January 30, 2015

CT Construction Digest January 30, 2015

AvalonBay weighs anchor on Stamford Harbor

AvalonBay Communities (NYSE:AVB) sold its Stamford Harbor apartment complex and adjacent marina for $115.5 million to TGM Associates, a New York City-based real estate company that owns TGM Village at Stamford Apartments on Bedford Street.
TGM made the Avalon deal days before selling TGM Willow Grove apartments in Danbury to Beachwold Residential, having acquired the 135-unit building in 2010. Both TGM and Beachwold are based in New York City; Beachwold has previously invested in properties in New Haven and Manchester.
As of 2013, AvalonBay was the third biggest taxpayer to the city of Stamford, trailing only Harbor Point developer Building and Land Technology and RFR Realty, which owns several office buildings downtown.
The Avalon on Stamford Harbor sale was among the largest residential real estate transactions recorded by the city the past few years, trailing BLT's $130 million sale of its Lockworks building in Harbor Point to Wafra Investment Advisory Group, and the $120 million sale of 75 Tresser. AvalonBay revealed the purchase price as part of a review of its fourth-quarter results.
As of September, AvalonBay had $63 million in debt secured by the Avalon on Stamford Harbor property.
Only a year ago, AvalonBay had given an upbeat assessment for its Northeast leasing. By July, however, the company was backpedaling, with an executive citing "pretty meager employment growth" in Fairfield County and competitive pressure from BLT during a conference call that month with investment analysts. BLT has begun leasing the Vault Apartments and is wrapping up construction on the waterfront Beacon towers across Stamford Harbor from the newly named TGM Anchor Point.
"I'd highlight Stamford, in particular, where BLT is building on the waterfront and has been building and continues to build there, putting some pressure on supply in that particular submarket," said Sean Breslin, AvalonBay's executive vice president of investments and asset management. "While the current environment there is somewhat challenged, I would say over the long term we've been pretty successful with our development franchise there. So we'll continue to be active." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

CT Bond Commission poised to borrow more than $250M

Housing projects, school improvement projects and municipal clean water initiatives are among the proposals the State Bond Commission plans to borrow money for during a Friday meeting, according to the panel’s agenda. The commission is set to approve more than $250 million in general obligation bonds and $382 million in revenue bonds when it meets Friday for the second time this month.
The agenda includes more than $40 million for Housing Department projects. The commission is expected approve funding for supportive housing initiatives in Manchester, Hartford, Hamden and Bridgeport. The group also plans to borrow funds for housing projects in Deep River and Stonington. A handful of school and building improvement projects are also set to go on the state credit card. The Bond Commission plans to authorize $39 million to renovate a building at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury. Another item borrows about $3 million for renovations at Vinal Technical High School in Middletown. The commission will borrow about $10 million for construction projects at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison.

Stonington officials hear cost estimate for school options

Stonington - It will cost between $45 million and $113 million to upgrade the town's aging elementary schools, according to cost estimates presented to the K-12 School Building Committee on Thursday night by its architect. Those costs would be decreased to between $33 million and $85 million because of state reimbursement. They could be lowered even more because of savings in utilities, maintenance and personnel costs, as well as revenue from the possible sale or lease of four current buildings. The committee spent 2½ hours reviewing the estimates Thursday in advance of its public forum scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pawcatuck Middle School.
The committee's plan is to then select an option and hold a referendum vote so the district can apply for state reimbursement by the June deadline. The cost would be bonded over 20 years.
James Barrett, a principal in Drummey Rosane Anderson, outlined five options and their costs Thursday. Option A, or the so-called "Do Nothing" option, calls for maintaining the current six schools and central office and spending $24 million on "reactive maintenance" such as the recent emergency repairs to fix the leaky roof at Deans Mill School. Option B calls for making $20 million in proactive repairs. Neither option would upgrade the schools.
Option C called for closing West Broad Street School, expanding West Vine Street School and renovating both West Vine Street and Deans Mill schools. This would cost $45 million, with $12 million is state reimbursement, lowering the cost to $33 million. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

State Bond Commission to vote on $100M Norwich grant/loan package for sewer plant upgrade

Norwich – Norwich is in line to receive $20 million in grants and $80 million in loans from the state Bond Commission today to fund the $100 million planned sewer treatment plant upgrade project, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Thursday.  The state Bond Commission is expected to vote today on Malloy’s proposed package of $480 million in grants and loans to local projects aimed at improving wastewater treatment plants and sanitary sewer systems.
The Norwich wastewater treatment plant would receive $100 million for improvements to the Falls Avenue plant, which includes upgrades to aging infrastructure and for nitrogen removal.
John Bilda, Norwich Public Utilities general manager, said the state funding announcement is in line with what the utility has been expecting from the state to finance the sewer plant upgrades. The project has been placed on hold since fall, after the largest sewer customer, Fusion Paperboard in Sprague, suddenly closed.
NPU will ask the Norwich Sewer Authority on Tuesday to approve an 11 percent sewer rate hike to make up for the loss of Fusion revenue that would have been used for the sewer plant upgrade.
Bilda said the rate hike is still necessary and would be used to pay off the $80 million state loan for the project. He hopes to persuade state officials to boost the grant portion to 30 percent, but cannot plan for that amount.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Canton Selectman endorse bridge project

CANTON — The board of selectmen has endorsed strengthening the historic bridge that takes Town Bridge Road over the Farmington River while maintaining how it looks now. This would entail keeping the small, little-used bridge that was built in 1895 with one lane and is what residents said they want to see happen at the annual town meeting held last week.The selectmen acted on Wednesday.Their recommendation now goes to the state and also the federal government, which is expected to fund most of the project's cost. A consultant for the town has said construction would cost about $2.6 million. At the town meeting, residents who spoke were overwhelmingly in favor of a project that keeps the bridge usable but maintains is character and appearance.
"Nothing has been presented so far that makes it seem like the other options are more appropriate," First Selectmen Richard Barlow said on Wednesday.
Although safe for cars to use, the bridge is deteriorating and needs work to remain in service. The bridge's maximum load is ten tons and the plan that the selectmen endorsed would strengthen it so it can take as much as 36 tons. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Developer targets Clinton's closed Unilever plant for massive recreation center

CLINTON >> The massive Unilever plant, closed down in 2011 after more than 100 years as the bulwark of the town’s economy, would be converted into a 200,000 square foot indoor recreation center, according to plans being prepared by a Southport developer.
In its first phase of development, the facility could include two ice rinks, a soccer field, physical training center, golf academy, and space for other sports, as well as “pro” shops associated with each discipline.  Eventually, the 25-acre property – within walking distance of downtown Clinton and bordering on the Shoreline East railroad station - could be developed for a mix of residential and retail uses, according to developer David A Mack, principal of David A Mack Properties LLC of Southport. Mack has begun submitting applications to the Zoning Board of Appeals in anticipation of his imminent acquisition of the property – applications made necessary because of a change in early December to town zoning regulations that apply to the site.
Title to the property still is in the name of Chesebrough-Pond’s, begun in Clinton in 1888 through the purchase of the Whittemore soap factory by “Pond’s Extract,” a company that produced a balm through the distillation of the witch hazel plant. Pond’s Cold Cream – and “vanishing” cream – came to be used by women all over the world.
A 1955 merger with the Chesebrough Manufacturing Co., makers of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and other products, created the Chesebrough-Pond’s Co., which grew into a leading producer of personal care products that was purchased in 1987 by Unilever, a British-Dutch company that is a global leader in the manufacture personal care items.
Pond’s light yellow Art Deco office building was built in 1929 and remain an iconic feature of the heart of Clinton, but the company also led the town’s grand list for years and contributed to a wide variety of civic undertakings. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

O&G employee receives Outstanding Achievement Award

TORRINGTON >> Raymond Oneglia, vice chairman of O&G Industries in Torrington, was presented with The Moles Outstanding Achievement Award this week for his contributions to the construction industry.  The award was presented at The Mole’s 73 annual awards dinner Wednesday evening. The Moles is a fraternal organization made up of members of the heavy construction industry.
“I am humbled and honored to accept this prestigious award on behalf of not only myself, but also the Oneglia family and the employees of O&G Industries, both past and present,” Oneglia said.
Oneglia has worked at O&G since 1970 and is the third generation of Oneglia’s to work there. His grandfather Andrew Oneglia, along with Flaviano Gervasini, founded the business in 1923.
Oneglia said part of the reason that his company has been so successful is due to the way that differences of opinions are handled in regards to the work environment.
“We learned properly focusing our resources on our problems would help us thrive for a long time,” he said. After earning a degree in science from Union College, Oneglia started with O&G full-time and began his work on a 16-mile road and sewer project called the Boise Cascade project.
Oneglia also aided in the acquisition and development of numerous construction material yards and rock quarries that have led O&G to be an ideal supplier of construction material throughout the state.
Oneglia has also served as chairman of the Connecticut Construction Industry Association as well as head of the legislative committee.
Additionally, through work outside of Connecticut, Oneglia has helped the company expand its work sites. Some of the outside work includes building a lock and dam in Louisiana and a 9-mile tunnel underneath Chicago. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

January 29, 2015

CT Construction Digest January 29, 2015


Rep. Steinberg/Lavielle Lead Transportation Infrastructure Discussion
A bipartisan transportation caucus will attend a news event/first meeting on Friday, Jan. 30, at 10:30 AM in Room 310. 
The goal is working together to define needs and a plan of action, a legislative agenda -- focusing on Metro-North, but also on I-95 and other traffic issues -- for the upcoming session.
And because Metro-North extends beyond Fairfield County's borders, one of the first orders of business at the meeting will be to discuss extending caucus membership beyond these borders.
What:     Transportation Infrastructure news conference
When:     Friday, January 30, 2015   10:30 a.m.
Where:    Capitol Room 310

City to recommend site for synthetic field

BRISTOL — A city panel created to pick the site for a new synthetic athletic field is ready to recommend a $3 million multi-use one at Page Park.
Bob Fiorito, a parks commissioner, said he hopes there will be a bandwagon of support for the project from the many people with ties to the city’s youth sports leagues.
The proposed field, which would be created along the King Street side of the park, would be large enough to accommodate at least two softball fields and would have space for regulations games of soccer, football, lacrosse and other sports.
The field committee created last year agreed Wednesday it would likely pursue the proposal if the Board of Education allows the use of parking lots at nearby Bristol Eastern High School and if the price tag is reasonable enough. It plans to meet again in a couple of weeks to endorse the idea.
Before the field can be built, it will need the approval of the City Council and the Board of Finance, both of which have indicated they’d back a new artificial turf field but perhaps not one as large or costly as the committee intends to endorse.
The panel rejected calls from many youth league backers to try to push for three new synthetic fields instead, one at each public high school and another at a city park. Its members said they were told by city councilors to recommend a single site, not a trio of fields.
John Stavens, who collected 200 signatures on an online petition backing the three field solution, said that a trio of new fields “would go a long way” to solve the space problems teams face “and provide more bang for the buck.” Panel members said more fields would be great – and some said the Roberts sports complex proposed in 2006 would still be the best alternative — but something is better than nothing.
“One’s better than zero,” said Park Director Ed Swicklas, who’s been pushing for a synthetic field for a decade. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Two Southington sewer projects underway

SOUTHINGTON — Two sewer system upgrade projects are underway.
One project will reduce bad smells at the water pollution control plant on the Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike and lessen the amount of waste hauled from the plant. The other is the replacement of the 1970s-vintage Queen Street pump station that’s susceptible to flooding.
Town Manager Garry Brumback said Kovacs Construction of Danbury was the lowest bidder for both projects.
Voters approved the sewer plant work at referendum in November. While $5.2 million was authorized, the town received a $3.8 million bid from Kovacs.
Construction should begin in the early spring, Brumback said, and end by this time next year.
“They’re still in the process of designing and marshaling their resources,” he said.
Town Engineer Keith Hayden said equipment has been ordered for the Queen Street pump station replacement. That work, costing less than $1 million, should also be complete before next winter.
The pump station serves the northeast section of the town’s sewer system and is located near the Quinnipiac River. Pumping equipment is about 20 feet down within the small brick station which makes it vulnerable to flooding.
“When the river rises, the water comes over the threshold of the door because the building isn’t waterproof,” Hayden said.
Pumping equipment, which includes electronic components, gets submerged during major storms which can shut down the pumps. The water then has to be pumped from the pit and repairs done. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Berlin-based utility Yankee Gas, which is owned by Northeast Utilities, said it surpassed its goal last year for converting customers to natural gas.
Yankee said it converted more than 5,500 customers and added 20 miles of new gas main last year. It had set a target of 5,200 conversions.
Yankee said state regulators have assisted by approving recommendations that give the utility more flexibility in developing projects and make it easier to enroll new customers.
Wilton was the site of Yankee's first major expansion, starting in July.
The company said it has several other large-scale projects in the works for this year.

January 28, 2015

CT Construction Digest January 28, 2015

East Hampton panel hopes legislators can advocate for state funding

EAST HAMPTON >> Members of the School Building Committee are hoping the town’s two state legislators can help push back against an apparent effort to reduce the level of state funding for the high school renovation project. In coordination with Town Manager Michael Maniscalco, the committee has engaged the services of an attorney to assist them. But speaking of state Rep. Melissa Ziobron and state Sen. Art Linares, Building Committee vice chairwoman Michelle Barber said, “I’d love to have them attend our next meeting,” which is scheduled for this Thursday.
The committee was told last week the state Department of Administrative Services intends to reject a longstanding formula for renovating the high school. Instead, the DAS has shifted to a different formula that could reduce the town’s reimbursement by as much as $7 million — even though the building project has been under construction since November. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

With Coast Guard museum on the horizon, investors make commitment to New London

New London - Yehuda Amar sees a bright future for New London, and he's investing in it.
The Israeli-trained architect, who has business ventures in Manhattan, Long Island, Florida, Israel, Africa and elsewhere, has gutted and is rebuilding two Bank Street properties and is considering the purchase and renovation of the long-empty Lighthouse Inn. "New London has so much," said Amar, on a walk-through of 153 Bank St., the former home of Modern Electric, that he and partners are converting to three street-level retail spaces and six upper-floor apartments. They are also rehabilitating the next door property - 147 Bank St. - to one first-floor retail space and three additional upstairs apartments. With plans for construction of the National Coast Guard Museum in downtown New London starting to gain momentum, Amar, who has also invested in a home here and four condominium rental properties, sees opportunities for developers willing to make a commitment.
"There's so much here - the water, the history and the Coast Guard Museum, hopefully, will come," he said.  Amar's wife, Ilene, has relatives in the area, and that is how Yehuda Amar, whose home base is in Long Island, discovered New London. Ilene Amar's mother's father was a Solomon, related to the family that operated J. Solomon Inc. on Bank Street, for years.
 Now Amar and his partners have hauled massive amounts of rubble and debris from the three- and four-story buildings and have carpenters, plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen and laborers working to have the properties ready for rental later this year.
 Amar has also visited the Lighthouse Inn property several times and is talking to potential investors and partners about the possibility of doing something there. His vision is to restore the inn and dining room to luxury accommodations and dining. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New Haven planning for last section of Farmington Canal Greenway

 Mark your calendars for the spring of 2017.
That is the estimated completion date for the last section of the Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway down to the city’s harbor, a milestone that has been delayed for years. To be sure they are on firm legal ground, the Board of Alders will be asked at its February meeting to amend the original resolution to accept federal funds for the project to specifically include the ability to enter into temporary and permanent easements and land acquisition. It goes before the Municipal Services Committee on Wednesday.  City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg said the city attorney recommended the agreement be tweaked so there is no misunderstanding on the issue of easements. The state Department of Transportation won’t give its final approval until this is resolved. For the past year, the city has been working out the details of construction and permanent easements along the portion of the trail near Hillhouse Avenue where it is owned by Yale University and then as it goes through a tunnel under Temple Street. Other easements being negotiated are along the canal where it abuts property owned by the Creative Arts Workshop, the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and the Neighborhood Music School off Whitney Avenue at Audubon Street. The other properties are the Grove Street Garage and the Foundry Condominiums, for a total of seven easements. The master plan for the Farmington Canal Greenway in New Haven was completed in 1999 and it has taken up to now to get the design finished for the final portion from Hillhouse Avenue to the New Haven Harbor off Canal Dock Road. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE 

January 26, 2015

CT Construction Digest January 26, 2015

New state program offers bonding cash

BondSure, a program that provides cash collateral for construction bonds involving state and municipal projects to minority and women contractors, provides up to $100,000 to businesses in Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex and New London counties.
BondSure is funded by the state Department of Economic and Community Development and is co-managed by the Greater New England Minority Supplier Diversity Council and Community Capital Fund. It recently held an event in Bridgeport to thank state and municipal leaders for the program's creation. The networking event also provided information about the program and future activities.
For additional information about BondSure, visit www.bondsure.org.

Putnam breaks ground for Northeast Regional YMCA

PUTNAM - If Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Northeast Regional YMCA wasn’t a big enough sign the facility will be open in 2016, then the cement trucks driving up to pour the foundation should have been. More than 100 local leaders and community members, including former UConn Huskies Men’s basketball Coach Jim Calhoun, braved the cold Thursday to celebrate the start of construction of the $14.6 million, 46,000 square-foot facility. Unlike many ground-breaking ceremonies, this one took place in the middle of construction. “The foundation is going in,” said James O’S Morton, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Greater Hartford. “Construction of the bridge connecting us to the town is moving along well. All of this means our projection of 14 to 16 months for construction is realistic.” It has been eight years since Betty Hale and her son, Laurence, decided to make husband and father Newell Hale’s dream of creating a community pool a reality. An introduction to the leadership of the Greater Hartford YMCA allowed the idea of a pool where children could learn to swim to become a plan to create a full-service YMCA, Betty Hale said. “There will be so many programs here that we are learning about every day,” she said. The YMCA will have two pools, an eight-lane competition pool and a zero entry warm water pool. It also will have gymnasium, teen center, fitness center, child-care room and community rooms. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

I-84 Viaduct Replacement: The public's chance to speak is now

Replacing the Kennedy-era elevated highways above Hartford could snarl traffic for years, possibly require taking land by eminent domain and cost up to a stunning $10.4 billion, planners say.
At the same time, the project offers the promise of reclaiming dozens of wasted acres downtown, reuniting neighborhoods that were fractured by the original I-84 design and doing away with the noisy, ugly viaduct that dominates part of the skyline.
A new two-mile section of I-84 through the city would eliminate the cluster of ramps that make many drivers frustrated and nervous, and save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year in shoring up the viaduct, according to planners.
No matter how the project is done, planners don't envision construction beginning until 2021 at the earliest. But they're emphasizing that they need to hear now from residents, commuters, business owners, small merchants and anyone else with a stake in what happens.
Between now and Feb. 20, the I-84 Project Team — a group of state Department of Transportation staffers and hired consultants — wants the public to make suggestions and offer opinions. There is no financing available now, designers are only in the preliminary stages of examining the four primary alternatives, and years of engineering work lie ahead. But right now is a key stage for civic groups, neighborhood associations, transit users, commuter councils and others to put forward their ideas. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Downtown New Britain reaping revitalization benefits

erry Amodio, New Britain's downtown district director, says CPA Justine Moriarty recently told him, "The revitalization of New Britain won't come suddenly like dropping a bomb; it's going to be like a shotgun — one pellet here, another pellet there."
"That's what's happening," says Amodio. "It's a cupcake shop, a sandwich shop, the Mae Kong Thai Restaurant, Tavern on the Main. We're seeing entrepreneurs cautiously taking a risk. Forget 'Hardware City.' We should call New Britain 'Small Business City USA.'"
According to city business leaders, downtown New Britain is gradually and slowly growing. "Despite," says Amodio, "what the business world might think of us."
For owner-operators like Tavern on the Main's Keith McDonald, opening a sports pub at this time in a city like New Britain is like a surfer amping in the impact zone.
In other words, he's catching a big wave at the peak moment.
Timothy Stewart, president of the Greater New Britain-Berlin Chamber of Commerce, agrees. He believes that commercial development is happening at just the right time and credits, in part, commercial developer Avner Krohn.
"It's great to have someone like Avner with a willingness to invest in the community," Stewart says. Then, too the fact that CTfastrak is opening in March is, Stewart says, opportune.
"CTfastrak will attract people from Hartford, and justify further development and investment in downtown New Britain," Stewart says. "The city came up with a downtown redevelopment plan eight years ago when the busway was pretty much a concept. We viewed it then as a mechanism to bring people into the area." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

January 22, 2015

CT Construction Digest Jabuary 22, 2014

Builders see promise in homes for the aging set

Developers working in the 55-and-older home sector are gaining confidence in the market, based on a third-quarter report issued by the National Association of Home Builders.
Builder confidence in the sector is up over the same period of 2013, jumping 9 points to 59 -- the highest third-quarter reading since the inception of the 55+ Housing Market Index in 2008 and the 12th consecutive quarter of year-over-year improvements.
"Demand for 55-plus housing has never been higher, and this quarter's index clearly demonstrates that," Steve Bomberger, chairman of NAHB's 50+ Housing Council and president of Benchmark Builders, in Wilmington, Del., said in a statement. "Consumers in this market are looking for a home that caters towards their specific needs, and 55-plus builders and developers are able to create homes and commodities that address their needs."
The HMI for single-family homes and condominiums in this specialty sector measures builder sentiment based on a survey that asks whether current sales, prospective buyer traffic and anticipated six-month sales for that market are "good," "fair" or "poor," according to the NAHB. An index number below 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as poor than good.
Builders of over-55 communities across the nation experienced a solid third quarter, and the southwestern Connecticut market followed suit.
"What occurred on the national level is mirrored here in Oxford," said Kathy Ekstrom, project executive of Meadow Brook Estates, an over-55 residential community in Oxford built by Haynes Development, based in Seymour.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Officials request $9M for school renovations

BRISTOL — Though officials insist the number doesn’t mean much, those seeking to renovate the old Memorial Boulevard School as a multi-use facility recently told Bristol legislators they might need $9 million in state aid to overhaul the historic building.
“People should not get the impression that we’re getting ready to spend $9 million,” said David Mills, a former city councilor who’s working on the project.
“It could be plus or minus $9 million,” said Jim Albert, president of the Bristol-based Central Connectcut Chambers of Commerce.
The chairwoman of the Memorial Boulevard Task Force, city Councilor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, said she’d be happy if the paper reported that “an unknown amount of state investment” may be required.
A clearer picture of what it will take to restore the 1921 landmark and its 900-seat theater should be available within a few weeks upon completion of a report from Drummy Roseanne Anderson, Inc., an architecture firm.
In the meantime, though, city officials thought they should tell Bristol’s delegates to the General Assembly to start looking for money to help with the expense.
Albert said he gave the three state representatives and state Sen. Henri Martin two funding requests for the project.
He said he told them to seek $5 million “for what I call life safety systems,” such as asbestos removal, an elevator, repairing steps and railing and similar items.
Albert said he also asked for $4 million for mechanical systems connected with systems ranging from plumbing to electricity.
The figures are just placeholders for now, he said, and can be adjusted later when firm numbers are available.
Albert said the city’s legislative delegation is ready to help. He said he’s also counting on assistance from those in nearby communities that would benefit from a new center for arts and culture. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

East Hampton high school project funds in question

EAST HAMPTON >> Questions have arisen about the level of the town’s likely reimbursement for the $51 million high school renovation project.
The School Building Committee has a special meeting this week to review and discuss the issue.
Ground was broken on the project in early November, and the normally placid school campus has been turned into a full-fledged construction site. In 2013, residents overwhelmingly approved the $51 million project with the understanding the state would reimburse the town for half the construction costs. What’s more, the General Assembly approved the project last June. But this past week, questions arose about whether the state Board of Education had formally signed off on the project as well as the anticipated level of reimbursement.
The School Building Committee was told during a regular meeting on Jan. 15 about the questions over the level of reimbursement. The building committee then scheduled the special meeting for tonight — appropriately or not at the high school. The Town Council will be joining the building committee, Council Chairwoman Barbara Moore said in an email Tuesday evening.
“I am looking forward to hearing what our options are,” Moore said. An email sent to a building committee spokeswoman requesting a comment on the situation was not immediately answered Tuesday evening. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Public to weigh in on Middletown high-rise plan

MIDDLETOWN >> Permission remains elusive for developers hoping to build a six-story commercial and residential building at 138 College St., on what is now a grassy lot on the corner of Broad Street, next to the Middlesex Corporate Center.
A full agenda at the Jan. 14 meeting of the Design Review and Preservation Board prevented a comprehensive review of the plans, compelling representatives of Massachusetts-based Hajjar Management Company Inc., the project developer, to leave that meeting without resolution. They appeared later the same evening before the Planning and Zoning Commission seeking approval, where the project failed to receive enough votes. 
Some commissioners were unwilling to approve the plan without the recommendations of the advisory review board. After some confusion about whether commissioners could table the application, they voted 3-3 with one abstention.  Commission vice chair Molly Salafia was among those who objected to moving forward without design review. She said some commissioners feel pressured to vote quickly to approve the project, which was first announced about six weeks ago by Mayor Daniel Drew.
“It circumvents the process & purpose of having subcommittees,” Salafia write in an email after the meeting, referring to the Design Review Board. “Subcommittees are extremely important tools for us commissioners to make our decisions.” City Planner Michiel Wackers cautioned commissioners during the Jan. 14 commission meeting that Hajjar Management’s application met every requirement for the business zone. Two days after the commission meeting, the design board issued a notice of special public hearing on the project to be held Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. in room 208 of city hall.
Vice chair of the board, Marilyn Mills, has already come out strongly for approving the proposed design. In a letter to the editor published by The Press online, “Six-story apartment building boon for Middletown” on Tuesday, Mills, who has an office on Broad Street near the building site and is also a Broad Street landlord, described a healthy demand for market-rate apartments.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE 

New Endland's energy threatened by natural gas line capacity

 The president and chief executive officer of the organization that runs New England’s electric grid said Wednesday that the energy system in the region “is in a period of transition.”
ISO-New England’s Gordon van Welie said the region is facing at least three or four more winters in which a lack of transmission line capacity for natural gas — the predominant fuel used in running power plants in the six states — could create volatility in the pricing of electricity and “serious reliability challenges.” But van Welie stopped short of predicting the region could face brown-outs — reductions in power levels — or blackouts.
“We will continue to see volatility (in electric prices),” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a mild winter thus far. But that’s not something that we can count on in the future.” A combination of factors has led to the volatility of electric prices, van Welie said.
Prior to 2013, New England had a surplus of power plants available to generate electricity. But since then, he said operators of power plants have begun shutting down some of the older generation units, actions that will reduce the region’s generation capacity by 3,500 megawatts through 2017.
New Jersey-based NRG Energy shut down its Norwalk Harbor power plant in June 2013, taking 342 megawatts of generating capacity with it. At the end of 2014, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was shutdown, which reduced the region’s generation capacity by another 604 megawatts.
Even before the older power plants started to be retired, new power plants were being brought on line, with generating units capable of producing 15,000 megawatts being added. The majority of those power plants run on natural gas, which has increased the usage of natural gas for generation from 15 percent in 2000 to 44 percent in 2014.
But van Welie said construction of natural gas pipelines has not kept pace with the construction of the power plants that run on the fuel. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE 

Council of Governments denied state grant for water project

NORWICH - Eastern Connecticut lost out on a state grant that would have provided redundancy for two of the region’s largest water suppliers, officials announced on Wednesday.During the summer, the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments submitted a application to the state Department of Housing for a $630,000 community development block grant. It would have been used to install pipe to fill a 1,220-foot gap between a 24-inch water main in Preston and a 16-inch main in Ledyard at the Poquetanuck Cove bridge on the Thames River.Jim Butler, the council’s executive director, said the request was not included as part of Connecticut’s $26 million share of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dollars to pay for the rehabilitation and resiliency of infrastructure in “disaster impacted areas.”The council of governments asked for $637,500 to pay for the total cost, with Norwich Public Utilities agreeing to a 25 percent match, or $212,500. Officials said the project would have created up to 10 temporary construction jobs and taken about 2 ½ years to complete.Although the council didn't get the money to do the work, Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon said it won't affect the existing water supplies or distribution systems. NPU maintains the Preston main, while Groton Utilities handles the Ledyard line. The interconnection would have tied the systems together – linking more than seven communities and providing a backup should one of the pipelines be compromised by a natural disaster. The service area covers 95,000 people.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE 

$4.9M in capital improvements proposed in Glastonbury

 GLASTONBURY — Town Manager Richard J. Johnson has proposed $4.9 million in capital improvement projects, including renovation of town buildings, school upgrades and a study on an addition to the Glastonbury High School field house. Members of the town council, the boards of education and finance and other officials met Wednesday for the annual capital improvement program workshop. Johnson unveiled 24 projects ranging from $1 million for improvements to the intersection of House, Harris and Griswold streets to $25,000 for the design of replacements for the 55-year-old boilers at the police department and town hall. The proposal, which will become part of the town budget, goes next to the town council for review. Johnson said that over the years the capital improvement budget has "served as a continuing success story." "The thoughtful allocation of annual funding combined with state and federal grants, along with community donations, have allowed Glastonbury to effectively maintain existing infrastructure while funding a number of new and ongoing initiatives," he said. "The proposals are intended to build upon successes to date." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Quinnipiac to get two new athletic fields

HAMDEN >> After two tries, Quinnipiac University has won Inland Wetlands approval for two new athletic fields, but now it must go before the Planning and Zoning Commission for a variance and special permit before construction can begin.
The university applied to the commission to reconstruct two existing fields and build a stadium for each that included locker rooms, showers and equipment storage. One of the fields, known as the North Field, is used for women’s field hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse and is a synthetic field. The other field of natural grass is used for women’s rugby.  Last April, the Inland Wetlands Commission initially denied the application for the fields at 275 and 475 Mount Carmel Ave. for a number of reasons, including insufficient buffers between the fields and the wetlands and lighting that would damage the wetlands.The university resubmitted the application last summer. The proposal includes artificial turf for the North Field, which will be used for men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse, and synthetic material for the South Field, for the women’s field hockey team. The proposed North Field stadium would seat 1,500 and the South Field would seat 500. There would be a 25-foot buffer between the North Field and wetlands, and a 14-foot buffer between the South Field and wetlands.
“The lighting plan for the project has been designed to be sensitive to the habitat and wetlands-dependent wildlife known to the University based on its studies, while at the same time providing the necessary lighting for the playing surfaces,” the application states. “Lighting levels can be adjusted depending upon the nature of the activities on the fields."
There are no other “prudent and feasible” alternative locations for the fields, which the university is required to provide to meet Title IV requirements, according to the application. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


January 21, 2015

CT Construction Digest January 21, 2015

Old Saybrook senior housing granted $2M state loan

OLD SAYBROOK >> The town’s elderly seeking affordable living quarters will soon benefit from state funding awarded by the Department of Housing to municipalities across Connecticut.
Last week, the governor announced the dispersal of $9,555,585 in loans for the creation or rehabilitation of affordable housing units in small multifamily rental and homeownership developments across the state. The funding aims to expand affordable housing opportunities by fostering innovative approaches in design, location, construction costs, operating costs, environmental sustainability, affordability or support services, according to a release. Developments that could serve as a model and be replicated on a larger scale were especially encouraged. We’ve already accomplished more in the past four years on housing than had been done in decades. The question now is, how do we raise the bar again to have a both short and long-run impact? Investments in safe, affordable housing undoubtedly pay long-term dividends, promoting healthier lives, stronger communities, and a more vibrant economy,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Saye Brook Village South will receive $2 million to Old Saybrook Affordable Elderly Housing, Inc. to assist in the development of 15 affordable rental units which will be in close proximity to the central business district and within walking distance to the senior center. This project promotes sustainable development through its construction entirely on the parcel of a former single-family home adjacent to two existing phases of Saye Brook Village East and West.
These units will help to address the area’s waiting list for affordable elderly rental units — which includes over 100 households and a seven-year wait. DOH funds for this project are leveraged by a commitment from Essex Savings Bank of a $935,000 loan together with a bank-sponsored $500,000 capital contribution from the Federal Home Loan Bank through the Affordable Housing Program.
“This funding was intended for smaller projects with total development costs of no more than $6 million and we limited our financial assistance to no more $2 million to ensure applicants leverage state assistance with substantial financial and/or in-kind resources from other sources, particularly private sources of debt and equity,” said Department of Housing Commissioner Commissioner Evonne Klein.
Other award recipients are: CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Southington PZC approves West Street retail plans

SOUTHINGTON — The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved plans for a 60,000 square-foot retail center off of West Street Tuesday.
Property owner Fredric Leopold of New York-based Northstar Properties declined to comment on what restaurants and retail shops might be coming to the center at 99 Executive Boulevard South. The location is near exit 31 off Interstate 84.
He’s owned the land since 2008 and also owns the adjacent Target property. Leopold said he hopes to begin construction by the spring the main building and three pad sites that constitute the center.
The planning commission approved preliminary plans for a shopping and restaurant center around 2008 according to commission Chairman Michael DelSanto. With the economic downturn at the time, the plans didn’t progress.
DelSanto said he didn’t know of any potential tenants for the site, although he said the commission had approved a Red Robin around 2008.
He was pleased about the potential economic development on Tuesday.
“It brings business in, it brings people to West Street,” DelSanto said.
At the last meeting, commissioners asked Leopold if he could improve the look of the buildings. DelSanto said the original designs were “straight-forward” and rather plain.
Eric Brown, an architect with Prellwitz Chilinski Associates of Cambridge, Mass. presented new designs for the buildings that included brick, clapboard and metal. Tenants would further customize the buildings with colored awnings. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Groton — A Mystic businessman received approval Tuesday for a seven-year tax break to help him build a multimillion-dollar indoor sports complex that could accommodate tennis, soccer, lacrosse and baseball.  Matthew McCormack, chief executive officer of the technology firm QDiscovery in New London, asked for tax incentives on existing and future improvements to 90 Welles Road. The facility, the former Mystic Indoor Tennis property — now Mystic Indoor Sports LLC — had been neglected, resulting in bankruptcy and numerous fire and building code violations.  McCormack plans to fix up the tennis building, build a new 3,000-square-foot clubhouse and construct a second large facility to house indoor soccer, lacrosse and baseball in the complex. He would invest as much as $3 million. He held a grand re-opening of the facility on Jan. 1 and has paid the back taxes on the property. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Hartford meeting to offer newest info on I-84 viaduct

The engineers who are studying how to replace the aging I-84 viaduct in Hartford will present their latest updates on options at a public meeting Wednesday at the Hartford Public Library.
Many transportation and economic development leaders in central Connecticut see the viaduct replacement as an opportunity to transform part of the city and perhaps change some unwelcome consequences of decisions from decades ago.
It's widely agreed, however, that the project will be costly and time-consuming, and that it's nothing imminent.
State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker has said the elevated highway, which extends almost two miles between Exit 46 and the I-91 interchange, remains safe, and that drivers can expect to be using it for years to come. The Department of Transportation is pumping millions of dollars into short- and mid-range maintenance work for the past several years.

January 20, 2015

CT Construction Digest January 20, 2015

Construction begins on Shelton rental community
The Mark -  Fairfield County in Shelton will feature 228 units when completed next year. Photo by Bill Fallon Photo: Bill Fallon/Contributed Photo, Contributed Photo / Fairfield County Business Journal
Connecticut Post Contributed
New Jersey-based Continental Properties, a 55-year-old residential building and development company operating in the tri-state region, broke ground recently on the Mark I Fairfield County in Shelton, a 228-unit rental community at 740 Bridgeport Ave. that will consist of six four-story buildings.
"The Mark I Fairfield County will continue our longstanding tradition of developing premier rental communities with thoughtfully crafted amenities throughout the tri-state," said Steven Fisch, managing partner at Continental Properties, which acquired the development site in the second quarter of 2014.
The Mark I Fairfield County will feature 96 one-bedroom homes and 132 two-bedroom homes.
It also will offer a clubhouse, cinema room, library, sports lounge, fitness center, electric vehicle charger, private dining room with chilled wine storage, modern sculpture, pool cabana, fire pit, two gazebos and a dog park.
"Shelton is a wonderful community that has a small-town feel, while also being in close proximity to local and regional businesses and recreational attractions," said Howard Rappaport, Continental Properties principal. "In fact, the town boasts more than 2.4 million square feet of high-quality office space with major employers and is an affordable alternative compared to lower Fairfield County. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Chesire outlets project progressing without Tanger

CHESHIRE — The planned $100 million retail village off Interstate 691 and Route 10 is moving ahead on schedule despite the departure of Tanger Factory Outlet Centers.
“Their withdrawal does not affect our project,” said Louis C. Masiello, vice-president of development for Massachusetts-based developer W/S Development Associates.
W/S Development is running the Outlets at Cheshire project that has long been discussed, but only recently seen some developments.
It remains unclear why Tanger dropped out of the project, but Masiello said W/S’s focus is on completing the project. If a new corporate partner with the right business relationship presents itself, there is a chance W/S would consider it, he added.
W/S’s full project consists of two stages of construction. A 510,000-square-foot retail center with 60 to 70 outlet stores and more than 2,000 parking spaces, restaurants, a grocery store, a public park, a nature trail and transportation infrastructure will all be built during “phase one.”
Masiello hopes work will begin on the first stage of the complex in spring or early summer, with the outlet center and other attractions opening in spring of 2016. W/S has been given all necessary municipal approvals, but needs to obtain further approvals from state officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before work can begin, he said.
“Phase two” will include a 147-unit residential complex with two and three-story townhouses, a hotel and a fitness center. It is slated to follow phase one by a year or two, Masiello said.
Phase two still requires “final site plan approvals” from Cheshire planning and zoning commission.
Tanger signed on to the retail village component in the spring. The pullout of the North Carolina-based outlet operator was reported late last month. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
East Lyme - The town is planning to redesign sections of Pennsylvania Avenue and Hope Street as the latest in a series of streetscape improvements in downtown Niantic.
The proposed streetscape project will encompass Pennsylvania Avenue, between its intersections with Main Street and Hope Street, as well as a stretch of Hope Street near the parking lot.
The project will include renovated concrete sidewalks, granite curbing, decorative light poles, and landscaping with trees and shrubs, according to plans and project specifications prepared by the town's engineering department. There are also plans to install handicapped-accessible ramps.
The town is seeking construction bids on the 1,100-foot-long streetscape project until Feb. 10, with construction slated to begin in mid-March. Funding for the project came from a state Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant. Over the last 10 years, the town has received several state grants to improve the downtown area. First Selectman Mark Nickerson said the grants have enabled the town to work on Main Street improvements in a series of phases and add features, such as lamp posts, additional parking, benches and handicap ramps, that improve the ambiance. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Construction on Putnam's technical park has begun

PUTNAM — In one week, construction of the bridge to the Quinebaug Regional Technical Park has gone from waiting to well on its way.
Putnam got the all clear from the Department of Transportation early last week and Tully construction immediately mobilized. The site was cleared and now grading has begun of the site.
“The bridge is moving along quite well,” Town Administrator Douglas Cutler said. “There’s a chance they can get the abutments in this winter.”
The construction of the bridge has triggered an official ground-breaking Tuesday for the YMCA. Cutler said site work has already begun there as well, but not without some controversy. An anonymous person called the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to report the construction had disturbed an eagle’s nest. Cutler said the town never received the complaint and has not heard from anyone at the state. However, the town’s engineers reported that an investigation of the removed trees were conducted and no nest was found.
“Those are very large nests,” Cutler said. “I can’t imagine how we could have missed that.”
There are documented sightings of eagles in the area, so Putnam conducted an environmental assessment of the area as part of the permitting process. The assessment discovered spotted turtles and accommodations were made for them. The assessment also revealed the area is suitable habitat for the Spadefoot toad. Although none of the toads were found in the area, accommodations were made to ensure the habitat remains. Nesting eagles were not found in the assessment.
In addition to ensuring construction of the YMCA can begin, the start of bridge construction pushes along other aspects of the technical park as well. Cutler said the town will receive bids this week for an access road and electrical lines on the west side of the Quinebaug River.
The progress is also important to Scotland, Pomfret and Brooklyn. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Hartford's efforts to demolish and redevelop an 80-year-old stadium to entice a professional soccer team to the Capital City have devolved into a legal fistfight.
The original developer of the $12 million Dillon Stadium project in Hartford's Colt Park is suing the city and the project's current developer, alleging that its idea for the revamped sports complex — including recruiting a minor league soccer team to play in it — was stolen.
In its lawsuit, Hartford-based consultant Civic Mind Studios said the city wrongfully terminated its contract to develop and manage Dillon Stadium for a professional soccer team. Civic Mind is asking for at least $866,000 in damages, while noting the amount could have been considerably greater if the project had been successful.
"We are disappointed in the city of Hartford's conduct and now seek the court's assistance in resolving our dispute," said TJ Clynch, Civic Mind's founder.Case details
According to the suit, Civic Mind, in late 2012, responded to the city's solicitation for ideas to develop Dillon Stadium into a professional soccer complex and was selected as the preferred vendor in May 2013. While the company was developing its full stadium proposal and negotiating its formal contract with the city, however, Hartford officials terminated Civic Mind's involvement in the project in February 2014, forcing the company to lay off six people.
While it didn't have a formal contract with the city, Civic Mind said its selection as the preferred vendor and the subsequent issuance of a request for qualification to Civic Mind counts as a legally binding agreement for the stadium project, the lawsuit said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Clinton selectman approve $2.8M sale of The Morgan school site

CLINTON >> Quickly following the adoption of new zoning regulations that encompass the present site of The Morgan School, selectmen have agreed to sell the property to The Mill Pond LLC for $2.8 million. The sale, which would close in October 2016, awaits approval by the finance board and a town meeting scheduled for Feb. 4, and will coincide with the high school’s move to a $64.7 million facility north of the present school’s location on Route 81.
The property on which the school now sits, at the intersection of Route 81 and Interstate 95, is considered the town’s most valuable property for potential commercial use, with an appraised value of $5 million. The sale price takes into account the estimated $2 million to $3 million cost to the developers of demolishing the sprawling high school building, First Selectman William Fritz said. Mill Pond principals Henry Resnikoff and Jon Hendel are planning a diversified development of the 39-acre Route 81 property that will include retail stores, restaurants, a hotel and residential units.
But the project — and the sale — could not go forward without a revision of town’s zoning regulations that limited future development of the site to one- or two-family homes.
The Planning and Zoning Commission spent more than a year with the assistance of a professional planner drafting new regulations for an “interchange development zone” for the area, which also includes Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets, other retail uses, and the town library, that would have allowed all the uses — and more — planned for the Mill Pond development.
But in November, after approving the sale to Mill Pond, the zoning commission voted down the regulations it had created, jeopardizing the sale and the project.
After slight revisions to the regulations, and the inclusion of residential buildings as an allowed use, the regulations again were fast-tracked for reconsideration by the zoning commission and approved in a 6-2 vote last week, zoning enforcement officer Eric Knapp said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


January 16, 2015

CT Construction Digest January 16, 2015

Pipeline a benefit to New York
Pipes for the proposed Constitution Pipeline are stacked in Altamont.

The Constitution Pipeline — already almost three years into the regulatory process — recently passed a significant milestone when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the project its certificate of public convenience and necessity. FERC has confirmed that there is a pressing, national and regional need for additional supplies of natural gas, and when in service the project will supply enough natural gas to serve the daily needs of approximately 3 million homes.
Now, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has before it permit applications dealing with water and wetlands. The public has an opportunity to comment on these permit applications, and we strongly believe that the project can be constructed and operated with a minimum of disruption to our streams, wetlands and the overall environment.
Constitution has worked closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, DEC and numerous other state and federal regulators to develop construction plans that will minimize negative impacts upon the environment. Water crossings won't occur during fish spawning seasons, and water quality will be maintained and continuously monitored during construction.
Customized plans have been drawn up for each stream and wetlands crossing, to ensure that unique situations are addressed. And none of this is simply left to the discretion and good intentions of project contractors. At every step of the way, construction activities are monitored and supervised by independent experts retained by FERC to insure that construction plans and environmental regulations are followed.
Less than one-10th of an acre of wetlands would be permanently lost due to construction activity, a remarkably miniscule amount given the complexity and length of the project. Moreover, Constitution has devised six separate mitigation projects, which will be developed in areas affected by the pipeline, which will establish, restore or enhance over 124 acres of wetlands. As such, the project will result in a net gain of wetlands, rather than a loss. In Wright, an existing compressor station owned by Iroquois Pipeline will be upgraded, resulting in less impact upon air quality than original plans, which had contemplated an entirely new compressor.

Meeting discusses proposed power plant near Oxford airport 


OXFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Emotions ran high at Oxford High School Thursday night as the state’s siting council held a public meeting to discuss a Competitive Power Ventures’ controversial plan for a natural gas power plant.
“I think the concern for our health and safety far outweighs the need for jobs,” said one person who stepped up to speak at the meeting.
The site sits off of Woodruff Hill Road and the plant is an idea that isn’t being received warmly by all. Some argue the the plant will create pollution that would be hazardous to the health of those who live in the area. But at the meeting, officials with the company were given the chance to make their case.
“The region was determined to be short of capacity,” said Competitive Power Ventures representative Andrew Bazinet. “CPV made a conscious decision to move the project forward.”
It was an argument many also agreed with, saying they think the project will brings jobs and more domestically produced energy to Connecticut.
The plan to build a power plant in Oxford is nothing new. In fact, 15 years ago a 500-megawatt plant was approved to be built; however, because those behind the project now want to make the plant 800-megawatts, it requires the approval of the siting council.
Officials with Competitive Power Ventures say they hope to begin construction on the project at the end of 2015. They add it will take two years to finish the job.

Council approves sale of most notable eyesore

NEW BRITAIN — The Common Council has agreed to sell one of downtown’s most notable eyesores to a New Haven developer.
The council voted unanimously this week to sell 57 Court St. to Raymond J. Akoury of Commercial Design Builders, LLC. Mayor Erin Stewart is scheduled to sign the paperwork next week.
Akoury, who will buy the 20,488-square-foot property for $40,000, plans to renovate the building into 34 one-bedroom units.
Akoury said Thursday “it will take nine months to one year before it is renovated. Hopefully, a year from today it will be occupied.”
The property,— which was once an apartment building but has been vacant since the 1990s — “will basically be the same building, but brand new,” he
said. “We will remodel the existing apartments. There will be a new sprinkler system, a new elevator and there will be plumbing and electrical work. There will also be all new high-energy windows to replace the broken ones that are there now.”
Akoury, who has developed several properties in New Britain, said he believes the building — known as Courtland Arms — “can cater to some Hartford people, young professionals and college
students.” The plan calls for Akoury to build three handicapped units on the ground floor and 31 units on the top three floors. Akoury told council members Wednesday that he plans on investing $1.5 million in the property. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Middletown planning board defershigh-rise vote

MIDDLETOWN >> City planning commissioners failed to approve an application to build a six-story downtown office and residential building Wednesday evening, leaving Massachusetts developer Hajjar Management Company Inc. with the option to return Feb 11 after a meeting with the Design Review & Preservation Board.    Commissioners voted 3-3 with one abstention after a lengthy discussion about design elements of the building.  Envisioned for 138 College Street, adjacent to the MiddleOak Building, the project would include 89 market-rate, one- and two-bedroom apartments and studio apartments on upper floors with commercial office space on the ground floor facing College Street.
It met with controversy in December when Mayor Daniel Drew announced the city was negotiating a deal to abate property taxes for the first seven years.
“This is a paradigm, shift, it’s a game-changer in the development of downtown Middletown,” Drew said at the time. “It’s going to bring a lot of people into downtown Middletown … it is our belief that the inclusion of those people in downtown’s landscape will continue to enhance the economy, it will continue to attract additional business.” On Wednesday, commissioners were more concerned with the footprint of the building and zoning codes.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Waterford finance board approves $400K for school demolition

Waterford — The Board of Finance Wednesday approved an appropriation of $400,000 for the remaining costs of remediation and demolition of the 90-year-old Cohanzie School on Dayton Road.
In approving the funds, the board rejected a request from the Board of Selectmen to approve an appropriation of $700,000 to cover the expense. Remediation or demolition of the school could cost up to roughly $700,000 more than originally anticipated, though state grants are expected to cover most of the expenses, Director of Planning and Development Dennis Goderre has reported. The $400,000 is sufficient to cover the remaining costs of a $1.19 million option that would allow for remediation and retention of the original 1923 portion of the school with $30,000 to spare, but would not bridge the gap and cover the $1.5 million full demolition of the school.
Cohanzie School was left vacant in 2008 as part of a building project approved at a 2002 referendum that consolidated the town’s five elementary schools into three, prompted by declining enrollment and increased operational costs.
Goderre has said the construction firm Centerplan Companies, which holds an option to purchase the property, has not yet made its final determination about whether it will keep and factor the 1923 section into its plans for a multifamily housing development on the site.
The town is slated to receive two state grants totaling $982,500 for remediation and demolition, offsetting most of the cost of demolition and remediation.
The appropriation still requires approval from the Representative Town Meeting.

State panel advises 'fix it first' approach on transportation

 Connecticut should make a few targeted improvements in transit bus service, but should focus its transportation dollars mainly on shoring up existing highways and transit systems rather than initiate new projects, a report recommends. For too many years, the state has done too little routine maintenance of its highways, bridges and rail system, and postponed costly replacements, according to the Connecticut Public Transportation Commission. "The age of much of the transportation infrastructure in Connecticut is such that deferred maintenance of roads, bridges and rails has led to disruptions and unanticipated expenditures, as demonstrated by last summer's failure of the New Haven Line's Walk Bridge in Norwalk," the commission's report said. The decrepit swinging bridge, on the Metro-North system, got stuck repeatedly last year, halting rail traffic. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy received the report at the end of December, and the commission released it publicly this week. Malloy's administration is expected to consider the recommendations while refining the large-scale, long-range transportation proposal that it has drafted. Various communities and planning regions want more roads, new bus service and even streetcar systems, but the commission is advising Connecticut to stick to a "fix it first" philosophy to get its existing infrastructure into good condition.
Under Malloy and his predecessor, M. Jodi Rell, Connecticut has replaced hundreds of Metro-North rail cars that were well past their scheduled replacement dates. The state is in the final stages of the decade-long replacement of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, the "Q" Bridge, on I-95 in New Haven, and is planning to widen I-84 east of the Route 8 interchange in Waterbury. The commission's report says that hundreds of bridges in the state need repair, and that many states have slowed the pace of transportation funding in the past decade, adding to the backlog of maintenance work. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Labor Committee public hearing agenda takes shape

The legislature's labor committee met Thursday and agreed to hold public hearings on about a dozen issues, including a measure to prohibit workplace bullying and a proposal to bar employers running credit checks on job applicants. Also on the committees agenda are a slew of bills that would revise the state's prevailing wage law, which sets out precisely how much contractors must pay their employees working on municipal construction jobs. Many leaders of cash-strapped small towns have been pushing for the law to be changed. The committee did not discuss the prevailing wage proposal -- or any of the issues -- in detail. " "We're only moving it forward to a public hearing and not yet duking it out over whether it should be a bill moved out of committee," said Rep. Peter Tercyak, the committee's co-chairman.
Republican state Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, said he wanted to make sure that his affirmative vote in agreeing to hold hearings on the proposals should not be read as a sign that he would support all of the concepts. Among the other bills the panel agreed to hold a hearing on is a controversial proposal that would permit state or municipal employees to receive workers' compensation if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing a traumatic incident, or its immediate aftermath. Under current law, only physical injuries are eligible for workers' compensation. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Randall Beach: Malloy's I-95 vision a nightmare that must not come true

Our Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has begun his second term by proposing one of the dopiest ideas I’ve heard in a long, long time: Let’s widen Interstate 95, all the way from Greenwich to the Rhode Island border! Is he serious? Apparently, he really thinks this cockamamie plan makes sense.
Malloy used his State of the State address to talk about a “collective vision” that will provide Connecticut with “a best-in-class transportation system.” “Vision”? The man needs a new set of eyeglasses. He could then take a clear, focused look at our most notorious highway. Yes, we all agree our transportation system is a mess. Our roads are perennially clogged because our train and bus services do not provide a workable alternative for many of the state’s residents. And so that part of Malloy’s speech was sensible; we do need to spend plenty of public money to upgrade mass transit. But can you imagine, can you visualize, what it would mean to unleash all those construction crews onto all of Interstate 95 in Connecticut? We at the New Haven Register, up until we moved to our new location off of the somewhat less-clogged Interstate 91, had a ringside seat to the never-ending Interstate 95 reconstruction in the Long Wharf area, replete with new approaches and new bridges.
It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fun. And the work continues. One day, after many of us have retired, they will finish that particular project.
And then what? Call the work crews back, to add new lanes?
You would think the concept is so crazy that it would not be supported by our legislators. But I was troubled to read that Malloy’s 16-minute speech was interrupted by applause more than 15 times.
One of the guys who liked it was Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff. He described Malloy’s transportation “vision” as being “like music to my ears.” Duff, who lives in Norwalk, must know full well what it’s like to rely on Interstate 95. And so it’s odd that when he envisions a “vision” that includes widening that road, he thinks of sweet music. I should think “heavy metal” grinding might be more appropriate.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Murphy presses again for gasoline tax hike to shore up highway fund

Washington – Sen. Chris Murphy, in partnership with Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, has renewed a push to raise the federal gasoline tax — a move to shore up a transportation fund that will soon run out of money, threatening road and bridge projects in Connecticut and elsewhere across the nation.
The federal Highway Trust Fund was propped up last summer through temporary funding set to expire in May. About half of the trust fund’s money comes from a federal gas tax, now about 18.4 cents a gallon, that hasn’t been increased since 1993. Since then Americans are driving less and cars are more fuel efficient, while the cost of building roads and highways has gone up.
Murphy’s proposed fix is to raise the tax 12 cents a gallon over two years.
 If new money isn't added to the trust fund before the May deadline, federal highway money to states would be severely cut. Despite the looming deadline, however, Congress has not come up with a permanent solution to keep the highway trust fund completely solvent.
“Nobody likes to pay more gas tax,” Murphy said. But he said the tradeoff in better transportation is worth the price. He also said the gasoline tax is one area where Connecticut receives more from Washington than it pays in.
“The reality is that Connecticut does incredibly well when it comes to the gas tax,” Murphy said. ”It gets $1.60 in transportation funds for every dollar paid in gas taxes.”
That’s because the trust fund distributes money to the states in a formula that’s based in part on how many miles are driven on that state’s federal highways.
Murphy suggested a gas tax increase last summer but has not introduced a bill yet.
The recent precipitous drop in gasoline prices has prompted some to say that imposing a hike in the gas tax now would not be as tough for drivers to accept as it was when gasoline hovered near or above $4 a gallon.
But there are huge political obstacles to Murphy’s idea.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said last week the Obama administration wants to adhere to a plan to finance new infrastructure spending by closing tax loopholes that favor the wealthy.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said there is little appetite in Congress for the plan.
“I don’t know of any support for a gas tax increase in Congress,” he said.
Most House Republicans have taken a “no new taxes” pledge. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Construction firms add 48,000 jobs in December

Construction employers added 48,000 jobs in December and 290,000 for the year, the largest annual increase since 2005, as the sector’s unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials said many firms are expanding payrolls to keep pace with growing construction demand, but are having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill key positions.
“Construction firms are clearly ramping up their hiring to keep up with swelling demand for construction,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Demand for workers to construct apartments, pipelines and huge industrial projects is likely to remain robust in 2015.”
Construction employment totaled 6.16 million in December, the highest level since March 2009, with a 12-month gain of 290,000 jobs or 4.9 percent, Simonson noted. Residential building and specialty trade contractors added a combined 13,500 employees since November and 132,100 (6 percent) over 12 months. Nonresidential contractors hired a net of 34,400 workers for the month and 158,200 (4.3 percent) since December 2013. The heavy and civil engineering construction segment, which includes pipelines, petrochemical and power plants, and public works construction, added 11,600 jobs in December and 57,900 (6.6 percent) over the year.
The number of workers who said they looked for work in the past month and had last worked in construction fell to 680,000 from 958,000 a year earlier. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Company pleads guilty to filing false tax returns tied to prior scandal

WATERBURY — A construction company connected to a past mayoral scandal pleaded guilty Tuesday to filing a false tax return. The company faces probation and a heavy fine. In addition to the tax charge, Cherry Hill Construction of North Branford also pleaded guilty 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. The company faces up to 10 years of probation and a maximum fine of $750,000 when it's sentenced in April. 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.
MORE RECENTLY, the company lost a bid to demolish the Prospect Street parking garage in Waterbury last month 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. City procurement rules require bidders to acknowledge an add-on to the project to make sure contractors understand the work the city advertised, and submit informed bids.
Cherry Hill had underbid the next lowest bidder by $4,000. The demolition, which is being funded by a state grant as part of the $12.2 million Waterbury Next campaign, is slated to happen this spring.
A message left at Cherry Hill's office Wednesday was not returned.