February 27, 2015

CT Construction Digest February 27, 2015

Loose ceiling tiles at Stratford High

STRATFORD -- Students at Stratford High School were sent home Thursday morning after ceiling tiles and whiteboards shifted in a classroom wing.
School officials also cancelled all afternoon and evening activities at the North Parade Street high school, but Superintendent Janet Robinson said she expects the school to be open and operating normally Friday.
Robinson said the problem does not appear to be related to the weight of accumulated snow on the aging school's roof.
The town engineer and representatives of Turner Construction Co. spent much of the day Thursday in the section of the school to the left of the main entrance, trying to determine why two ceiling tiles and two classroom whiteboards were "askew,'' Robinson said.
"As a precaution it was decided to evacuate that wing,'' the superintendent said.
"Since we couldn't just shift 1,000 students into one wing, it was decided to send everyone home.'' Students left the building at 9:30 a.m.
There are 20 classrooms, but no cafeteria or auditorium in the affected wing, officials said.
Principal Joseph Corso informed parents through an email blast that students and staff were in no danger, "but as always, we strive to put first and foremost the safety and well-being of our students and staff while the engineers do the work they need to do.''
The town and the Board of Education are in the beginning stages of a $90 million project to "renovate as new'' the existing Stratford High School.
Construction has not begun and Thursday's incident is not related to the project, officials said.

Brookfield nearly off the hook for $7M reimbursement to state

BROOKFIELD -- The mystery of the missing construction receipts is solved -- mostly.
Taxpayers no longer appear to be on the hook for $7 million in state grants that auditors were demanding back unless Brookfield could find missing paperwork from subcontractors involved on the high school renovation completed in 2008.
It turns out a significant amount of the missing documentation was in the files of a former schools superintendent, John Getz.
"My understanding is we opened up the file cabinet and viola -- there is was," First Selectman Bill Tinsley said. "A lot of information they were looking for we sent to them, and I believe there is still some subcontractor information that they are waiting on."
The state Department of Administrative Service had set a Friday deadline for the town to provide the missing subcontractor bids and receipts, or repay the $7 million the state education department awarded for the $28 million high school renovation project.
Since Brookfield is trying to find other subcontractor records not in the former superintendent's files, the state has extended its deadline to March 6, acting Schools Superintendent Ralph Iassogna said.
He said he was hopeful the remaining records could be retrieved through the project's general contractor, Danbury-based Morganti.
"I am waiting to hear from Morganti and I anticipate after that we will be able to move forward," Iassogna said.
Brookfield has been trying to move forward after recent back-to-back accounting scandals involving the first selectman and the former superintendent of schools.
The trouble started in 2013 when a town audit found $1.2 million in unauthorized spending in the school budget over the previous two years. That prompted the school district's director of business to resign last February.
The school board considered then-Superintendent Anthony J. Bivona ultimately responsible for the financial mismanagement. He was fired in October, and the Internal Revenue Service began an investigation into the school district's 2013 payroll. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Siting Council must strike abalance on power plant

Opponents' arguments against a proposed 805-megawatt natural-gas-fired power plant in Oxford can be summed up simply -- we don't need it and we don't want it.
The plant's backers counter the first objection by citing long-range forecasts of the region's energy needs, the pending retirement of numerous plants around New England and projected growth in demand.
The second argument is harder to satisfy.
Strong opposition has gathered in recent months to plans from Maryland-based Competitive Power Ventures to build a power plant on a 26-acre site on Woodruff Hill Road, less than a mile from Waterbury-Oxford Airport and the Oxford Greens senior housing development. Homes in a Middlebury neighborhood are even closer.
"It's an example of a public good that would have a regional benefit but people think would have a locally negative impact, and no one wants it," said Sara Bronin, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law and faculty director of the Center for Energy & Environmental Law.
Natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil, she said, but that may not matter to opponents. "In the case of a power plant, probably people's fears about power plants generally are what's coming into play," she said. "People worry about having anything that's on such a huge scale anywhere in their backyard."
Two smokestacks on the plant would rise 150 feet from a hill overlooking the airport.
The decision is before the Connecticut Siting Council, where hearings continued this week on the plant's potential environmental impacts. A decision must be reached by May.
The need
ISO New England, the independent, nonprofit corporation that operates the power grid across six states, is tracking the retirement of a number of power sources across New England. More than 3,400 megawatts of generating power will go offline in the next few years, which amounts to more than 10 percent of the roughly 31,000 megawatts on the grid.
To help fill that gap, about 9,500 megawatts of generation has been proposed around the region, mostly natural gas and wind-powered. "That's a healthy amount of proposed resources, but we typically see about a 70 percent attrition rate," said Lacey Girard, a spokeswoman for ISO, which means most of the planned projects will not come to fruition. "These are projects that may have trouble getting financing or siting approval." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

East Hampton may establish police station department building committee

EAST HAMPTON >> The Town Council is studying a proposal to establish a police department building committee. Town Council Chairwoman Barbara Moore presented the council with a draft resolution for the committee during a council meeting Tuesday. The existing police station, located in the basement of Town Hall, is outmoded, too small at just under 2,900 square feet and inadequate for a 21st century police department, town officials have said.
Police Chief Sean Cox said the headquarters is a liability issue waiting to happen. In 2008, the Friar Report on town facilities found the police department “was lacking space and was in disrepair,” according to language contained in the draft resolution. That state of disrepair impacts “the efficiency and effectiveness of the services and safety delivered to East Hampton residents,” the resolution continues. However, “minimal work has been done since 2008 to substantially change or enhance” the police facility, according to the resolution. Last year, the council established a Facilities Evaluation Committee which determined a new police station had “the highest priority for a new facility,” according to the language of the proposed resolution.
In discussions earlier this year, it was also revealed the current station is not in compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is meant to ensure access to all public building by the handicapped. Moore is proposing the council establish a seven-member committee “whose charge shall be to design, build and/or renovate a police facility.” The members will be drawn from residents “who demonstrate knowledge of building, design, architecture, engineering and other related fields that will aid in the development and completion of a Police Facility.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

North Stonington outlines schol priority projects

North Stonington - In an effort to build consensus and community support for a new school building plan, town and school officials on Thursday night discussed the priorities that should be included in an eventual plan. Members of the selectmen, education and finance boards told facilitator Nick Caruso from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education what their top priorities are based on a list devised by school board member Bob Carlson, who extracted them from the previously defeated plans. The meeting was the second in a series of sessions by the officials to develop a proposal that will be acceptable to taxpayers. "My challenge is to help you come to a consensus about what has to happen and that, when you bring a project forward, you can support it and get the support of the community," Caruso said. He told the group that everyone agrees work needs to be done in the schools but there have been questions about the affordability, size and depth of the project. Last year, taxpayers twice defeated a referendum asking them to approve projects of $47 million and $40 million, in part because Caruso said there was not agreement among the three boards.
In the area of safety, Carlson said possible priorities include PCB and asbestos removal in the middle and high schools, and discontinuing or modifying the use of the tunnel under Route 2. Elementary safety items include moving the administration office to the front foyer, moving the computer room to the first floor so preschool and kindergarten students do not have to be on the second floor, discontinue the use of the multipurpose room for physical education in part because of the slippery floor and improving the pick up and drop off traffic pattern. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

State takes input on bridge project

 New London - State Department of Transportation officials welcomed comments Thursday on an upcoming $22 million rehabilitation project for the southbound side of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge.
The work, expected to begin in the spring of 2017, is still in the preliminary design phase and may take until the fall of 2018 to complete.
State DOT Project Manager Andrew Cardinali said the purpose of Thursday's meeting at City Hall was to allow for any concerns expressed by businesses, municipalities or citizens to be incorporated into the final design.
Four people attended Thursday's presentation.
Cardinali described the work as preventive maintenance on the 41-year-old bridge, with the major portion of the rehabilitation focused on the deck. A $2.3 million portion of the work also is slated for the exit ramp taking traffic onto Route 32 in New London. There will be temporary lane closures during off-peak hours.
Work involves complete removal of the cracking asphalt and the protective membrane underneath to expose the concrete below. Workers will patch the concrete deck along the 593,000-square-foot length of the mile-long bridge where needed.
"Motorist will be driving on concrete instead of asphalt for a while," Cardinali said.
The work includes the replacement of three overhead signs and their supports - probably the only time when workers will need to temporarily shut down all travel lanes of the highway, Cardinali said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Consultants present option for Groton school construction

Groton - The consultants advising Groton on new school construction outlined a new option Thursday: Demolish Carl C. Cutler and West Side middle schools and build new elementary schools on those sites.
The school facilities initiative task force, the group working on a plan for future school construction, had been looking at a plan that would build one new middle school and convert Groton's two existing middle schools into elementary schools. Three older elementary schools, S.B. Butler, Pleasant Valley and Claude Chester elementary schools, would close. The goal is to upgrade school buildings and create racial balance in the district schools.
But educational consultants Milone & MacBroom and SLAM, an engineering, architecture and construction management firm, said the town could build three new schools instead, by building a single new middle school, then demolishing the existing middle schools and building new elementary schools on those sites. Under this scenario, the total cost would rise from about $164.4 million to about $186.5 million, of which $89.1 million would be paid by local taxpayers. By comparison, renovating and expanding the existing middle schools would cost Groton taxpayers about $70.4 million, according to updated figures.
The consultants also offered a third option: Build one new middle school. Then renovate West Side Middle School as an elementary school but don't expand it. Finally, demolish Cutler Middle School and build a larger new elementary school on that site. This would give Groton two new schools and cost about $168.3 million, with a net local cost of $75.3 million. Town Councilor Joe de la Cruz said the district should tear its old schools down and start over. They'd get a new building and cut down on maintenance, he said. The cost estimates for renovations don't include removing hazardous material like asbestos, the consultants said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Spanish utility subsidiary to buy UIL for $3B

New Haven utility parent UIL Holdings Corp. said it has agreed to be acquired by New England utility operator Iberdrola USA for approximately $3 billion.
The private Iberdrola and the public UIL would form a new publicly traded entity, which will be led by UIL CEO James Torgerson, who said in a statement Wednesday evening that the deal creates a company with greater scale and financial resources to invest in system reliability and infrastructure.
"This is a very compelling transaction for our shareholders," Torgerson said.
Iberdrola's offer of $52.75 per share — nearly 25 percent higher than UIL's Feb. 25 closing price — has been approved by the boards of both companies.
Iberdrola, which has no Connecticut holdings, would own 81.5 percent of the new company.
The combined company would have 3.1 million customers across seven geographic markets served by Iberdrola's utility subsidiaries in New York and Maine, and UIL's holdings in southern Connecticut and western Massachusetts.
It will also have a portfolio of 6.5 gigawatts of renewable generation, including the second-largest wind portfolio in the country, the companies said.
UIL brings more than 725,000 customers to the deal. UIL shareholders would receive one new share every share they hold, plus $10.50 in cash.
Iberdrola USA is a part of the Spanish Iberdrola Group, which formed its subsidiary when it acquired Maine's Energy East in 2008. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Toll Brothers withdraws efforts to develop Cedar Mountain in Newington

NEWINGTON — The 6-year-long battle of Cedar Mountain is over.
Mayor Stephen Woods announced Thursday that Toll Brothers is dropping its long-standing and controversial attempt to build luxury homes on the mountain and the town will seek to buy the property to preserve it as open space.
"I am excited to say that this long, drawn-out, divisive and expensive battle with Toll Brothers is at an end," said Woods, reading from a prepared statement at the close of the annual State of the Town event. "For all of you who asked us to 'Save Cedar Mountain,' I proudly say today that Cedar Mountain has been saved now — and I am committed to preserving it for the future."
The announcement led one member of the audience to shout, "Bravo!"
Toll Brothers' lawyer for the project, Thomas J. Regan of Brown Rudnick, declined to comment Thursday.
The company's decision came after an extended "dialogue" between it and Economic Development Director Andy Brecher, Woods said. At a certain point, Woods and Town Manager John Salomone joined the discussions, Woods said.
Salomone said that the town did not make any payment to Toll Brothers. It's too early to say how the town might finance purchase of the property, he said.
"It really depends on the price and how we could go about it," Salomone said.
Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers, one of the nation's largest home builders, has tried off and on since 2009 to build housing on Cedar Mountain, one of the town's last undeveloped areas. The company's multiple unsuccessful applications stirred fierce opposition from some residents, who feared possible environmental damage and wanted the land near the Wethersfield border preserved as open space.
"After six long years, David slays Goliath," longtime project opponent Gayle Raducha said Thursday. "We did it!"
The conservation commission stymied Toll Brothers' most recent application two years ago when it rejected the company's wetlands permit after extensive hearings. The plan called for 48 high-end homes on 29 acres, with another 44 acres set aside as open space. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

February 26, 2015

CT Construction Digest February 26, 2015

Eversource to pitch new energy substation in Greenwich

Eversource, the energy company formerly known as Connecticut Light and Power, will host an open house at Greenwich Town Hall on Tuesday to present plans for a new power substation on Railroad Avenue.
"Building a new substation is not something we do frequently," Eversource spokesman Frank Poirot said. "It happens when customer demand for electricity continues to grow, and we've been marking that trend in Greenwich in particular for years now."
The current bulk substation, in Cos Cob, was built in 1964, when there was less demand for energy in American's daily lives. Eversource anticipates the need will exceed its capacity at some point in 2017, Poirot said this week.
The energy company filed a municipal consultation earlier this month, outlining a multiyear plan to bring a new substation into town at 290 Railroad Ave., a building the company has owned since the 1970s. That location is home to Pet Pantry, a pet store, which recently bought the old Baang property on East Putnam Avenue for $2.7 million.
The first step of that process is the open house, which will be held in the Town Hall Meeting Room from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, where representatives from Eversource will explain plans for the project and invite questions from the public.
Poirot said if it's approved, construction would likely begin as soon as August 2016, kicking off a process he said is estimated to cost $104 million. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Plans for New Canaan Library moving forward

Breaking ground on a long-awaited and larger New Canaan Library is one step closer after the formation of a new capital committee to raise funds to build it.
More than two years after hiring an architect to consider potential designs, the new committee will begin a capital campaign to raise $25 million, according to library Executive Director Lisa Oldham.
The committee will be made up of Lydee Hummel, the vice president of the library board; Kathryn Burt, a trustee of the board; and Anda Hutchins, a former trustee of the board.
Among the needs for a new building is a larger auditorium to accommodate lectures and other programs and a much larger children's area, Oldham said. Another limitation of the facility is its 100-year-old infrastructure and a lack of space for patrons to take part in library programs.
About a third of the 37,000-square-foot building is unusable space at the basement levels, including mechanical rooms, she said.
"The auditorium is sub-optimal and can't accommodate all the people interested in events," Oldham said. "If we had a library with 37,000 square feet that was usable, it would be a good-sized library."
An early plan envisioning a 55,000-square-foot building is probably financially out of reach, Oldham said, but a new facility with 37,000 square feet of usable space would be able to serve the library's current needs.
The library has been at 151 Main St. since 1913 and was expanded and renovated in 1937, 1952 and 1979, according to the library website.
The building and grounds at the library are owned by an association and not the town of New Canaan and are expected to raise the majority of money for the new building from private donations. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Uncertain funding a problem for aging roads in Connecticut, nation

Touted as one of the first interstate highways, a 200-mile span of Interstate 70 between suburban St. Louis and Kansas City stands as a prime example of the challenges facing the nation’s roads.
Built in the 1950s and ’60s with a 20-year-life expectancy, the four-lane highway is crumbling beneath its surface and clogged with traffic as it carries more than 30,000 vehicles a day on many of its rural stretches, requiring more frequent repaving. The cost to rebuild and widen it is estimated at $2 billion to $4 billion — as much as five times the projected yearly construction and maintenance budget of Missouri’s transportation department. And there is no easy way to pay for it. The state fuel tax hasn’t risen in about 20 years, and voters defeated a 1-cent sales tax for transportation. Gov. Jay Nixon has since floated the idea of hiking the gasoline tax and reviving a previously failed plan to turn I-70’s reconstruction over to a private entity that could charge tolls estimated at up to $30 per car.  As legislatures convene across the country, lawmakers and governors are confronting similar realities in their own states: how to address an aging network of roads, highways and bridges during an era in which federal money for such projects has remained stagnant or declined. Figures compiled by The Associated Press show the total amount of money available to states from the Federal Highway Trust Fund has declined 3.5 percent during the five-year period ending in 2013, the latest year for which numbers were available. During that span, the amount of inflation-adjusted federal highway money dropped in all states but Alaska and New York. In response, states have tried to devise ways to fill the gap. Governors and lawmakers in several states are proposing new taxes, tolls and fees to repair a road system whose historical reliance on fuel taxes no longer is providing enough money to cover its costs. “You’re seeing states all across the country that are looking to do something, because they realize you can’t count on the federal government,” said Missouri state Rep. Dave Hinson, a Republican who supports the idea of raising the state sales tax for road improvements.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Hundreds turn out for labor committee hearing at Middletown city hall

MIDDLETOWN >> It may have been cold outside. But passions were aflame inside Middletown City Hall Tuesday, as members of the General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee took testimony for and against a range of issues.
There were more than 50 proposed bills up for discussion. But as the committee chairman, Sen. Gary Winfield, D-10, noted, the main arguments focused on two key issues — increasing the thresholds for prevailing wage rates to kick in and imposing limits on unemployment benefits. Speaker after speaker trailed to the microphone at Common Council chambers to share their opinions, make their points, or to denounce or support proposed legislation for the nine committee members.
Some of the arguments were well-rehearsed, others well-known to committee members, having been presented to the same committee last year during a public hearing in New Britain.
Speakers used the same facts to argue different interpretations and opposing viewpoints before an audience that ranged to upwards of 250 to 300 people when the hearing began at 6 p.m.
Many of the people who made up that audience were large, bulky men — union members from various construction industry trades.
They did not wear their pride on their sleeves, but on their shirts, on oversized patches on the backs of their jackets, or on emblems on their hats.
Because there was an overflow crowds, Capitol police officers herded scores of people from the chambers into the hallway just outside. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Demolition but not construction coming soon for Southington Ideal Forging

The Ideal Forging buildings in the downtown may be demolished in the next few weeks but that doesn’t mean the retail and housing proposed for the site will be constructed soon.
Representatives of a proposed 250-unit condominium building, Greenway Commons, are scheduled to meet with town building officials today to plan the demolition of the Ideal Forging buildings. The plan involves a $70 million retail and residential complex in the Southington downtown.
Building Department John Smigel said a representative would present some of the documentation tomorrow needed for a demolition permit.
“They’re still working on giving us the required paperwork,” he said.
Meridian Development Partners, a firm from New York, owns the property. The company could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The project to use the former factory complex between Mill and Center streets has been in the preliminary stages for about a decade.
The industrial site also required environmental remediation. In 2013, Weston Solutions Inc., an environmental consultant and redevelopment advisor, supervised the removal of manufacturing chemicals, oils and florescent light ballasts on the site. Groundwater remediation was done in the same year.
Some of the buildings have already been torn down. Smigel said the demolition permit currently requested would mean the destruction of five main buildings and three or four smaller accessory buildings.
There’s still more cleanup needed on the property though, according to Town Council Chairman Michael Riccio. A special tax district was formed called the Greenway Commons Improvement District that will provide remediation funding in return for property tax sharing between the town and the state. The tax district helps to fund projects that are difficult to finance privately.
Once Meridian has the demolition permit, the buildings can come down and remediation done. But Riccio said the company will likely wait for the market to improve before starting work.
“As far as constructing buildings, they’re a long way from that,” he said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Norwich - Spectra Energy will host an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Holiday Inn, 10 Laura Boulevard, to provide information about the Atlantic Bridge Project.
The project involves adding natural gas pipeline infrastructure to the existing Algonquin Gas Transmission and Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline systems. The project will bring new supplies of natural gas into the region by November 2017, the company said. The new pipeline will be in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Existing meter stations also will be modified.
During the open house, Spectra Energy representatives will answer questions about the proposed facilities, safety, land acquisition and the environmental permitting processes, as well as about construction, operations and other aspects.

Three states to work together on clean energy proposals

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Wednesday that Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have initiated a coordinated process that will lead to a three-state request for proposals for clean energy resources.
"By working together with neighboring states we can make the most efficient use of our resources to attract new clean energy projects at the lowest possible cost for ratepayers while advancing our interests in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases," Malloy said in a news release. "The joint procurement process opens the possibility of procuring large-scale projects and transmission to deliver clean energy on a scale that no single state could secure on its own."
Other goals include diversifying the fuel mix in New England and helping to address winter reliability issues.
The three states took the first step in the procurement process by formally releasing a draft request for proposals for a 30-day comment period. The comment period will end on March 26.
After considering the comments, the states will issue the final request for proposals this spring.
It will seek bids on new Class I Renewable Energy projects, which include wind, solar, small hydroelectric, biomass and fuel cells of at least 20 megawatts, and large-scale hydroelectric power projects that were constructed after Jan. 1. The draft proposal seeks to allow the states to consider projects for the delivery of clean energy through: CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Labor berates bills that would ease prevailing wage rules in Connecticut

MIDDLETOWN — Fifteen bills that would reduce the number of public construction projects that pay union wages inspired vehement opposition from hundreds of union construction workers, far more than could fit Tuesday night in a standing-room-only hearing room.
 The audience at times applauded pro-worker speakers and at times heckled legislators or a town official advocating for prevailing wage changes. The prevailing wage standard does not require that contractors hire union workers, but that they pay union level pay and benefits to any workers hired. Hundreds of union construction workers who tried to attend an off-site Labor Committee hearing in Middletown's city hall. The chamber had only about 100 seats, and virtually no standing room, so as many workers crowded the lobby as sat inside. "With so many bills, it's difficult to know where to begin," said Jeremy Zeedyk, an organizer from Sheet Metal Local 40. He said every year, union members spend energy debunking myths about the prevailing wage and its impact on towns. "Yet here we are doing the same old dance again," he said.The majority of the bills would change the threshold that triggers prevailing wage from $400,000 to $1 million for new construction. Those who wish to raise the threshold say that higher labor and benefit costs under the prevailing wage mean projects are delayed or never done. Rep. John Piscopo, R-Thomaston, said his first selectman first asked for relief from prevailing wages costs in the late 1990s. "It's a discussion whose time has come," he said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Tolls heard in Hartford yesterday

HARTFORD — Residents of Danbury, Greenwich, Enfield and other border towns deluged state legislators Wednesday with emails urging them to oppose highway tolls. "It would almost appear to be political suicide for anyone to go down this path," said Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who is joining other Republicans in opposing tolls in Connecticut. At least one Republican legislator from the Danbury region had promised last week to organize a show of strength from anti-toll voters at Wednesday's hearing before the legislature's transportation committee. That came to pass when several hundred emails — overwhelmingly against tolls — arrived for the committee members.
 Opponents warn that border tolls would hurt towns near Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island because merchants could lose business from people who might decide not to drive into Connecticut. Connecticut residents who commute to jobs across the border also would suffer, opponents said, and local roads would be clogged with drivers trying to detour around the tolls. "You are going to have backups of drivers seeking to avoid a toll on the exit ramps on I-95 and absolute mayhem if this body approves border tolls," Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, said at the hearing. On the opposite side of the debate, Rep. Russ Morin, D-Wethersfield, hammered the concern for public safety: Connecticut faces billions of dollars of long-postponed maintenance work on roads and bridges with no money to pay for it. "At some point we have to stop kicking the can," Morin said. "A tragic accident brought tolls to an end in Connecticut. I'm concerned when I hear, 'Let's talk about it.'" He said he didn't want to see a tragedy caused by poor maintenance force the state to hurriedly spend billions to improve its infrastructure. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


February 25, 2015

CT Construction Digest February 25, 2015

New fire station construction behind schedule; cold blamed

Central fire headquarters' new building is three months behind schedule and about $80,000 over budget but is expected to be finished on time.
Cold weather has caused much of the delay. A steel superstructure was to have been in place by fall 2014 but so far only one wall has been erected at the site at 15 Havermeyer Place.
"You can pour concrete in the winter, but not with this freeze," said Building Construction and Maintenance Superintendent Al Monelli.
The continued cold is not the only roadblock; a problem arose when the foundation was dug that affected the atrium connected to the nearby police department headquarters. Some re-design work was required, costing another month.
Once the weather thaws, Monelli said, the concrete can be poured to finish the foundation.
"Once we get concrete, we'll start on the steel," he said.
Despite the delays, Monelli said the work was mostly on budget. The contract called for an $16.5 million construction outlay, and it was now over-budget by about $80,000.
Workers broke ground on the new firehouse in May of last year, after a lengthy process leading to approvals in 2011. The siting of the new headquarters followed another lengthy discussion by town leaders.
"It's progressing on the timeline that was established," said First Selectman Peter Tesei, who has been getting updates on the project. "Clearly the snowfall has impeded some of the construction. By and large, the impediment has been the weather."
Tesei has called the roughly new facility "critically important," in particular for public safety in the central business district. The new fire headquarters will adjoin the police department to create a public-safety complex downtown.
The fire department's headquarters has been operating out of a temporary command center in an office park on Holly Hill Lane while the work continues. Other fire department units have been dispersed to alternate locations. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Regional board OK's $24M for exit 33 project in Stratford

STRATFORD — Mayor John A. Harkins today announced that plans for a full interchange at Exit 33 on Interstate 95 are progressing as funding for the project was unanimously approved by the Greater Bridgeport and Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (GBVMPO) last week. The approval by the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) will provide $24 million in funding for various phases of the project, with construction projected to begin in 2017. The availability of funding marks a major step in progression for the proposed project that would construct a full interchange at Exit 33.
“Securing funding and regional support for Exit 33 is a major deal and a promising sign of advancement,” said Mayor Harkins. “This project is a common sense approach to address traffic and safety concerns, as well as to stimulate our local and regional economies. Residents will finally be able to easily access many of Stratford’s great businesses and will be able to have better access to the highway. I would like to thank the Greater Bridgeport and Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Department of Transportation for their efforts to assist this project and make it a reality.” The proposed I-95 interchange project will result in the construction of two new ramps in Stratford: a northbound on-ramp at Ferry Boulevard; and a southbound off-ramp near Barnum Avenue Cutoff and Veterans Boulevard. The new ramps would provide full access to I-95 for residents and visitors wishing to patronize businesses in Stratford, especially in the developing Transit-Oriented District and Route 1 corridor. In addition to bolstering Stratford’s economy, the new ramps would provide much needed congestion relief on Route 1 and surrounding local streets in Devon. Funding for the transportation project was included in an approved amendment to the fiscal year 2015-2018 State Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) by the GPVMPO at a meeting held on Tuesday, February 17, 2015. The TIP, which is valid for four years, was endorsed by the organization in October 2014 and is subject to amendments consistent with long range transportation goals of the organization and region. Additionally, the TIP was approved by the United States Department of Transportation (Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration). CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

East Hampton fires high school project manager

EAST HAMPTON >> The town has sent the project manager for the $51 million high school renovation project a sternly-worded letter of dismissal.
Town Manager Michael Maniscalco sent a certified letter to the Bruce E. Douglas, the executive director of the Capital Region Educational Council, on Feb. 18 terminating CREC “for cause.”
The High School Building Committee voted unanimously on Feb. 12 to direct Maniscalco and the town’s law firm, Robinson & Cole, to compose and send the letter. The committee’s vote followed allegations CREC had failed to provide required documents for the project to the state in a timely manner and, at the same time, had failed to make the committee aware of developing complications with the project at the state level.
The state Department of Administrative Services has said the school’s enrollment does not justify an educational institution the size of the present high school.
DAS officials have demanded the town reduce the size of the school by nearly 20,000 square feet —- or lose upwards of $7 million in promised state reimbursements.
Most of Maniscalco’s three-page letter is a carefully constructed legal document.
But the first full paragraph on page 2, which sets out the town’s claim against CREC, is nothing short of blistering. “CREC has consistently failed to perform its contractual duties and obligations in accordance with the applicable industry standards and has committee multiple material breaches of the parties’ contract,” it reads. “Among other things, failing to provide reasonable, consistent and timely oversight of the overall project, failing to provide oversight for the design and budgeting process, failing to timely prepare and submit reports and meeting minutes, failing to oversee/coordinate and communicate the status of the state reimbursement process, and having excessive turnover/attrition in the staff assigned to the project,” the letter says. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Shoreline legislators applaud rail expansion

HARTFORD >> State Reps. Vincent Candelora, Noreen Kokoruda and Devin Carney joined Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker at the Guilford train station recently to celebrate the rail expansion of Shore Line East.
The Guilford and Branford stations of Shore Line East are undergoing upgrades. In Guilford, construction is underway to build 100 additional parking spaces, lengthening the platform from 40 feet to 200 feet, and other improvements to improve accessibility and ease of use. 
A new platform and pedestrian bridge in Branford are also expected to be completed this year.“The completion of this project will have a great local impact that our cities and towns need as our state moves through past this fiscal hurdle and into recovery,” said Candelora, who represents the towns of Durham, Guilford, North Branford and Wallingford.
“This will help revitalize our transportation grid,” he added. The Department of Transportation will also expand Shore Line East’s Madison station platform and is engaged in a feasibility study for a new station in Niantic. “I am thrilled that Madison’s station platform is included within this expansion,” said Kokoruda. “This expansion will benefit Connecticut immensely, it’s important that we make investments into our rail network, these enhancements are a necessary investment.”
Construction will begin at the Clinton station this year, adding a new passenger platform. Old Saybrook will also be upgraded with an expected 200 parking spots and electric vehicle charging stations. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Developer to build apartments in New Haven's Dixwell neighborhood

NEW HAVEN >> Juan Miguel Salas-Romer said he likes to buy properties where his redevelopment work will have a positive impact on the city.
The entrepreneur has gotten approval to create eight apartments at an intersection where a problem bar was once located in the Dixwell neighborhood.
Salas-Romer bought 201 Munson St. and 320-324 Ashmum St. and is in the process of finalizing purchase of the shuttered Pentecostal Apostolic Faith Assemblies at 27-29 Henry St., where he was the sole bidder in an auction held by the city. Salas-Romer in the last decade has purchased 45 properties in New Haven, for a total of 250 apartments. After getting input from the neighborhood, “we try to improve areas of the city,” Salas-Romer said Tuesday.
The conversion to eight apartments with Cafe G, a coffeeshop and bakery, on the first level at the corner of Henry and Ashmun streets, got the approval of the City Plan Commission this month.
Cafe G is also located in Branford and on Orange Street in the historic Palladium building, which Salas-Romer also bought. Salas-Romer’s Dixwell project involves converting three adjacent mixed-use parcels into a residential development he is calling The W Residences. The three properties will be combined and recorded as a single entity on the land records. The mixed-use commercial space currently at 320-324 Ashmun St. will be converted from two retail spaces and five apartments to one retail space and six apartments, according to City Plan.
The 320 Ashmun St. portion will have a total of four apartments, with two on each floor; 324 Ashmum St. will have a total of two apartments.
The closed church will be renovated into two residential units, while a vacant gravel lot at 22 Munson St. will be paved and made into an 11-space parking lot. A paved courtyard/common area will be constructed between the three buildings and the parking area for use by the residents, according to plans filed with City Plan. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE  


February 24, 2015

CT Construction Digest February 24, 2015

Norwich utility launches 2015 natural gas expansion project

Norwich — Norwich Public Utilities is gearing up for the next phase of the continuing natural gas line expansion, with several public informational meetings planned during the next three weeks.
NPU officials will reach out to residents in the Old Canterbury Turnpike, Rockwell Street and Cherry Hill neighborhoods —locations selected because of strong interest expressed by customers, proximity to natural gas lines and the ability to coordinate work with the Public Works Department’s paving schedule. Residents living in areas where NPU provides natural gas also will be eligible to sign up for new service. The first meeting will be 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the NPU headquarters, 16 S. Golden St. Other sessions, also at 5:30 p.m., will be held Tuesday, March 10, at Eastern Savings Bank, 257 Main St., and Thursday, March 12, at CorePlus Credit Union, 202 Salem Turnpike. The deadline for registering with NPU to ensure installation during the 2015 construction season is April 1. Contact Katie Moors at (860) 823-4514 for information. We have a team and a process that has proven to be very effective in converting homes and businesses to natural gas,” NPU General Manager John Bilda said. “Over the past three years, more than 1,700 new customers have joined the NPU natural gas system, allowing each of them to save money by using a more environmentally friendly heating source.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Lawmakers fear proposal for tolls could hurt region

Hartford — A bill proposed by the General Assembly's Transportation Committee to establish electronic tolling at the borders of the state could disproportionately impact border communities such as those in southeastern Connecticut, according to two area Republican legislators who are critical of the proposal. The bill, which goes to a public hearing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building, would require the commissioner of transportation to "initiate any actions necessary for the establishment and commencement of operations of electronic tolling at the borders of the state." As part of laying the groundwork for establishing tolls, the bill requires that the commissioner "(enter) into an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration to ensure that any toll operation undertaken by the state will be allowed by the Federal Highway Administration and will not result in any adverse financial impact on the state."
Rep. Aundre Bumgardner, R-Groton, and Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said that the tolls would unduly burden residents and people who work in border areas. "I think it's certainly a way to generate revenue, but it's discriminatory against border towns," said Bumgardner. He said tolls would put border residents and workers in the position of funding transportation infrastructure improvements that people who live or work farther from state borders would benefit from without having to pay. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Demand, not rent, leads to rebirth in Hartford'd industrial market

A few months back, Kim Gajewski went shopping around the Hartford market for a bigger distribution-warehouse than the one her employer, freight-forwarder Pilot Freight Services, currently occupies in Granby.
It didn't take long for Gajewski, a Pilot regional vice president, to find 44,000 square feet in Windsor — nearly triple the size of the company's Granby freight terminal on Kripes Road — in a relatively new building in the New England Tradeport, owned by major Connecticut commercial landlord Griffin Land.
The space is larger than what she and her boss originally had in mind, Gajewski says. But for just a bit more in rent, Pilot leased the newer digs to be in proximity of one of its biggest shippers, online retail giant Amazon.com, which just built a sprawling 1.5 million-square-foot fulfillment center off Day Hill Road. Amazon uses Pilot to ship TV sets, fitness equipment and other bulky merchandise to shoppers in the region.
Amazon's new distribution center won't open until summer, but it's already attracting significant interest from commercial tenants who want, or even need, to locate near it. That's adding momentum to Greater Hartford's industrial real estate market, which has now fully recovered from the Great Recession as employers ranging from light manufacturers to distribution companies add space to sate increasing consumer demand.
Most in demand, brokers and landlords say, are existing industrial properties with mid-size footprints of 35,000- to 45,000 square feet; and bigger, built-to-suit facilities sized six figures or larger.
Industrial brokers say deals like Amazon and Pilot's underscore cravings among investment-oriented landlords, owner occupants and tenants for the Hartford region's industrial space. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

February 23, 2015

CT Construction Digest February 23, 2015

New Roosevelt Elementary in on the way

BRIDGEPORT -- The floor tiles are being installed, the lights are on, and last week the boilers were fired up in what soon will be the new Roosevelt Elementary School.
With a squabble over how many on-site parking spaces would be provided now settled, the $44.7 million project to bring a new 82,438-square-foot school building to the city's South End is back on track for completion this spring.
The city's School Building Committee was told late last week that the school -- one of several projects underway -- will be substantially completed by April.
"The only concern we have is the weather," said Larry Schilling, a project manager for O&G Industries, the company in charge of school building projects. Asphalt toppings for parking lots and playscapes will have to wait until the snow clears and the ground thaws, he said.
The school, which is not set to be occupied by students until the start of the 2015-16 school year, is a two-story building at Park Avenue and Prospect Street. It will have a multi-colored exterior facade and be big enough for 600 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Noe Castro, a parent leader at the school, predicted the school will signal a new beginning.
"It will give us more space, something new," said Castro, whose daughter is in kindergarten. "Yeah we are excited and I hope we can build on it."
The school will also have a synthetic turf soccer field with lights, a feature added to the project by the mayor's office, and which ate into the number of available on-site parking spaces. Teachers and parents complained, and 12 more spaces were included in the plans and the city recently agreed to designate 18 on-street spaces around the perimeter of the school for school use.
The 12 new spaces added $113,631 to the project. A new 10-foot-high chain link fence to keep soccer balls from sailing from the new field into traffic on South Avenue is costing $34,325. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Union membership on the rise in Connecticut

Connecticut unions added roughly 24,000 people to their combined membership base last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, giving the state 231,000 unionized workers --more than the numbers labor unions were fielding in 2003.
The state's union membership increased to 14.8 percent of the employed population, up from 13.5 percent in 2013. The percentage gain was the third best in the country, after Colorado and Indiana, with the United States as a whole seeing a 0.2 percent decline in union membership.
Only the year before, DOL's Bureau of Labor Statistics had estimated Connecticut's union membership had dropped by 9,000 workers, plummeting by 43,000 workers the year before that. The 2014 gain was surprising given that Connecticut added a net total of 26,000 jobs last year, just 2,000 more than the union membership gains reported by DOL.
In larger unions covering workers in Southwest Connecticut, the 2013 dues collected from members by unions ticked upward in the majority of labor organizations, according to a Hearst analysis of annual reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Lori Pelletier, the head of the Rocky Hill-based Connecticut AFL-CIO, attributed the gains in part due to graduate students at the University of Connecticut unionizing, as well as technicians and clinical workers at the Western Connecticut Health Network that includes Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital. But Pelletier added the increases suggested activity from throughout the state.
"Gains can also be attributed to increased employment in the building and construction trades, as well as increased employment at Electric Boat and their suppliers," Pelletier told the Advocate in an email. "Unions are vigilant when it comes to organizing opportunities --the difficulty lies in the union election process. Nationally, businesses spend nearly $8 billion a year fighting union organizing drives. From captive audience meetings, to litigation and intimidation workers today want protections but are afraid of the boss's response." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Middletown high-rise project approved by zoning board

MIDDLETOWN >> Plans for a multi-million-dollar complex proposed in December by Massachusetts-based Hajjar Management have moved quickly through the approval process at city hall, getting a green light Feb. 11 from the Planning and Zoning Commission before it received a recommendation from the city’s Design Review & Preservation Board.
Though city zoning codes don’t require commissioners to wait for the completion of the board’s review, zoning panel members spoke in favor of the process after hearing comments from Design Review & Preservation.
The PZC voted to approve plans with a stipulation that “final materials be reviewed” by members of the Design Review & Preservation Board where members recently locked in a 3-3 vote on the project. Since a quorum wasn’t met, the item was tabled for further review. Now Hajjar only needs site approval and a building permit before construction will begin the spring. Planning department Deputy Director Bruce Driska submitted a laundry list of concerns raised by commissioners that still have not been addressed. The items include, but are not limited to, “trees planted as true street trees, concerns about a ‘halo ring’ architectural feature, the placement of retail stores far from the sidewalk, and the practicability of Dumpster location.”
“What disturbed me the most is that in those three or four meetings [of the board] still don’t have a sense of what the building is going to look like,” said Zoning Commissioner Steve Devoto.
In January, PZC commissioners failed to approve the project with a 3-3 vote, with one abstention.
“There are things we are willing to take into consideration, but these are not standards that you require in Middletown,” a lawyer, speaking on behalf of Hajaar Management, told the commission.
Commission vice chair Molly Salafia was among those who objected in January to moving forward without design review. She said some commissioners feel pressured to vote quickly to approve the project, which was first announced in December by Mayor Daniel Drew.
“It circumvents the process and purpose of having subcommittees,” Salafia wrote in an email after the meeting, referring to the Design Review & Preservation Board. “Subcommittees are extremely important tools for us commissioners to make our decisions.”
The attorney argued that the firm already has appeared at three Design board meetings, and that Hajaar has to meet deadlines on financial and other obligations. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

State eyes $88M overhaul of complex highway interchange in Meriden

MERIDEN — The city could be on the receiving end of a few multi-million-dollar improvements to state highways and airports, according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget presentation.
A report released after the presentation details more than $5 billion in highway work between New Haven and Springfield, including $88 million for the Interstate 91, Interstate 691 and Route 15 interchange through Meriden. It details work to the northbound and southbound sides of I-91 between Exits 15 and 20, including an additional lane in each direction to allow for better traffic flow for vehicles getting on and off Route 15.
“These improvements will provide a higher level of operations along this section of I-91 as well as enhanced safety to reduce accidents,” the report says.
Judd Everhart, a Department of Transportation spokesman, said the area was chosen because of “very high traffic volume at a very complex interchange. For example, each day, well over 100,000 vehicles go through this interchange.”
Though any construction is still far off, City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior said the area is historically tricky.
“There can be backups both ways: When you’re coming from (Route) 15 north or south, you get backups in the East Main Street area. It could be safer,” he said.
In a Record-Journal story in 2006, a representative of the Connecticut State Police said the area isn’t considered “abnormally hazardous.” In the article, Meriden Firefighter Norm Zimmer called the interchange one of the diciest in the state.
“This is probably the most difficult, dangerous interchange in Connecticut, I would say,” said Zimmer. “I mean, it really is. I think the design makes it that way. Everything merging, and people don’t know if they’re on I-91 or 15 sometimes. It’s difficult. They’re changing lanes, they’re merging. It’s crazy, it really is.” Kendzior said he supports the plan. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
When it first opened to two-way traffic on Feb. 27, 1943, what is now the northbound span of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge cost automobile drivers a 15-cent toll for crossing the Thames River.
Originally known as the Groton-New London Bridge, the Gold Star predates Interstate 95 by two decades. State transportation officials now estimate it will cost about 30 times the original $6 million construction cost — between $150 million and $200 million — for the rehabilitation needed to improve the “poor condition” rating the bridge received after its last inspection in 2013. By federal standards, it is structurally deficient.  Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who presented a 30-year transportation plan in his budget last week, stood underneath the bridge in January “to highlight the importance of long-term planning and investment in all modes of Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure.”  “We can’t afford to wait any longer to fix our aging bridges and infrastructure,” he said.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said the poor rating is not an indication that the bridge is unsafe, only that it is in need of maintenance.  “The inspection process identifies areas of concern years in advance of any major problems,” Nursick said. “There are hundreds of millions of vehicle trips on bridges across the country. They are immensely overbuilt for their job. The Gold Star Bridge is a long way from being an unsafe bridge.” He said the bridge has reached the point, however, that plans are underway for major rehabilitation work. Comparing it to the aging of the human body, Nursick said the work is “like hip replacement or knee work.”
Engineers are refining an evaluation of rehabilitation options to define the scope of the work. Options could include repairs to last either 25 years or 50 years, along with how much it would cost to replace the bridge.  In his 30-year transportation proposal released this week, Malloy included $900 million for replacement of the northbound bridge. A spokesman for Malloy said the upcoming repairs and rehabilitation of the bridge are part of the five-year plan for the short-term. The replacement of the northbound bridge is part of the 30-year plan, which does not yet have funding identified.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

RCDA and Fort Trumbull are ready for development

In response to the recent media colloquy regarding the Fort Trumbull area of New London, I felt the public should be aware that the Renaissance City Development Association (RCDA) has been busy during the economic downturn of the last few years making important improvements to the Fort Trumbull site. Because this preparatory work does not dramatically change the outward appearance of the area, many remain unaware of the substantial accomplishments. The extensive remediation of the site has brought Fort Trumbull to the point where new commercial and residential development can now begin in earnest.
When the Fort Trumbull Municipal Development Plan (MDP) - later supported by the Yale Urban Design study - was approved in 2000, the area included 32 acres of vacant former Navy (NUWC) property, a closed oil terminal, a decaying railroad yard, and streets that were in shambles. Much of the land was contaminated and undevelopable. No public access was available to any of the waterfront.
The state had begun work on the construction of Fort Trumbull State Park, and Pfizer was well along in the construction of its 790,000-square-foot office buildings, which now serve as the General Dynamics Electric Boat Engineering Office.
The MDP plan for Fort Trumbull envisions private development including a waterfront hotel, residential development, new office space, and commercial development, facilitated by public investment in environmental work and new streets and infrastructure. Thus far, we have made the following substantial improvements to the area: CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

East Lyme water spill being assessed

East Lyme - Developers and town officials are assessing a water spill that occurred earlier this week from a pump station under construction at the residential Gateway Commons development near Interstate 95's Exit 73.
The town detected the water flow, which started overnight into early Wednesday morning, after noticing that water levels in its tanks were dropping, said First Selectman Mark Nickerson. After searching for the source of the water loss, town responders were able to stop the leak and turn off the water, which had flowed for several hours. Nickerson believes a pipe-fitting issue or a defective valve within the development's water infrastructure likely led to the significant loss of water, as the developers started up and tested their system. "We're trying to assess what happened, and what we need to do to rectify it," said Newton Brainard, vice president of Simon Konover Development.
Simon Konover of West Hartford and KGI Properties of Providence are developing 280 residential units as part of an overall plan for a residential and commercial village by I-95. Construction began last year on the housing units, which residents do not yet occupy. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

$20M sought to make DoNo apartments affordable

The developer building a downtown Hartford ballpark says it needs $20 million in public funding to include affordable apartments in its next development phase that also envisions a supermarket and parking garage.
Officials with developer DoNo LLC appeared at Thursday night's regular meeting of the Capital Region Development Authority and outlined its plan for the proposed $105 million project directly across Main Street from the ballpark now under construction.
The yet-unnamed project would include 328 one- and two-bedroom apartments situated atop street-level retail space that would include a 62,430-square-foot supermarket, plus another 33,000 square feet of extra retail space, and a 705-space parking garage. Twenty percent, or about 65 units, would be earmarked "affordable'' and offer below-market rents; the rest would be priced to the market.
Yves-Georges Joseph II, vice president of development for Centerplan Development LLC, a partner in DoNo LLC, told CRDA board members that preliminary talks have been held between DoNo LLC and staff of the qausi-public agency about what form their financial partnership might take.
Originally, the mixed-use project was conceived to be built with private financing, Joseph said. However, feedback the developer got about the entire DoNo development project from city officials, residents and other "stakeholders'' insisted that some of the apartments have rents tied to the median income of city residents, he said.
To do that, DoNo LLC calculated that injecting an affordability feature into the apartment project would create a private "funding gap'' of $20 million that CRDA could fill, Joseph said. DoNo assumes a monthly affordable rent of about $650 a month for the units, based on city residents' median income of $35,000 annually. The gap reflects the "funding hurdle,'' Joseph said, that the developer would have to cross to sway investors skeptical about the lengthened recovery period for their investment from having some apartments rent for less than others CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Energy center's details to emerge

OXFORD — The Connecticut Siting Council and some of the 24 parties and interveners could learn more this week about the proposed CPV Towantic Energy Center's water usage, energy need and overall environmental impact. According to documents recently filed with the Siting Council, Tuesday's hearing at the council's New Britain headquarters could produce more clarifications on those aspects of the proposed 805-megawatt natural gas power plant. There will also be more opportunities for parties and interveners to question certificate holder Massachusetts-based Competitive Power Ventures on their assertions. So far, CPV and the council have discussed the plant's energy contributions to Connecticut and the region, as well as its relationship to nearby Waterbury-Oxford Airport and claims that the facility's two 150-foot stacks and their thermal plumes would pose a hazard to air traffic. The last hearing on Feb. 10 centered mostly on the plant's potential environmental impact, specifically water usage and pollutants. CPV touted the environmental benefits of the facility, saying the plant will result in significantly fewer tons of nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions per year if it is allowed to come on line.
A handful of the 24 total parties and interveners on the docket got the chance to cross-examine CPV on its claims, including the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition, the Naugatuck River Revival Group and Westover School in Middlebury. Many of those environmental leaders said they want stronger guarantees. Len DeJong, executive director of the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition in Southbury, said during his cross-examination of CPV that CPV has taken positive steps forward with the project but he would like to see a broader, more comprehensive water management plan in place. He said the Pomperaug River is already facing health issues and the coalition would be concerned whether it was CPV in question or any other major water user. The interveners will be permitted to introduce their own evidence and witnesses later in the proceedings. The council has until May 12 to rule on the project, but it may request a 180-day extension from CPV. The project has already been approved based on permits from 1999 allowing for a smaller, 512-megawatt plant on 26 acres in an industrial zone a half-mile due east of the airport. CPV wants to build the larger plant at the same location. In a report commissioned by CPV, the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut estimated that the construction of the plant will create 2,300 construction jobs and 1,800 jobs during operation. CPV has estimated that the facility will generate $1 billion in private infrastructure investment, nearly $22 million in sales tax revenue during construction and $56 million in property taxes over 18 years.


February 20, 2015

CT Construction Digest February 20, 2015

Selectman want justification for spike in Fairfield Ludlowe building cost

Students are often required to "show their work" when handing in math homework or a test.
The Board of Selectmen has asked the Fairfield Ludlowe Building Committee to do the same thing after hearing a report on the high school building/renovation project where the cost has ballooned from the authorized $11.6 million amount to more than $15 million.
Last week, the selectmen asked building committee officials to return when they meet March 4 with more details on why the project is over budget.
The construction project calls for replacing roofs and windows at the high school, building an 8,900-square-foot classroom addition and expanding the cafeteria.
"What are the top-10 reasons?" First Selectman Michael Tetreau asked. "I understand the costs are higher, why are the costs higher?"
Tom Cullen, director of operations for the Board of Education, said part of the issue is that "soft costs" were not included in original budget estimates. Soft costs usually cover things like architectural and engineering fees, testing fees and the cost of construction managers and owner's representatives. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Let's tear down the XL Center and replace it with a shiny new one

Whether coincidence or irony, the same week - this week - in which consultants unveil their findings for the future of the XL Center, the first shovels went into the dirt, breaking ground for Hartford's new minor league baseball stadium.
Perhaps this news is Granny Smiths and Valencias. (Apples and oranges). The baseball stadium is a mostly Hartford-centric undertaking, while the XL Center, whose future is a statewide function, merely sits in Hartford. Perfectly reasonable to believe that, mostly because it's true.
And irrelevant. Because the perception will be this: bad enough taxpayers are going to get whacked with this new stadium thing … then the state's going to ask for more to fix the XL Center, too? You can hear the arias and theory-mongering from the entire spectrum: the frauds who feign destitution and horde their money to the real folks who can't afford higher taxes and certainly cannot endorse something as frivolous as a sports arena.
SCI Architects of New York and officials from the Capital Region Development Authority meet Thursday to discuss future options for the XL Center. Even before the meeting's conclusion, we know this much: It's not about whether we pay, but what we pay for.
A story in Sunday's Hartford Courant unearthed four options for the future of the building: fix the arena from within, expand it to Trumbull/Church Streets (or both), raze it and start over or do nothing and watch it fade into irrelevance.
Then came this line: "Moving the arena elsewhere isn't an option, under the SCI study. The city has said it wants the arena to stay where it is, rather than leave a big, gaping hole downtown. The new location that would have made the most sense, (CRDA executive director Michael) Freimuth said, is off the table: Downtown North, where ground (was) broken Tuesday on a minor-league baseball stadium." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Costs of XL Center expansion range from $250M to $500M

HARTFORD — Expanding and transforming the city's aging XL Center into a modern, competitive arena could cost more than $250 million, while demolishing the venue and building a new one on the same spot would almost double the price tag, a consultant's report says.
Those two options and a third — working within the confines of the existing arena — were presented Thursday night to the board of the Capital Region Development Authority, the result of a three-month study to determine alternatives for rejuvenating the 40-year-old arena and possibly attracting a major league hockey team.
Funding for a dramatic makeover of the sports and entertainment venue would come almost exclusively from the state.
The report comes at a difficult financial time for the state and just a day after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy outlined cuts in state government in a budget proposal addressing billion-dollar deficits in each of the next two fiscal years.
Plans for the XL Center would have to compete for funding with a myriad of other projects, including the governor's sweeping statewide plan to improve transportation.
Cost estimates for either an expansion or a new building altogether — the latter estimated at between $450 million and $500 million — don't include the costs for necessary property acquisition. Both options would require more space.
The report, by SCI Architects of New York and a team of consultants, doesn't back one option against another. But it pointedly notes that working within the current building is not a viable option for creating an engine of economic growth downtown.
Although expansion and rebuilding are glitzy, expansion toward Trumbull Street would require acquiring atrium and other space from owner Northland Investment Corp. — and could mean reconfiguring space now leased by the University of St. Joseph and the YMCA.
An expansion also would absorb the lower-level exhibition hall, targeting the space for other uses.
"Either a totally new or transformed arena will have a significant positive impact to revitalize downtown Hartford," the report says. "It will build upon the existing strong corporate base and be a catalyst to make downtown an active urban environment seven days a week."
The 98-page report balances what needs to be done to the structure with what, from a business perspective, will help the XL Center turn a profit. The latter examines the pricing of a wider spectrum of seating options from general admission to luxury seating — and the effect of sales from increased concessions, catering and restaurants. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Retail outlet construction on track

Losing Tanger has no impact

CHESHIRE — Construction will likely begin in late spring or early summer on a shopping outlet in the town's north end. Officials from W/S Development, of Massachusetts, said in an e-mail this week that there has been no change in the project after a partnership with Tanger Factory Outlets ended late last year. The project is moving along with W/S "actively completing our final entitlements with the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection," according to an e-mail by company spokeswoman Laurel Sibert.
"We'll break ground as soon as possible, which is likely late spring early summer of this year," Sibert said in an e-mail. Town officials, who were counting on $410,000 in building permits fees from the project this year, said last week they're no longer counting it in the operating budget for fiscal year 2015-16, which will be presented to the Town Council in April. Town Manager Michael Milone told the council last week that he is operating with the "assumption that it will not be realized."
"It's too close to call," Milone said. Milone's budget proposal includes estimates on revenues for the town, including state aid. He had planned on including the building permit revenue into the budget. With the fiscal year beginning on July 1, Milone didn't want to take a chance that the revenue will fail to come in time. Milone reached his decision after speaking with representatives of W/S.
The funds in question are only the first installment of building-related income from the project, with the town expecting $900,000 to $1 million more in construction-related fees alone.
The town has already hired a fire marshal and allocated additional money in the building department for a full-time consultant who will serve as inspector on this project.
W/S Development, of Chestnut Hill, Mass., has received final approvals from the town to build a 500,000-square-foot outlet shopping center called The Outlets at Cheshire. The project is the first of two parts of the more than $100 million project on a 111.5-acre property on the Southington town line near the intersection of Route 10 and the Interstate 691 connector.
W/S announced the partnership with Tanger in March 2014. Tanger is a publicly traded company with headquarters in Greensboro, N.C. It owns and operates 44 upscale shopping centers in 26 states and in Canada. In Connecticut, Tanger operates an outlet shopping center in Clinton.
W/S is continuing with the same project without Tanger. Sibert said there have been no changes to the project since Tanger backed out. The company declined to name any of the tenants that will occupy the shopping outlet. The project is expected to open in 2016, according to Sibert.

February 19, 2015

CT Construction Digest February 19, 2015

Farrel staying in Ansonia

Farrel Corp., whose buildings take up a prominent portion of Main Street in Ansonia, will be staying in the city under an agreement reached with the Board of Aldermen last week.
The company dates to before the Civil War and manufactures process equipment for the plastics industry.  Under the agreement, Ansonia will pay $1 million to build an access road into an as-yet-undeveloped industrial park where the company plans to move. Ansonia officials are pursuing state and federal grants to help pay for the road.
"We don't have much space available, and this is one of the only remaining parcels left for industrial expansion," said Sheila O'Malley, who heads the city's economic development department. "We're so small that there's very little room for growth, except for brownfields."
Brownfields are former industrial sites that are contaminated by toxic remnants of manufacturing. Ansonia, once a thriving industrial town, has numerous brownfields, especially downtown.
The plans for Fountain Lake Commerce Park date back almost a decade, though there are no tenants. R.D. Scinto, the Shelton-based developer, was approved last year for construction of a 60,000-square-foot building there, contingent on the construction of an access road.
Farrel, which also has space in Oxford, is to employ 90 people at the new Ansonia space. The company is owned by a German conglomerate.
At the same time, some buildings downtown once occupied by Farrel that had been proposed for a new mixed-use development are instead the subject of penalties under the city's blight law.
The city has threatened the building's owner with fines up to $20,000 per day in the absence of viable proposals. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Cars, trains, planes, bikes in Malloy's transportation plan

HARTFORD -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy showed off an ambitious $100 billion vision for Connecticut's transportation future on Wednesday that would finish when today's kindergarten students are in their mid-30s.
There's something for every type of traveler, from harried rail riders and bumper-to-bumper highway motorists, to air passengers, bicyclists and even hikers. Malloy's plan barely mentions highway tolls, but it's understood that lawmakers will consider them as a new revenue stream.
The 30-year proposal starts with a five-year, $10 billion plan, including $2.8 billion in new capital funding for a variety of improvements, from $18 million for better bus service to $32 million in commuter rail upgrades. There's also $10 million to replace the state's aging snow plows.
There's a $5.7 billion widening of Interstate 95 in southwestern Connecticut.
For Interstate 84 from the New York line to Exit 8 in Danbury, there is a similar two-phase $800 million project.
A $500 million program linking I-95 to the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk along a new Route 7 that had been stalled in recent years is back on the front burner.
"There are 12 million individual trips taken on Connecticut's roads each and every day," Malloy told lawmakers who will be reviewing his shorter-term proposals to include in a final budget that has a June 3 deadline.
"Our roads are relied on by companies to ship their goods and transport their employees to work," Malloy said. "Right now, those commuters are each spending an extra 40 hours a year in traffic due to unnecessary congestion. That's an extra full-time week of work, every year, sitting in traffic." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

East Hampton official demands changes to 'worst road in state'

EAST HAMPTON >> The state Department of Transportation has announced steps to improve safety along a portion of Route 66 through The Ledges.
But an East Hampton town councilor and former fire chief says more can and must be done to improve what he says is “the worst road in the state.”
Councilor Philip Visintainer is calling for dramatic changes to the road — eliminating curves and cutting back some of the rock faces that line the roadway and give the area its name. As both a former fire chief and fire marshal, Visintainer said he is all too familiar with the carnage that has been wreaked by the twists and turns through The Ledges.
He called the road “a disaster.” Just last month, former East Hampton Republican Town Committee Chairman Don Juan Martin was killed in a single-car accident along The Ledges in Portland.“There have been too many crashes along that section of road,” Visintainer told the East Hampton Town Council last week.
“That piece, those two miles, that’s as bad a piece of road as any in the state,” Visintainer said.
For years, a portion of Route 6 in eastern Connecticut outside Willimantic earned the grisly nickname “Suicide Six,” and had the dubious honor of being labelled the worst road in the state.
But now, after improvements were made to Route 6, Visintainer says the portion of Route 66 through The Ledges has displaced Route 6 as the worst road in the state.
Councilor Ted Hintz Jr. however said he thought the state had taken steps to improve the situation.
The state has installed some guardrails and has largely eliminated the ice that use to fan out across the road, Hintz said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Malloy's budget funds design for route 9 changes, river access

 HARTFORD >> The budget Gov. Dannel P. Malloy unveiled Wednesday raises tax revenue by $914 million and cuts spending by $1.3 billion in an effort to close a $2.5 billion two-year budget deficit.
The two-year tax-and-spend plan is the first of Malloy’s second term as governor. When he addresses the legislature Wednesday, he is expected to argue that the nearly $1 billion in revenue increases included in the budget do not violate his campaign pledge to not raise taxes.
The budget’s revenue hikes include a delay in restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit for poor families. Currently, the state pays 27.5 percent of the federal EITC to Connecticut residents. It was supposed to go back up to 30 percent in 2016, but that would cost the state about $13 million. Malloy said the state’s roadways are so full of traffic tieups that commuters spend an unnecessary 40 hours annually trying to get to work.
“That’s an extra full-time week of work, every year, sitting in traffic,” he said.
When the portion of Route 9 that runs through Middletown was built decades ago, Malloy said, it disconnected the downtown from the Connecticut River.
Local officials have been working in earnest to improve access to the river by holding summer concerts and a portion of the July Fourth fireworks at Harbor Park.
Common council members have approved the upgrading of 36 light fixtures along the riverfront with high-efficiency LED lights and decommissioning the water treatment plant on River Road by linking up the Mattabassett Sewage Treatment Plant in Cromwell.
Last year, the Planning and Zoning Commission began to look into updating the city’s Plan of Conservation and Development with the board considering a “floating zone” to permit new or different uses for redevelopment at and around the riverfront.
“The city of Middletown was cut off from its historic waterway nearly 60 years ago with the construction of Route 9,” Malloy said Wednesday. “This corridor has long been a congestion point and source of frustration for drivers.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Malloy proposes $10B transportation spending plan without funding source
Without actually saying specifically where all the money would come from, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Wednesday proposed spending $10 billion on Connecticut transportation projects over the next five years, the start of a program he is branding Let's Go CT!
Malloy's budget guru – Ben Barnes, secretary of the Office of Policy & Management – was elusive Wednesday morning when asked where the increase in spending would come from, saying the governor right now has it budgeted as transfers from the state's cash-strapped general fund, although Barnes didn't think that would be the actual revenue source once the legislature approves the plan and Malloy signs it into law.
Barnes did list tolls as a possible source of funding, although he added an increase in state taxes could be another source.
"[Tolls] are not an obvious magic bullet to solve these problems," Barnes said.
The leadership in the Connecticut House and Senate have supported tolls as a way to raise revenue for transportation projects and Malloy said he would support tolls on the state's highways if the legislature set up a special lockbox to keep the government from raiding transportation funds to pay for other state spending.
The five-year plan calls for projects such as the redesign and engineering of the Hartford I-84 viaduct; the I-95 expansion between Stamford and Bridgeport; completion of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line, including new train cars, repairs to the New Haven rail line, additional stations on the New Haven rail line, building more parking facilities near rail stations; and expanding the state's bus service. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE