosen over a proposal by Jason Carter for the prime development site.
Carter, a New York developer who owns the former trolley barn across from the bus depot at 1175 State St., had hoped to bring in big-box stores for his site and the 470 James St. property with a shared parking garage key to both properties. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

State stakes out 10 acres needed for work on Mixmaster 

WATERBURY — The state will seize about 10 acres of commercial land on Jackson Street to make way for the short-term Mixmaster rehabilitation project.
The Department of Transportation has just begun acquisition talks with the three land owners — Eversource, Yankee Gas, and Laidlaw Transit, said the DOT's Michelle Miller.
The state will go to court to take the land if necessary, but will compensate the property owners and offer them relocation funds as well, but not necessarily in Waterbury, Miller said.
Miller and other state DOT officials detailed the project at the Monday Board of Aldermen meeting. Aldermen weren't happy to hear about the pending seizure of three taxpaying businesses.
The companies pay about $30,000 a year in city property tax on those properties now, said Board of Aldermen President Paul K. Pernerewski Jr. They are valued at about $750,000.
The state reimburses cities and towns for property taxes lost on state-owned properties, but that usually only covers about half of the actual value, he said.
That cuts the city's tax loss in half.
But state engineer Alireza Jamalipour said Waterbury would make money, not lose it, off the $190 million state bridge repairs project intended to extend the Mixmaster's short-term life.
"Where do you think those workers will buy their lunches, and their coffees, and their gas? In Waterbury, that is where," he said. "That makes up for those lost taxes, fast."
And it also means jobs, Jamalipour said. The state DOT has worked with the city in the past to hire local workers where it can, and will also hire off-duty city cops to staff traffic detours.
The $190 million project, which is scheduled to start in spring 2018, is not that much-discussed redesign of the Mixmaster, but merely the short-term work needed to get to the redesign.
The project will repair bridges and ramps on Route 8 and on Interstate 84, and repair and, in some cases, replace spans and decks along Route 8. The work should finish by fall 2022.
The Jackson Street property seizures will make room for the state bypass road around a section of Route 8 northbound which would take vehicles off Exit 31 and along Riverside Street.
Once the roadwork is complete, and that temporary bypass is no longer needed, the state would still own the land and could do what it wanted to with the properties, Miller said.
At a November hearing on the project, the state DOT official making the presentation said the land might be available for use as a park, but that wasn't mentioned Monday.     

December 7, 2015

CT Construction Digest December 7, 2015

Transportation financing precarious despite new revenue

Despite the recent infusion of sales tax receipts, Connecticut’s transportation program could be in deficit by mid-2018, according to nonpartisan analysts.
And while Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration believes the Special Transportation Fund will remain in the black through 2020 — albeit by a razor-thin margin — nonpartisan analysts cite several problems, including surging debt and pension costs and downgraded expectations for fuel tax revenues.
And if the governor and legislators — who are also struggling with big deficits in the rest of the budget — raise more revenues for transportation next year, they could find themselves in an all-too-familiar place: Under pressure to avoid general fund tax hikes, yet in tempting proximity to a transportation program flush with new cash.
The Fiscal Accountability Report nonpartisan analysts issued recently — a lengthy document analyzing a wide array of short- and long-term budget trends — projected the Special Transportation Fund would slip 2 percent into deficit, or $34 million in the red, in the 2018-19 fiscal year. And that shortfall would grow to 5.2 percent or $97 million by 2019-20.
Just six months ago, when Malloy and legislators dedicated sales tax receipts to finance a “five-year ramp-up of transportation spending” from 2016 through 2020, analysts estimate the program would enjoy surpluses all five years, topping $170 million in 2019 and 2020.
At the same time, the governor launched a Transportation Finance Panel to recommend how to finance increased spending on transportation for an additional 25 years, through 2030.
Malloy and lawmakers thought back in June they had placed the transportation fund on solid footing at least for the next five years when they promised it a share of Connecticut’s $4.1 billion-per-year sales tax stream.
Transportation receives $159 million in sales tax receipts this fiscal year, $277 million in 2016-17 and $362 million in 2017-18. Because officials canceled the transfer of some other general fund revenues normally dedicated to transportation when they reassigned sales tax dollars, there still was a net gain for transportation. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Berlin police station project revived

BERLIN — Talks regarding the construction of a new police station have been ongoing for more than a decade, and yet, the question remains — will one eventually be built?
A year ago, a planned $21 million station, to be constructed at 903 and 913 Farmington Ave., was easily defeated at referendum. However, the project did not die that night, but has since been reworked. The Police Commission revised its Statement of Needs, and the Public Building Commission, taking a “design build” approach, is now ready to receive insight and bids on the project once again.
Mayor Mark Kaczynski said the bid process will provide town officials with a better idea what the price tag may be.
“There’s no question that we need to do something for our police department to give them more space, the question is what?” he said.
The department has been in search of additional space since 1995. When the department moved into its current spot it had 18 officers. 40 years later, it now has 42 officers, nine dispatchers and four support staff.
The failed $21 million project would have built a 34,000-square-foot station. When it revised its Statement of Needs, the Police Commission reduced the necessary building size by nearly 5,000 square feet. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Toll Bros. doubles down on Bethel

In a real estate market where most investors are building high end luxury apartment complexes to meet increasing demand for rental units, one national developer is bucking that trend with plans for a single-family house development near the heart of downtown Bethel.
Despite a hot rental market and stagnant sale prices for single family homes in the region, construction is already well under way on Bethel Crossing, a Toll Brothers development that will include 71 two and three-bedroom homes on about 25 acres and starting in the $400,000 price range.
Developers said the downtown location, and the desirability of the Bethel community, led to the decision to build houses rather than apartments on the property.
“We believe there is a lot of demand for housing in the town of Bethel,” said Jack Lannamann , the district manager for Toll Brothers. “It’s the third community we’ve built in town and we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to get into another project with a reasonable price range. We believe the market is still under served.”
Bethel has led the rest of Fairfield County in home sales in recent months. And as many towns in the region are losing population, Bethel continues to attract new residents.
According to Berkshire Hathaway’s third quarter real estate report, single family home sales in Bethel rose by more than 90 percent with 56 homes sold during the quarter. Median sales prices for single family homes also increased by about 3.4 percent during the quarter, according to the report, while median prices throughout the county declined by about 4.3 percent during the same period. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

UConn-Avery Point begins demolishing former Coast Guard training center

Groton – The University of Connecticut at Avery Point has begun demolishing the former Coast Guard training center and will create a terraced, landscaped green space in its place for students and others to enjoy the campus’ expansive water views.
“It should dramatically open up some of the views into the campus, even off of Shennecossett Road,” said Joseph Madaus, interim campus director.
The cinderblock training center near the center of campus, built in the early 1940s, has been vacant since 2006, Madaus said.
“It was an older building that’s not usable (and) eventually could present a safety concern,” he said.
UConn-Avery Point, with a focus on marine and maritime studies, was once considered a feeder school to the main campus and strictly for commuters, but reported in September that more students were applying to the campus as their first choice and more were living in off-campus housing. The campus had 98 students registered with off-campus housing in 2008, and expected 200 students this year.
Demolition of the 90,000-square-foot former training facility became noticeable in the last two weeks, but the project started in May. Utilities and electrical lines for UConn-Avery Point’s other campus buildings run under the training center and had to be rerouted, said Stephanie Reitz, UConn spokeswoman.
The project was budgeted at $7.3 million, but is expected to come in under budget at closer to $6 million or $6.5 million, Reitz said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Amtrak, state reach agreement on $570M Hartford line

The state and Amtrak have reached an agreement to complete the Hartford rail line, receiving guaranteed agreements for cost ceilings and a clear timetable for work completion. The State Bond Commission next week will vote to approve $155 million in funding to complete construction of the future Hartford Line, a final installment to upgrade the line and launch expanded rail service between New Haven and Hartford.
This action brings the total funding for programs in this corridor to $643 million – $208 million of federal funds and $435 million of state funds. The cost for the upgrade of the Hartford Line is $570 million.
The completed Hartford Line will triple the number of trains between New Haven and Hartford and double the service between Hartford and Springfield. Four station projects are in construction and due to be completed prior to the launch of service, while critical fiber optic signal cable and communication nodes are installed along the corridor to power a brand new signal system.
An additional $73 million is being spent on related corridor investments, including adding a platform at the State Street station, renovations at the Berlin station, continuing the design of five new stations along the corridor, and studying the realignment of the line in Hartford as part of the overall I-84 viaduct alternatives.
Current program estimates indicate that construction on the future Hartford Line

Connecticut senators, advocates hail federal transportation bill in New Haven

NEW HAVEN >> Flanked by construction workers and transportation advocates Friday at New Haven’s Union Station, Connecticut’s U.S. senators cheered passage of a major federal transportation spending bill approved Thursday by the House and Senate.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats, said the five-year, $305 billion measure will give Connecticut millions of dollars and will create construction jobs.
“It is a guaranteed stream of investment, putting folks to work,” Blumenthal said. “It’s about jobs and economic growth and making sure we avoid the patch-and-pray approach that we have had for far too long on our rails and roads.”
To the left and right of the senators, construction workers held up large signs touting the job benefits of the bill.
“We’re ready to go to work,” said Don Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
Blumenthal called the federal bill a “down payment” and said it will give the state the financial certainty it needs to embark on long-term projects.
The state Department of Transportation and at least two transportation advocacy groups also praised the length of the funding measure.
State DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said the increase in funding was welcome news, as was the continuation of funding for buses in urban areas.
“Most importantly, a five-year bill provides a foundational basis for planning and advancing projects – something that has been absent from the program for the last several years,” he said in an email. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Mixmaster replacement cost estimates vary widely 

HARTFORD — The projected $7.1 billion price for replacing the double-decker Mixmaster interchange in Waterbury is an inexact estimate of the mega-project's cost.
The state Department of Transportation developed a rough figure from a planning study completed more than six years ago during the administration of Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
"We simply updated the old planning study estimate to adjust for inflation," said Thomas J. Maziarz, the DOT's chief of policy and planning.
DOT Commissioner James Redeker called the $7.1 billion estimate reliable and reasonable for planning purposes.
A firmer cost figure is likely years away until the replacement project draws nearer to construction.
The $7.1 billion estimate was included in the 30-year, $100 billion transportation modernization plan that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy unveiled in February.
The replacement of the Mixmaster is one of the initiative's priciest components because the crossroads of Interstate 84 and Route 8 is considered one of the most complicated highway interchanges in the state.
The Mixmaster is the only double-decked highway bridge in Connecticut, Maziarz said. It is also notorious for its cumbersome left-lane entrance and exit ramps.
Nailing down the replacement project's costs is also tricky business.
Over the last 10 years, the DOT has quoted estimates of $1.3 billion, $2 billion and $3 billion for replacing the network of stacked highways, bridges and ramps that connect Route 8 and I-84.
Four months ago, Malloy stated the cost could run as high as $10 billion based on what he said then was the latest estimate.
The DOT continues to use the $7.1 billion figure. It served as the basis for an economic analysis released last month that project would increase business sales $8.8 billion over the long haul.
At this time, there is no construction timetable. Like a firmer cost estimate, that also appears years away.
First, the Mixmaster must be shored up because of its deteriorating condition. DOT officials recently outlined a $190 million rehabilitation project during a public presentation in Waterbury. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Nonnewaug High renovation project gains momentum 

WOODBURY — An extensive renovation of Region 14's Nonnewaug High School, a renovation that spent the last two years mired in legal wrangling, could begin in the summer of 2017 if a timeline projected by school district leaders holds up.
The Region 14 school district released a Request for Proposals on Nov. 25 seeking a firm to handle architectural design and engineering aspects of the project.
That request outlines an anticipated timeline of the project through completion.
A design team is expected to be named early in the new year, by Jan. 4, 2016. Various aspects of the design process are expected to be concluded over the rest of that year.
The project is then expected to go out for bids by April 15, 2017, with construction beginning by June 1, 2017. The school will remain in use throughout renovation work.
Students won't be moved elsewhere, and district leaders don't anticipate using portable or temporary buildings.
The renovated and expanded high school is then expected to open its doors for the 2018-19 school year.
"I'm excited and inspired about moving forward without any hindrance," said Board of Education Chairman George Bauer.
District officials were optimistic that the project will remain on track with the projected timeline.
"I think we've got a very strong building committee with a lot of experience and background," said Region 14 Director of Finance and Operations Wayne McAlister. "I'm confident that they will bring it in on time and under budget." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Torrington: O&G Industries receives Community Service Award

Torrington >> O&G Industries, Connecticut’s largest privately-held construction firm, received the CCIA’s (Connecticut Construction Industry Association) Community Service Award for the company’s annual Toy Drive Campaign, according to a statement issued by the company Dec. 3.
The award recognizes the efforts of Lynn Robotham who manages the Torrington Area Youth Service Bureau’s Toy Drive; and the team of Sharon Okraska, Terry Creighton, Anna Mae Wiegold and O&G retiree Shirley Durante who work year-round on the Torrington Fire Department’s Christmas for Children Toy Drive. In total, O&G provided over 800 toys to the two Torrington-area non-profits in 2014.
In a statement earlier this year, Torrington Area Youth Service Bureau Executive Director Tom Donaldson said, “If it wasn’t for companies like O&G – who took close to 150 names to buy gifts for – we just plain couldn’t do this.”
Last year marked the 26th year O&G supported the Torrington Fire Department’s Christmas for Children Toy Drive and the ninth year the company supported the Torrington Area Youth Service Bureau’s Toy Drive.
This is the second consecutive CCIA Community Service Award for O&G and the companies’ third CCIA win in the last four years. O&G was recognized in 2014 for its PlattBuilds program and in 2012 for its Teacher of Teachers program.
O&G Industries (“O&G”) is one of the Northeast’s leading providers of construction services and products. Our resume includes over 1,000 highly-skilled construction industry professionals, 1,900 pieces of the industry’s most well-maintained equipment and nearly a century of construction industry knowledge spanning numerous client-industry segments. Combined with a broad portfolio of services and products, O&G is uniquely positioned as one of the most diversified construction companies in the region. O&G is headquartered in Torrington.