February 28, 2017

CT Construction Digest February 28, 2017

Route 15 ramp work progresses in Wallingford

WALLINGFORD — If you’ve driven north through Wallingford on Route 15 in recent months, you’ve likely noticed a flurry of construction activity near Exit 65.
So far, most of the work has taken place on surrounding local roads, but on Monday the cones and equipment moved much closer to Route 15. Morning commuters seemed unsure of what to make of the changes. Some slowed significantly, trying to determine if a lane change was needed when passing through the area.
The $4.3 million project, which will move and lengthen the Exit 65 on-ramp, is meant to address safety concerns. Work is 90 percent federally funded and 10 percent state-funded.
Matthew Vail, who is managing the project for the state Department of Transportation, said in January the project should be finished by late summer.
The project began last April. Several trees were taken down along Route 15 north in July as part of the project. Construction vehicles and mounds of dirt sit along River Road and the portion of the highway next to Community Lake Park. Crews are moving the on-ramp, which is currently off River Road, east of the overpass carrying Route 150 over Route 15. The new on-ramp is meant to ease traffic congestion in the River Road-Route 150 area and make it easier to merge onto the highway. Vail said it will give motorists more room to speed up and merge.
“Now you’ll have a proper acceleration lane to gain speed and match the speed of the traffic on Route 15,” he said. “We’ve had quite a few accidents on Route 15 northbound with that on-ramp. You have people going from stop to high speed” leading to more rear-end accidents.
MERIDEN — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently gave the Meriden Housing Authority the go-ahead to relocate the remaining tenants at the Mills Memorial Apartments and demolish the outdated housing project, board members were told Monday.
HUD also gave the housing authority a land transfer agreement that allows the MHA to transfer title of 144 Pratt St. to the city, which will allow it to extend its flood control and park project to Cedar Street. In return, the MHA will receive 177 State St. to allow it and its partners Pennrose Properties to build Phase I of Meriden Commons, a 75-unit mixed-use housing development.
The MHA had already cleared the two low-rise buildings at the Mills complex and relocated 24 tenants from there. It was awaiting HUD’s permission to begin moving the remaining 100-plus families from the three high-rise buildings.
According to MHA Executive Director Robert Cappelletti, HUD has given him assurance that housing vouchers for the remaining families will be forthcoming. Cappelletti expects to have the apartments cleared by the end of the summer and demolition work begin in the fall “By next winter there may be no more Mills,” Cappelletti told members of the MHA Board of Commissioners Monday. “There was a rush to close because of the tax credits. Everybody is pretty excited about it and will be shopping for units.”
A HUD lien on an energy performance contract held up the land swap with the city, but the contract stipulates the $3 million will be secured through the ground lease or through developer fees on the project, or alternative funding.                 
“They are very excited for their futures,” said resident commissioner Emely Morales, who attended a recent tenant meeting at the Mills. “Some people are very appreciative of their homes at 24 Colony St. It’s an exciting time for Mills residents.”
The MHA is required to replace every demolished unit one for one and has met that requirement by showing HUD, one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom projects coming online at 177 State St., Yale Acres, 11 Crown St. and on Pratt Street.
The replacement housing won’t be ready for the tenants who are relocated this spring and summer, so the MHA is actively working to help them move where they want, Cappelletti said.
“Their vouchers are good anywhere in the U.S.,” Cappelletti said.
A review of the dislocated tenants in the low-rise buildings showed several chose to leave the state, others moved to other cities, and some relocated within the city. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Lawmakers are about to propose two casino-expansion bills, one of which would open the application process to operators willing to compete for a commercial gaming license, according to the co-chairman of the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee, the panel that oversees gaming in the state.
The other bill would grant the casino-owning Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes the exclusive right to jointly pursue a third Connecticut casino, Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford, said Monday in a phone interview.
Both bills could become available as soon as Tuesday, Verrengia said, in which case a public hearing could be scheduled for next week.
Earlier Monday, the tribes announced that they’ve picked East Windsor to host the third casino they hope to build as a hedge against MGM Springfield, the $950 million Massachusetts project that threatens jobs and revenue generated by Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.
The East Windsor site, now occupied by a vacant Showcase Cinemas building, is right off Exit 45 of Interstate 91 and plainly visible from the highway.
“I’m not so sure a bill would pass out of committee that would deal exclusively with the tribes,” Verrengia said. “I don’t even know if there’s enough support for a third casino at all.”
At an informational meeting last week, committee members raised questions about the tribes’ plan to develop a $300 million “satellite” casino, a project the tribes believe they can pursue through an amendment to their existing gaming agreements with the state. Under those agreements, or compacts, the tribes pay 25 percent of their casinos’ slot-machine revenues to the state in exchange for the exclusive right to operate casinos in Connecticut.
Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, located on the tribes’ respective reservations in southeastern Connecticut, are tribal casinos and are subject to federal regulation as well as the terms of the compacts. The proposed third casino — a commercial rather than tribal venture — would be built on nontribal land.
Allowing another operator to open a commercial casino in the state would break the compacts, causing the tribes to cease making slots payments to the state. Those payments are expected to total between $200 million and $250 million this year.
Some believe it’s unclear whether the tribal partnership that would develop the third casino — MMCT, which stands for Mashantucket, Mohegan, Connecticut — constitutes a separate entity. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Connecticut Port Authority announces small harbor improvement program

The Connecticut Port Authority announced Monday that it is setting aside $7.5 million for improvement projects at harbors and marinas along Connecticut's coastline.
The newly created Small Harbor Improvement Projects Program will provide grants for the preparation of plans and studies, as well as construction projects that improve state, municipal or other properties in or next to Connecticut waters. Grant applications must be received by April 17.
A similar program, which provided grants for dredging and other infrastructure projects at the state's smaller harbors, existed under the Connecticut Department of Transportation. When the Connecticut Port Authority took over DOT's maritime functions, it assumed responsibility over the smaller harbors.
The port authority, a quasi-public agency, is responsible for developing and marketing the state's ports and promoting its maritime economy. The state has three deep water ports in Bridgeport, New Haven and New London.
For more information visit www.portsct.com.

Tribes pick East Windsor to host third casino

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes on Monday said they have selected East Windsor as the site for Connecticut's proposed third casino.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, who together comprise MMCT Venture, described the proposed casino as both an entertainment and gaming facility. In choosing East Windsor, they are rejecting two potential sites in Windsor Locks, one at Bradley International Airport and the other at the Thrall tobacco farm near I-91.
Butler said East Windsor has shown, through its selectmen's recent unanimous vote on a proposed development agreement on Saturday, that the town is "eager to have us." The site is at the former Showcase Cinemas.
That development agreement states that MMCT will pay the town $3 million no later than 15 months before the casino opens, as well as $3 million annually in addition to regular tax payments expected to total about $5.5. million a year.
MMCT has committed to use of union labor for construction of the facility, the tribes said. About 75 percent of the permanent positions at the new casino will be full time.
MMCT also said that no less than 4 percent of the casino workforce will be made up of East Windsor residents, and no less than 15 percent of employees will live within a 25-mile radius of the facility. The tribes will host two job fairs in East Windsor.
Reached after the announcement, Windsor Locks First Selectman J. Christopher Kervick said the tribes informed him that the reason his town wasn't chosen was because a number of municipal officials, particularly on the Board of Finance, did not support the concept.
Earlier in the day selectmen had set a special meeting for Tuesday, which had included setting a referendum on a proposed agreement with Windsor Locks.
"We wish our friends in East Windsor well," Kervick said. "I've always thought a decision with this much community impact should be decided by the whole community and my biggest regret is that the people of Windsor Locks will not get the chance to be heard." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Highway Tolls Prompt Spirited Debate At Legislature

ighways in Hartford and Waterbury need hugely expensive maintenance, transit users are tired of steadily rising fares and Fairfield County drivers want relief from ever-worsening traffic congestion.
Those were just a few of the arguments put forward Monday at a five-hour-long legislative debate over the idea of levying tolls on Connecticut highways.
A long line of speakers agreed the transportation network needs plenty of improvements, but virtually nobody — not truckers, commuters, border-town residents or others — is interested in paying more.
Lobbyists and lawmakers dominated the debate, but one resident — retired dentist Bob Hall of West Hartford — showed up to endorse tolls.
"Is this going to be popular? Of course not," Hall told the General Assembly's transportation committee. "But Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maine — they all have toll roads."
Hall dismissed the argument that tolls are just a disguised tax, and said there's a pressing need for revenue.
"I consider this a user fee," he said. "I'm concerned the money is running out and we can't maintain our infrastructure."
Connecticut hasn't charged tolls in more than two decades, and opponents insist that motorists will be furious if they're brought back. Toll proponents say transportation safety is at risk if bridges and highways continue deteriorating faster than the state maintains them.
The committee will decide in March whether to advance a toll proposal to the full General Assembly. Some Democrats endorse the idea, but others — and the vast majority of Republicans — have been leaning against it.
Supporters believe they gained ground last week when the state budget office predicted the special transportation fund will run out of money in about three years. Afterward, several Republican lawmakers indicated they might be open to some compromise for raising new revenues.
"The sins of our fathers are catching up to us. We keep kicking the can down the road," Rep. Tom O'Dea, R-New Canaan, said Monday.
He said he'd oppose tolls unless there's some offset — such as a steep reduction in the gas tax — to benefit residents.
"The only people paying the gas tax are Connecticut residents," said O'Dea, who said out-of-state drivers are getting a free ride on state highways.
O'Dea and others appeared drawn by the prospect of getting money from through traffic.
Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker countered that Connecticut people who commute on the highways would be hit with a new expense. He and other western Connecticut speakers said they're adamantly against border tolls that would hit their communities but not the rest of the state.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

February 27, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday February 27, 2017

Bridge is one of many city projects on road to fruition

NEW BRITAIN — As New England heads into spring and temperatures warm, the city of New Britain is preparing for several construction projects that will change the look of downtown. Work on two of the larger road projects is expected to take place at the same time, according to city officials.
The bridge
The final design for the “Beehive Bridge project” — the span that runs over Route 72 on Main Street — was sent to the city about a month ago from the firms contracted with designing the renovation.
The final design features a few changes that weren’t in the original renditions.
“We’ve had to make some – what we call ‘value engineering’ adjustments – but that happens a lot on projects,” said Derek Hug, a project manager at Fuss & O’Neill.
Fuss & O’Neill — along with firms Richter and Cegan and Svigals & Partners — were involved in the design of the bridge.
One feature that didn’t make the final design cut is the revamped median, which was originally going to have decorated light posts surrounded by foliage.
Hug said some key features approved for the bridge include multicolor panels on the side of the bridge, the stainless steel bee sculptures on each corner and the big beehive sculpture in the middle.
“Those art projects are standouts,” Hug said. “I’m very happy with how the design turned out.”
Hug also pointed out the “pocket parks” on both sides of the bridge as good additions to the project.
Funding for the bridge’s renovation was settled months ago, with $2.1 million coming from state bonding and $700,000 that the DOT has committed to the project. The city is paying for $1.4 million while $1.6 million will be used in Federal Transit Administration Bus Livability Funds.
The Common Council and Mayor William McNamara in 1978 named the span “The Lions Club Memorial Bridge” in honor of the local civic club. A bronze plaque noting the honor is located on the south end of the bridge.
City officials said work on the span should begin in May.
Columbus Boulevard
In January, the New Britain Common Council authorized a contract of nearly $3.2 million with Morais Concrete Service out of Springfield, Mass., to oversee upgrades along a section of Columbus Boulevard. This project is the fourth phase of the city’s Complete Streets and Downtown Livability Master Plan.
As reported by The Herald, the most significant elements of the project are the installation of the traffic rotary and the relocation of the city bus hub from Bank Street to designated areas on Columbus Boulevard.
The rotary is to be located just north of the Red Roof Inn parking lot and would accommodate traffic traveling east and west on Columbus Boulevard and Bank Street.
The new central location for city bus routes will be in designated lanes on both sides of Columbus Boulevard, just east of the Main Street intersection. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Concerns over Connecticut ballpark may have sparked FBI probe

HARTFORD >> Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin says his administration contacted federal investigators about one of the original developers of the city’s much-delayed minor league baseball stadium.
Bronin said Friday that concerns were shared with the FBI about Centerplan Construction Co.’s handling of the project, including the alleged failure to pay subcontractors for their work.The Hartford Courant, citing unnamed sources, reported Friday that FBI agents have contacted people about construction of the Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Hartford Yard Goats.Bronin said Friday the probe is not focused on Hartford and officials believe it was “prompted by information proactively shared by the city.” Centerplan’s CEO and founder Robert Landino tells the Courant his company did nothing wrong and he welcomes “anyone to contact me with regard to any investigation.”

Renovated Meriden high school expected to be ready this fall

MERIDEN — After spending three years in a construction zone, Platt High School students and faculty are expected to enter their renovated high school this fall.
The $97.7 million school makeover is about 94 percent complete, according to the February minutes of the School Building Committee.
The discovery of asbestos in the gymnasium floor led to a labor intensive cleanup that officials said didn’t delay the overall project, but held back contractor O&G Industries’ ability to complete the gym sooner, said Michael Grove, assistant superintendent of facilities. 
It cost $250,000 to remove and replace the floor, which was covered by the project’s contingency funds, Grove said. The gymnasium is expected to be completed the third week in March.
The Platt auditorium work also experienced a setback when vermiticulite was found in the ceiling. Workers are waiting for two replacement panels from a manufacturer, but the school’s production of “Cinderella” will go on as scheduled in May with or without the panels, school officials said.
“It’s a very minimal distraction,” Principal Robert Montemurro said Friday about the construction activity. “I expected a lot more and got a lot less. The teachers and the kids are absolutely wonderful.”
Montemurro, Grove and representatives from O&G and Arcadis, toured the locked construction areas at the school Friday. It was the first time Montemurro got a look at the progress on his new office, the conference room, administrative and guidance suite.
“I love the windows,” he said of his office.
About $85.6 million of the $97.7 million construction cost goes to O&G, which also pays the subcontractors and for materials. Architect Antinozzi Associates has a contract valued at $5.8 million, and has been paid $5.5 million. Material testing agency Test-con has been paid $178,130 of a $222,500 contract, and project management Arcadis has been paid $736,715 of a $998,171 contract, according to Grove.
Glenn Lamontagne, who consulted on construction projects at Platt and Maloney High School for about 30 hours a week, was paid $649,333 over the last six years. Lamontagne, a former school administrator, was vital in working with the contractors on timing certain phases to meet student and faculty needs, city officials said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Not to be outdone by their rivals in a two-town competition, Windsor Locks selectmen could approve a proposed development agreement for the proposed third Connecticut casino as soon as Tuesday, the town’s first selectman said Sunday.
Chris Kervick said he was pleased to hear the details of the proposal the East Windsor Board of Selectmen approved Saturday.
Windsor Locks and East Windsor are the only towns left in the running for the $300 million “satellite” casino the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes hope to build as a hedge against the impact of MGM Springfield, the $950 million resort casino being built just north of Connecticut’s northern border.
“We have an offer on the table,” Kervick said. “We’re just waiting for them (the tribes) to say, ‘Yeah, we’ll go with that.’”
He said the terms of a deal Windsor Locks has negotiated with the tribes and the one the East Windsor selectmen approved are “extremely similar.”
“We’re just a shade under theirs, but now we know where they stand so we can tweak ours a bit if we need to,” Kervick said.
East Windsor selectmen approved a deal that calls for the tribes to pay the town $3 million up front and $3 million a year thereafter – on top of an estimated $5.5 million in annual tax payments – if they decide to build off Interstate 91 on property now occupied by a former Showcase Cinemas building. Robert Maynard, the East Windsor first selectman, said Saturday he believes the tribes would tear down the building before putting up a casino.
Kervick said the Windsor Locks agreement specifies that a portion of the tribes’ payments to the town would go directly to residents in the form of a tax credit.
Windsor Locks’ casino site, a 76-acre property that used to be a tobacco field, is located on Route 20 near the I-91 interchange. It’s near Bradley International Airport and was previously considered as a location for an outlet mall that never materialized.
While conceding that the East Windsor site provides “high visibility” from the interstate, Kervick said he believes the size of the Windsor Locks site is a major selling point. He said the casino development itself would only require 30 to 40 acres.
“It’s large and it’s level,” he said. “The East Windsor site’s got more obstacles.”
Kervick discounted the notion that East Windsor’s pitch benefits from the fact that it doesn’t require the town to subject the agreement to a referendum vote. Windsor Locks would conduct such a vote.
If Windsor Locks selectmen approve the casino agreement at a special meeting Tuesday, the town could hold a referendum within a matter of weeks, Kervick said.
The legislature would have to pass a law legalizing a commercial casino in the state before the tribes’ plan ultimately could move forward.
“If we have a referendum, the tribes could go to the legislature and say they have evidence of the host community’s support,” Kervick said. “It seems to me that would give the legislature more comfort. It would make the agreement a better product.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Legislators look to tolls as gas tax revenue declines

State officials were joined Friday by those from Massachusetts to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of bringing electronic tolls to the state's highways during an informational hearing held by the legislature's Transportation Committee.
Garret Ecualitto, the undersecretary for transportation policy for the Office of Policy and Management, said that the special transportation fund next year is projected to have more than $1.6 billion in revenue and $1.525 billion in expenditures.
Revenue is expected to drop steadily for the next few years, leading to a deficit, he said, adding that OPM's estimates are optimistic.
Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, the House chairman of the committee, said that is part of the reason he supports the proposal.
"We're in a crisis," he said, adding that in four years the special transportation fund will be "an empty bucket."
Ecualitto said the state's 0.5 percent sales tax contribution is keeping the fund afloat, adding that the amount the fund receives from the state's fuel tax continues to decline due to more-efficient vehicles.
Falling revenues from fuel taxes contributed to other states' decisions to implement tolls, he said, leaving Connecticut as the only state on the East Coast without them.
"If we're relying on the gas tax, we know we're in trouble," Sen. Stephen T. Cassano, D-Manchester, and committee vice chairman, said.
The growing number of electric vehicles on the road is contributing to the decrease in fuel tax revenue, Brian Tassinari, a budget analyst for OPM, said.
And that number is expected to dramatically increase in the coming decades, according to Ed Regan, senior vice president of CDM Smith, a transportation consulting firm.
Due to the state's location between Boston and New York, Guerrera said, Connecticut highways are used by out-of-state traffic drivers who "don't pay their fair share" for the upkeep of the states roads.
Roughly 20 to 30 percent of the revenue the state would receive through electronic tolls would be from out-of-state drivers, Ecualitto said. "To me, this is the fairest way," Guerrera said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

East Windsor Approves Casino Development Agreement

The board of selectmen Saturday unanimously backed a development agreement that brings the town another step closer to possibly hosting the state's third casino.
The agreement with the operators of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun gives East Windsor a leg up on Windsor Locks, which also is competing for what could be state's first casino off a Native American reservation.
First Selectman Robert Maynard told a crowd of more than 100 residents gathered at the town's high school that the casino in a long-vacant movie theater off I-91 would kickstart economic development efforts and also preserve state revenue and jobs tied the state's gambling industry.
"It's an opportunity for East Windsor to take a step in a different direction," Selectman Jason Bowsza added.
The Hartford-area casino is part of a strategy intended to blunt the competitive threat of a $950 million casino and entertainment complex now under construction in nearby Springfield by MGM Resorts International. The complex is scheduled to open in fall, 2018.
Maynard said the agreement approved on Saturday came together at noon on Friday. He said he called the special meeting because the state's two casino operators — the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans — now need to move swiftly to bring a location to the state legislature, as they seek approval for an expansion of casino gambling off reservation lands.
Last week, the tribes, which formed the MMCT Venture partnership for the third casino, told state legislators they were "just days" from announcing a location.
Local approval was a key requirement for the towns competing for the casino. Windsor Locks is still in the running, with a dormant tobacco field near Bradley International Airport as a site. But Windsor Locks has pledged to hold a townwide referendum, while East Windsor just needed the board of selectmen's vote. "Listening to and speaking with each of the communities has been a top priority for both tribes," Andrew Doba, an MMCT spokesman, said Saturday. "That's why we held community forums, and that's why today's vote is so gratifying." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

February 24, 2017

CT Construction Digest Friday February 24, 2017

Cheshire officials pitch $423 million plan to overhaul schools

CHESHIRE — Education officials pitched their plan for overhauling the town’s schools during a public meeting Thursday night.
The plan includes $423 million in new or renovated buildings over the next 15 years. School district leaders said state grants, maintenance savings and staff reductions would make the total cost of the project for Cheshire taxpayers closer to $231 million.
Delaying the plan would also increase the cost of construction as well as add years to school buildings that are on average more than 66 years old.
Residents at the meeting questioned funding for the plan, the future of individual schools and the addition of sixth grade students to a new middle school.
The first part of the plan calls for the construction of a new middle school that would accommodate sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Darcy and Humiston schools would be closed. Chapman may be closed or repurposed, according to the recommendations adopted by the Board of Education. A new Cheshire High School would be built and the old one demolished.
School Superintendent Jeff Solan said the restructuring of grades at the elementary and middle school levels would offer more opportunities to sixth grade students, in particular science and technology labs.
“There’s definitely educational merit for sixth-graders in making the transition. They won’t be shortchanged in that process,” he said. “To have access to full lab classes, a range of world language coursework, advanced technology, these are some of the programming focal points that we have for our sixth-graders transitioning to middle school.”
Regina Thornton said she had children who graduated from the town’s schools and asked why sixth-graders couldn’t remain at the existing elementary schools and avoid a rebuilding of Dodd. She was pleased with the education her children received.
“Maybe they don’t have all the opportunities they have at Dodd but they have good opportunities,” she said.
Solan said in addition to the educational reasons for the change, it’s more efficient to consolidate sixth-graders and reduce the number of elementary schools in town. Teachers and other staff can be more efficiently assigned within one building than spread throughout town. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Preston — The conceptual master plan of development for the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston proposed by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, showing large-scale outdoor and indoor recreation and sports facilities, hotels, senior housing and marina, was adopted Thursday as the town's official development plan for the property.
About 50 residents of Preston and other towns along with Preston officials attended the public hearing and expressed opinions and asked questions on the plan Thursday during a one hour, 15-minute public hearing hosted by the Preston Redevelopment Agency prior to its unanimous vote to adopt the plan.
The conceptual plan also has to be approved by residents at an upcoming town meeting.
Many comments and concerns expressed urged protection of Poquetanuck Cove, the rural character of the town of Preston and protection for the site where two World War II fighter jets crashed in a wooded area atop the hill on the east side of Route 12.
The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority unveiled the proposed plan for the property on Jan. 17, showing development throughout the 393-acre property, including a 40-acre theme park, an indoor water park, synthetic skiing facility, outdoor adventure park, large chain outdoor-themed retail store, a sports training complex, hotels, senior housing, time share units, a public park near the Thames River and a marina with possible water shuttle service across the river to the Mohegan Sun Casino.
At the start of the hearing, PRA Chairman Sean Nugent told the audience that negotiations on the Property Disposition and Development Agreement are proceeding vigorously, with lawyers for both parties “locked in a room” for the past two days with instructions to get the agreement done, Nugent said. The official exclusive negotiation deadline between the town and the tribe passed on Feb. 19.
First Selectman Robert Congdon said earlier Thursday evening that the parties set a target date for the attorneys to complete the agreement by the end of business on Thursday. While the town received a revised draft of the roughly 150-page document Thursday afternoon, the final draft was not yet ready.
In response to a question at the hearing, Nugent said he was reluctant to set new tentative dates for public information sessions, the necessary town meeting and referendum — two sets of tentative dates have been canceled this month — before the final agreement is ready. Congdon said the town also must hold two public hearings prior to the referendum on any proposal to sell town property.
Several residents of Preston, Bozrah, North Stonington and Gales Ferry all said they love the rural character of Preston and would want to preserve that character in spite of the proposed dense development of the former hospital property.Anne Nalwalk of North Stonington and Anne Roberts-Pierson of Gales Ferry and others stressed the need to protect Poquetanuck Cove, a bird sanctuary and surrounding undeveloped open space land. Roberts-Pierson said any development on the property would affect all the towns on both the east and west sides of the river. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Tribes renew pitch for third casino, say they'll name site in days

The tribes running the state's two casinos will announce within days where they want to build a satellite gaming facility in north-central Connecticut, casino leaders announced Thursday.
Executives from Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun casino visited the Legislative Office Building on Thursday to make a final pitch to the Public Safety Committee before that announcement.
And while Felix Rappaport, Foxwoods president and chief executive officer, and Mohegan Tribal Chairman Kevin P. Brown, stressed their plan's potential to save thousands of jobs, committee members offered mixed reactions to the idea of a third casino in Connecticut.
"We're days — not weeks or months — from announcing a decision," Brown told reporters minutes before testifying before the Public Safety Committee.
Following a process set up by the legislature in 2015, the Mashantucket Pequots — who run Foxwoods — and the Mohegans, are planning a new facility to blunt the anticipated loss of business tied to ongoing development of MGM Resorts International's $950 million casino and entertainment center in Springfield, Mass.
Brown said two communities still remain under consideration. The plan could not proceed unless approved by the General Assembly and by the local community. Brown added that one of the municipalities under consideration would require a referendum to decide whether to site the casino. The second would need the approval only of the local legislative body.
An analysis prepared for the tribes by gaming consultant Clyde Barrow estimates that the MGM facility — which is more than halfway complete and expected to open in 2018 — would cause the loss of 9,300 jobs and $702 million in revenue to Connecticut's casinos during its first three years of operation.
Barrow's projections are that a satellite facility would recapture 46 percent of the jobs and 53 percent of the revenue the Connecticut industry otherwise would lose. The tribes also say the new casino would create almost 4,300 new permanent jobs — either at the casino or at surrounding related businesses — and 2,300 temporary construction jobs.
"Over the last decade, Connecticut and our industry has stood still in the face of competition from Rhode Island and New York," Brown said. This has cost both Connecticut casinos thousands of jobs and has cost state government tens of millions in casino revenues.
Rappaport said Foxwoods, which opened in 1991, once employed 12,000 workers, and now has about 6,500 people on payroll. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Pipeline developers pursue multi-pronged approach

Utility Eversource said Wednesday that it – along with developers – will continue to pursue the proposed expansion of a natural gas pipeline that crosses Connecticut.
Several legal rulings last year effectively blocked a proposed financing mechanism for the Access Northeast project, which would expand the Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline and add liquified natural gas facilities.
Developers wanted to include the construction costs into electric rates across New England, but a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling effectively blocked the proposal.
Lead developer Spectra has said in recent months that it shifted its focus to securing contracts with natural gas utilities, or local distribution companies (LDCs), to help finance and move the project forward.
But LDC contracts alone won't be enough, Leon Olivier, an Eversource executive vice president, told analysts this week.
"We cannot make it work with just LDC load," Olivier said. "There's not enough LDC load to do that."
So the development partners, which also include National Grid, are simultaneously appealing a to the New Hampshire Supreme Court and attempting to convince lawmakers in Massachusetts -- a crucial state for the project because it uses 42 percent of New England's power -- to change state law.
A third option includes applying for a tariff through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Eversource said.
Olivier referred to an outlook published this week by grid operator ISO-New England, which he said bolsters the case for Access Northeast.
In the report, ISO NE CEO Gordon van Welie wrote that he is concerned about keeping the lights on in future winters, particularly after 2019, when two non-gas power plants -- which the region relies on during cold spells -- are set to retire. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Dillon Stadium Debacle Spurs Bill To Make Bidders Swear They’re Not Crooks

Hartford's Dillon Stadium debacle has fueled a proposal for a new law to require bidders on government projects to sign sworn affidavits that they've never been convicted of corruption charges such as fraud, embezzlement and bribery.
"Such a requirement, in my opinion, protects public-sector resources, funding and projects from convicted, unscrupulous bidders," said Shay Atluru, president and CEO of an engineering consulting firm that says it wasn't paid for $70,000 worth of work it did on the failed stadium job.
However, construction industry representatives and the state commissioner in charge of contract procurement for most executive-branch agencies are opposing the bill, calling it unnecessary and redundant to existing safeguards in Connecticut law and regulations.
Whether the bill wins approval, it serves as evidence of the shock waves that the Dillon disaster has sent through the construction community. And it illustrates the process by which state laws are sometimes amended based on current events.
Atluru and his minority-owned firm, Diversified Technology Consultants (DTC) – which has offices in Hamden, Boston and Sarasota, Fla. – still want the bill to go through, saying it would strengthen existing protections.
"I know a large majority of bidders are honest, honorable individuals and companies," he said, but "[Senate Bill] 424 would capture the very small 'bad apples' that exist."
The CEO made his comments in written testimony submitted to a General Assembly committee for a Feb. 15 hearing on the pending bill, "An Act Requiring a Written Certification From Contractors Bidding on Public Works Projects."
That was a week after Mitchell Anderson, one of the Dillon project's two developers pleaded guilty to federal fraud and money laundering charges and agreed to repay $1.1 million siphoned from the job. His fellow developer, James C. Duckett Jr., was indicted along with him last June but has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.Anderson and Duckett had Hartford officials' approval for a  plan unveiled two years ago to redevelop the deteriorated old Dillon Stadium into a $30 million to $50 million arena and bring professional soccer to the capital city. But it all fell apart after The Courant revealed irregularities in the project's financing. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Manchester Leaders Speeding Up School Projects

To save time and money, town leaders plan to accelerate school construction and renovation projects and begin planning the next phase of school building upgrades.
The boards of directors and education are to discuss the plans at a joint meeting on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in Lincoln Center.
Under the accelerated schedule, the $84 million school modernization project that voters approved in 2014 would be completed by the fall of 2019, instead of 2020 as originally planned. The main motivation, General Manager Scott Shanley said Thursday, is to save money on construction costs, which have been rising faster than inflation.
Under the 2014 bonding plan, Bennet Academy is being joined with the Cheney Building to create a new fifth- and sixth-grade school. The project also includes "like-new" renovations and additions to Verplanck and Waddell elementary schools. Robertson and Washington elementary schools are to be closed. With state reimbursement, local taxpayers are to be responsible for no more than $37.6 million.
The new schedule calls for work to begin at Waddell in the spring while the school is occupied, and to be completed by fall 2018, instead of 2019 as originally planned. Initial work is to be done on a section that is easily blocked off. The renovation and expansion of Verplanck is to be finished by fall 2019, instead of 2020. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Murphy talks $1T infrastructure bill at Greenwich roundtable

GREENWICH — Town residents had a chance to join in a brainstorming session about transportation and infrastructure Thursday with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy.
Nearly 75 people were on hand for Murphy’s “community conversation” at Town Hall as part of a joint program of Murphy’s office and town officials.
The format was informal, with Murphy talking about the $1 trillion package proposed by Senate Democrats to fix the country’s decaying infrastructure and add thousands of jobs.
 The effort could win bipartisan support, he said. During his campaign, President Donald Trump said he wanted to spend more money on projects to replace failing roads, bridges and other transportation links.
“Every time I criticize the Trump administration for things I disagree with, whether it be immigration or health care, I try to say there are places like this where, if they took it, we could find agreement,” Murphy said. “I think Connecticut will do well if we make a big investment.”
A microphone was passed around to take comments or questions from those in the audience and the dozen officials sitting as panelists for the roundtable discussion.
“Right now, the United States is spending about 3 percent of its (Gross Domestic Product) on infrastructure,” said Murphy, who is on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee and Transportation Sub Committee. “Europe, even in the midst of all these economic crises, is spending twice that at 6 percent of its GDP. China is spending 12 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. It’s no wonder they have the high speed trains and we have trains slower than they were in 1950.”
A trillion dollars “is a scary number, but you have to explain to people that we’re going to have our economic lunch handed to us if we don’t start to spend in a manner that is at least close to consistent with all of the other economic powers,” he said.
Historically, Murphy said, Connecticut has gotten $1.06 back in federal transportation funds for every dollar it sends to the federal government in gas taxes. If the infrastructure bill gets through Congress, Connecticut could be in a good place to get money to help pay for projects ranging from widening I-95 to replacing Norwalk’s Walk Bridge.
“At any moment this could accelerate very quickly and we could be in a debate ...about a big, major transportation investment project,” Murphy said. “If that happens, I want to make sure we get everything we need here in Connecticut.“
The Greenwich members of the bi-partisan panel included Selectmen John Toner and Drew Marzullo, Board of Estimate and Taxation member John Blankley, town Director of Zoning Katie DeLuca, Commissioner of Public Works Amy Siebert, Chairman of the Greenwich Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Sam Romeo, Greenwich Preservation Trust Chairman Jo Conboy and town Chamber of Commerce CEO Marcia O’Kane.
The panel also included Stamford Mayor David Martin, Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, Westport First Selectman First Selectman Jim Marpe and State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143rd).
The event was organized locally by Marzullo.
“A trillion dollars is a lot of money, but when divided by 50 (states) with thousands of competing projects, how will Connecticut rank?” Marzullo asked. “Senator Murphy is committed to making sure our state sees its fair share. As dysfunctional as Washington D.C. is, infrastructure is an area where Democrats and Republicans may just agree.”
Siebert said a 2009 infrastructure bill required projects be “shovel ready” before money was granted, which left Greenwich at a disadvantage. She asked if the new infrastructure bill would have those same restrictions.
“I will be advocating that any transportation infrastructure bill that we do not prioritize shovel-ready projects,” Murphy said. “The stimulus bill was a different moment in time when it was really about restarting the economy as fast as possible. This bill should be about priority projects that have the biggest long-term benefit for the economy.”
Romeo said he wanted Congress to consider alternatives to simply replacing older roads and bridges.
“Anybody who travels I-95 in Fairfield County from the 287 corridor all the way up to Bridgeport will know what a nightmare it is to travel during the morning rush hour and evening rush hour,” Romeo said. “I think we should be looking at elevated platforms and a monorail system.”
Conboy suggested getting goods shipped by barges to reduce truck traffic. He also worried major highway expansions or high-speed rail could damage historical landmarks along the I-95 corridor.

Connecticut’s transportation congestion a hurdle for businesses, commuters

rocky hill >> The typical Connecticut commuter travels about 24,000 miles per year getting to and from work, enough to travel the circumference of the Earth, according state Department of Transportation officials.
(Transportation) congestion is an issue that is plaguing our economy,” Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker told about 100 people attending the agency’s Transportation Showcase at the Sheraton Rocky Hill.Traffic congestion is an issue that officials at the Mohegan Sun Casino wrestle with around the clock. Because the casino is a 24-hour operation in a remote part of eastern Connecticut, Mohegan Sun heavily promotes ride-sharing among its employees who work similar shifts, said Jeff Hamilton, assistant general manager of Mohegan Sun.The casino also offers a mass transit alternative for those who don’t want to have to deal with the congestion on Interstate 95, Hamilton said. Individuals who want to visit the casino can take the Shoreline East commuter rail line to New London and take a shuttle bus to Mohegan Sun, he said. The casino provides a gift card to visitors who use the mass transit option, Hamilton said. “Congestion definitely impacts our business,” he said. “If it’s not easy to get somewhere, you’re probably not going to go.” Melissa Goodall, associate director of Yale University’s Office of Sustainability, said the school operates 18 different shuttle buses to get students and staff where they need to go. Later this year, Goodall said Yale officials will begin assessing the feasibility of creating a shared transportation service with the other colleges and universities in the New Haven area.  “We haven’t started the analysis and it’s going to be a multi-year endeavor because if we’re going to do it, we want to do it right,” she said. Redeker said getting people not to drive to work is difficult.
“It’s hard to break historic patterns, whether you are an employee who is commuting or someone looking to locate a new business in our state,” he said. “A lot of people don’t think about whether they could commute to work on mass transit if they had to.”Goodall said 53 percent of Yale employees commute to work by themselves. The university is hoping to reduce that number in the coming years, she said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

February 23, 2017

CT Construction Digest February 23, 2017

East Hampton earmarks $128,000 for new Town Hall architect

 EAST HAMPTON >> The effort to finally build a new Town Hall and police station took a positive step forward Tuesday when the Board of Finance approved funding for a project architect.
The 4-0 vote only came after two board members metaphorically kicked the tires and looked under the hood of the $128,000 proposal.Alannah Coshow and Stephen Ritchie looked at the proposal to construct a new Town Hall on a 5.4-acre parcel of land in the Edgewater Hill development from every angle. In doing so, Coshow and Ritchie grilled Town Manager Michael Maniscalco about other options — and expressed concerns that moving town offices to a new location could hamstring efforts to revive the Village Center. Edgewater Hill is 1.8 miles east of the present Town Hall. Town Council Chairwoman Patience R. Anderson and Police Chief Sean D. Cox also attended the meeting. “I don’t think all the properties have been explored,” Ritchie said. In November, the council solicited proposals for a new location, Maniscalco said. The council reviewed eight proposals before deciding 6-1 to opt for the plan from developer Stephen Motto to relocate Town Hall to Edgewater Hill. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

UConn moves forward with plans for new athletic fields
Storrs — The University of Connecticut's Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved spending $4.75 million to design its "Athletic District," which will include new stadiums for soccer, baseball and softball.
The project, which school officials have estimated will cost about $46 million, is being paid for through donations and a surcharge on athletic tickets.
The school has so far raised $15 million of a planned $25 million from private donors, with pledges for another $2 million.
The school also hopes to raise about $1.5 million a year for the field through adding an extra $5 to the cost of a football ticket, $2 for a hockey and basketball ticket and $1 for a ticket to soccer matches. UConn officials said that will support the borrowing that will be needed up-front to complete the project.
The school built a $59 million state-of-the art practice facility for its football program in 2006 and opened a $40 million basketball practice facility in 2014.
But, the current baseball and softball fields don't even have running water or restrooms. Athletic Director David Benedict said the new facilities are needed to bring UConn's facilities up to par with rival institutions and attract top athletes.
"We're not an athletic program that has one sport or two sports," he said. "It's important that nationally we have a brand and that people, when they think about UConn they think about excellence across the board."
The new stadiums will be located on the same site or near the current fields on the west side of the campus, which is just down Jim Calhoun Way from the Gampel Pavilion basketball arena.
A recent feasibility study calls for a 5,500-seat soccer stadium, which also would include a practice field and locker rooms. The baseball field would be 1,500 seats and would include a press box, luxury boxes and dugouts with restrooms. The softball field, which would have similar amenities, would include 500 seats.
Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2018. Benedict said it's too early to say when they will open.
The school also plans to either replace or renovate its on-campus hockey rink, a requirement from Hockey East when the men's team became part of that conference in 2014. The men's team currently plays all of its home games at the aging XL Center in Hartford.
The funding from the board of trustees includes sight planning to allow for a new rink in the athletic district, but no money for design or construction of that facility. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

$50M expansion OK'd for Hartford regional rail system

Connecticut's Bond Commission has approved $50 million to help fund the New-Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) rail program.
Department of Transportation (CTDOT) Commissioner James P. Redeker said Wednesday the money was authorized on Feb. 1.
The funding will support design and environmental permitting for the new CTrail Hartford Line stations in North Haven, Newington, West Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Enfield. It will also help pay for 7.5 miles of double track from Windsor to Enfield.
This funding will also support the construction of approximately 4 miles of double track between Hartford and Windsor, which is currently underway.
Scheduled to launch in 2018, the CTrail Hartford Line will offer more frequent, convenient and faster passenger rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield by increasing the number of round trip trains from six daily Amtrak intercity and regional trains to a total of 17 round trip trains a day to Hartford, and 12 trains per day to Springfield.
The majority of the existing rail stations will be replaced and several new stations will be built, Redeker said.

UConn STEM building to undergo $85M renovation

UConn trustees Wednesday authorized spending $85 million to renovate its Edward V. Gant building in Storrs, which is heavily used for enrollment and research in the STEM fields.
The first phase of improvements to the 285,000-square-foot complex includes work on classrooms, lecture halls, teaching and research laboratories, faculty offices, and support space.
The building's fa├žade and roof will be reconstructed to better prevent leaks and save energy, while the outdoor plaza area will be improved to be more inviting and accessible to the campus community.
The University Information Technology Services (UITS) data center will also remain and continue to be fully operational throughout the project renovation, UConn said.
The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming is provided for such courses as physics, evolutionary biology and physiology.
The U-shaped complex, which fronts North Eagleville and Auditorium Roads, was built in two phases, first in 1970 and then in 1974. Some renovations took place in 2002.

Casino Players To Pitch Plans At Thursday Hearing

The state legislative committee that oversees casinos will gather a half-dozen players in the casino expansion debate Thursday and hear their pitches – for and against – a Hartford-area gaming venue.
The legislature's public safety and security committee will open the forum at 11 a.m. in Room 2E of the state legislative office building.
State Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford and a commitee co-chairman, said last week the committee is open to listening to viewpoints that could take the state in a different direction – including opening up the field to more potential operators.
MMCT, a joint venture of the tribal operators of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, is pursuing a location for a Hartford-area casino that would compete with a $950 million casino and entertainment complex now under construction in Springfield. Those invited include MMCT; MGM, which is building the Springfield casino; two additional Native American tribes in Connecticut, the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation and the Golden Hill Paugussetts; Sportech, which operates an off-track betting venue in Windsor Locks; and the spurned developer who wanted to build MMCT's casino in East Hartford.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

February 22, 2017

CT Construction Digest Wednesday February 22, 2017

Stone Acres Farm in Stonington submits application to expand uses

Stonington — The owners of Stone Acres Farm on North Main Street have submitted a master plan application for development of the property into a campus that includes renovated and new buildings designed to host a variety of food, education and other activities, such as weddings.
The application, which outlines the planned uses of the 381 North Main St. site, comes after the local ownership group successfully obtained approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission to create a new Agricultural Heritage District. The district is designed to preserve historical farms in town by allowing expanded uses.
The Planning and Zoning Commission has slated a March 21 public hearing on the application. If that is approved, Stone Acres then would have to also obtain site plan approval, which would require another public hearing.
The application states the master plan would revitalize and preserve the 65-acre property and stimulate its economic activity by creating a campus for food, education and events. The farm has been in operation since the Revolutionary War.
The application states the proposal seeks to take advantage of tourism growth in the state, which it calls one of the few bright spots in the region’s economy. It also states the project would preserve historical and natural resources while offering opportunity for food entrepreneurs.
The project would create an estimated 20 full-time and 68 part-time jobs and generate net tax revenue of $75,000 a year for the town, according to the project’s economic impact analysis.
The project calls for using the main house for small events, with bedrooms being used for wedding preparations by bridal parties and overnight accommodations. The farmhouse would be available for seasonal rentals and wedding parties.
The carriage house would become work space for food artisans, house a farmers’ market, bakery and charcuterie, or deli, as well as an apartment for the grounds manager and staff.
The greenhouse would be turned into a restaurant and cafe that would feature farm-to-table offerings using produce grown on the farm and other locally sourced food. The ice house, small greenhouse and other existing outbuildings would be used for storage and vegetable sorting.
Two new buildings would be constructed on existing farm foundations. These include a 6,100-square-foot barn that would have cold storage facilities, a large open area for food cleaning and packaging, and a commercial kitchen to support event catering and food preparations for the creamery, charcuterie and farm stand. There also would be restrooms and a deck with access to a garden with picnic tables.
The 8,100-square-foot marketplace would house a seasonal vegetable market, brewery, classroom, demonstration kitchen, restrooms and an education center where students would gather when touring the farm. There are also plans for temporary tents for gatherings of 100 to 250 people. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Renovation of New London City Hall remains on hold with lack of funding

New London — With a funding gap of $5 million, the timeline for the historical renovation of the aging and inefficient City Hall remains an unknown.
While the City Council approved borrowing $3 million for the project, the only bid came in last month at $8,018,000. The lone valid bidder for the project was Middletown-based Kronenberger & Sons.
“It’s just frustrating,” said City Council member Martha Marx during a Public Works Subcommittee meeting on Monday. “Everybody was so excited to have a new City Hall.”
Marx questioned the initial $2.5 million to $2.8 million estimate from Architectural Preservation Studio PC, which was based on a $30,000 grant-funded condition assessment completed in 2014.
Tom Bombria, project manager for the City Hall restoration project, said the city will continue to explore other funding sources for the project and is taking a closer look at the scope of the work.
Much had changed since the initial estimate, Bombria said. Along with jumps in construction and changing market conditions, he said building and fire code requirements helped boost the cost.
The original estimate also did not include architectural and engineering fees or the money needed to relocate the entire workforce from City Hall for a year or the construction of a vault for the City Clerk.
The asbestos abatement work also was underestimated. Asbestos contained in the plaster means contractors would need to contain and abate at multiple stages in the demolition work surrounding the movement of the elevator and walls and every time a wall is penetrated.
The planned work at City Hall, prompted by a citation from the health department in 2014 involves both interior and exterior restorations, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant entrances and updating of the heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing systems.
Bombria said the city is working on a grant application to the State Historic Preservation Office for Connecticut Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits and plans to apply to the National Park Service for federal historic preservation tax incentives.
Council member Michael Tranchida asked if a designation on the National Register of Historic Places might help the case. City Hall, build in 1912 to replace an older building on the same site, sits in an historic district, Bombria said, and so is therefore already eligible for preservation grants.
Bombria said the project eventually will go back out to bid but not until more funding sources are identified.

Developers outline scaled-down condo plan for Mystic Color Lab site

Mystic — The group proposing to develop the former Mystic Color Lab site into 42 condominiums outlined its plans to the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission during a public hearing Tuesday night.
Greylock Property Group LLC is seeking approval of its master plan to build the condominiums in seven buildings placed around a central courtyard on the five-acre site. The hearing was continuing late Tuesday night and the commission had not yet made a decision on the application.
Called Mystic Harbor Landing, the proposed $20 million project would have 13 fewer units and 26 percent less square footage than a previous plan for the site that called for a large single structure.
Town Planner Keith Brynes told the commission that in his opinion the master plan is an improvement on the previously approved plan for the site.
Greylock attorney Bill Sweeney told the commission the project has been downscaled in almost every way compared to the earlier approval and would be compatible with the neighborhood. He said a brick wall, which is the only structure remaining from the original mill, is so deteriorated, it cannot be saved. But he said attempts will be made to salvage the brick so it can be reused on the site. In addition, some type of memorial will be placed on the site to recall its historical uses.
He pointed out that the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development calls for the redevelopment and reuse of historic mill sites, something the project does.
Sweeney told the commission that the abandoned and overgrown property has a long history of failed development along with piles of contaminated soil. He called it a “white elephant” in a neighborhood which is seeing new investment with the planned renovation and expansion of the adjacent YMCA.
“This is a property in desperate need of redevelopment and shouldn’t sit idle for another decade,” he said.
Sweeney said the units would cost between $470,000 and $550,000, and conservatively generate between $45,000 and $65,000 in annual net tax revenue for the town. That number could be much higher, as the project is not expected to attract families with schoolchildren.
During the hearing, Economic Development Commission Chairman Dave Hammond told the commission that the tax revenue generated by the project would be closer to $300,000 a year.
The project would be built in three phases and the timing would depend on market demand for the units.
Sweeney also said traffic generated by the project is “a drop in the bucket” compared to other traffic generators in the neighborhood.
But Masons Island resident Steve Wolinsky pointed out the existing congestion at Route 1 and Masons Island Road and said the project would worsen the problem. He then checked off a "No" box on a large chart he titled "Good for Mystic?" Using drawings, photos and maps, he went on to point out how other aspects of the project, such as the size of the building, do not fit in with the character of Mystic. He said approval of the project will open the floodgates to other large projects that are not in keeping with the size and scale of residential development in town. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Battles over labor's wages heats up at Capitol

The clash over labor costs intensified Tuesday at the state Capitol.
While one legislative panel split down the middle over whether to raise Connecticut's minimum wage, unions and their allies rallied to battle proposals that would allow communities to cut worker wages on public construction projects.
In little over an hour, the legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee defeated one bill that would have raised the minimum wage, and then adopted a second measure that ordered the same increases.
Both bills would increase the minimum wage, which currently is $10.10 per hour, to $11 next January. It would increase by another $1 per hour each January until it reached $15 in 2022.
From there, the minimum wage would be tied to the consumer price index and rise annually in proportion to the rate of inflation.
The back-and-forth nature of the committee's actions is tied to its composition, and to strong partisan disagreement over the minimum wage.
The panel, which has four senators and 13 representatives, has the option of splitting its membership and voting separately on bills.
One measure, earmarked for the Senate, failed in a 2-2 vote, with Republican senators opposing it and Democrats voting in favor.
"In this economy it is prudent for this legislature to stop sending a shot across the bow to businesses in Connecticut, to stop creating an unfriendly business environment," said Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury.
"Connecticut already has one of the highest minimum wages in the United States," said Sen. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield. "The last increase in the minimum wage wasn't thirty years ago, it was in January. Increasing the minimum wage yet again will send a clear message to businesses in Connecticut and elsewhere that the state has no intention of providing them with a predictable regulatory environment."
But Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said more than 70 percent of Connecticut's minimum wage earners are adults supporting a household, which they cannot do at the current rate.
"They are not teenagers starting out with their first job," she said. "They are working sometimes two and three and four jobs just to make ends meet."
Democrats hold a slim 7-6 edge on the labor committee. So while the Senate bill failed in a 2-2 deadlock, representatives on the committee passed an identical bill in a 7-6 vote also along party lines. That measure now heads to the House of Representatives. CLICK TOTLE TO CONTINUE

West Haven High School project back in gear

WEST HAVEN >> After years of delay, the three-year project to build a mostly-new West Haven High School is moving again and appears headed for a ground-breaking this spring, with full-scale demolition and reconstruction beginning just as soon as school lets out in June, officials said. The “renovate-as-new” project has been partially redesigned — including to remove all asbestos rather than just encapsulate it, by replacing existing cinderblock walls, which previously were going to remain in some locations, with Sheetrock.
“There’s going to be no asbestos in the school, which is a new thing,” said Mayor Ed O’Brien. But beyond that, overall, “It’s a better-quality building,” he said. The estimated price tag, which was $124.69 million when O’Brien told state officials that the city wanted to put the previous design of project “on hold” 16 months ago, is now just under $130 million, said William Sapienza, chairman of the equally revamped West Haven High School Building Committee. After O’Brien stopped the project in October 2015, state officials subsequently visited the high school in November, saying they wanted to find a way to move the project forward.  That resulted in a subsquent decision to move ahead with some changes.  Now they all appear to be on the same page. “The state has approved an amount. It looks like the numbers are working,” said Sapienza, a West Haven architect. “We’ve got a few things we’re still working on,” but “they’re satisfied with all the presentations so far by the project manager and the architects.” Sapienza said the square footage has been reduced somewhat because of the contracting student population, but while there are fewer classrooms overall than in the previous design, amenities such as dedicated shop classrooms are in the latest plan. “We (designed) the school to the enrollment it is now,” said O’Brien. Antinozzi Associates of Bridgeport remains the architect, the Capitol Region Education Council, or CREC, of Plainville remains as owner’s representative and Gilbane Building Co. has been hired as the new construction manager, he said. The state reimbursement rate remains at just under 77 percent — the same as it was under the previous design, said O’Brien and Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro.
“The plan is to break ground for the shops in the spring,” Sapienza said. “When the project was stopped, the project (design) was 65 percent completed,” Sapienza said. “That reallly hasn’t changed a lot. But with the help of Gilbane, there’s been a lot of value engineering” to achieve similar goals at a lower cost in order to accomodate more new construction, he said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

February 20, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday February 20, 2017

Failing dam a symbol of U.S. infrastructure

The sorry state of American infrastructure is once again our focus. This time the peg is the Oroville Dam in California. It is the U.S.’s tallest dam, and it is in trouble. An emergency spillway was damaged, causing evacuation of 188,000 Californians.
State and federal officials ignored the warnings of environmental groups who for more than a decade have been asking them to reinforce the dam’s spillway.
How did we get to this sorry state? The short answer is partisan politics, informed by bad ideology and a focus on little more than the next election.
Does anything reflect the state of American short-termism more than the slow, inevitable decay and eventual failure of key components of our transportation, electrical, water and sanitation systems? These are the most basic services government provides. The inability to do what so many other developed nations do so much better is why I have called each of the past 10 Congresses "the worst ever."
Both political parties are to blame — but rather than engage in the classic false equivalency debate, let’s consider how each has contributed to the current dismal state of affairs. I am not so much looking to cynically assess blame as I am to optimistically find the silver lining in this dark structural cloud.
Let’s go back a few years to 2009, when the new Barack Obama administration got Congress to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stimulus package meant to blunt the recession touched off by the financial crisis. This $800 billion program was mostly about the very short term, and not about long-term investment.
About a third of the stimulus package — $288 billion dollars — was a combination of temporary tax cuts and other incentives designed to spur spending. Another $155 billion was for health-care, $100 billion went to education and $82 billion was for aid to low-income workers and the unemployed.
What was left for infrastructure? A measly $105 billion, or about 13 percent of the total. Worse still, most of these projects were of the shovel-ready variety.
This was a terrible error by Obama. As Columbia University professor of economics Jeffrey Sachs repeatedly has observed, America has an infrastructure investment crisis; the focus on short-term fixes has set us up for long-term failure.
Shovel-ready — what we can throw money at today — is the exact opposite of long-term strategic planning. That would involve thinking about how to improve our electrical grid, modernize the deteriorating U.S. transportation system and upgrade the water and sewer networks critical to public health. New York City, for example, relies on a system of tunnels and aqueducts to supply drinking water to more than 10 million people. Parts of that system are more than a century old.
It’s been pretty well established in the economic literature that improved public infrastructure contributes to private sector productivity. It has been estimated that by 2025, shortfalls in infrastructure investment will subtract as much as $3.9 trillion from U.S. gross domestic product. Traffic jams alone cost the U.S. tens of billions of dollars a year in lost productivity. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
EAST HAMPTON >> The nine people appointed to the Town Hall building committee include former town councilor George Pfaffenbach and the architect of the high school renovation. The Town Council appointed the committee members last week, after interviewing 15 applicants. Right out of starting gate, the committee members will face a hectic schedule Officials hope to have a proposal ready for residents to vote on in a town wide referendum sometime between Sept. 1-15, Town Manager Michael Maniscalco said. In its request for residents to serve on the committee, Town Council Chairwoman Patience R. Anderson said the council made it clear it expects the committee to initially hold multiple meetings per month to order to get up to speed and be able to meet the September deadline.
The council has agreed to accept an offer from Stephen Motto to locate the town hall/police station on a 5.4-acre parcel of land in the Edgewater Hill mixed-use development.  In presenting his proposal to the council, Motto said he envisions a building of at least two stories and encompassing 32,000 to 40,000 square feet. The current town hall complex contains approximately 14,000 sq. ft. The police operate of a meager 2,900-square-foot section of the basement. The building committee members are: Kurt Comisky; Jeff Foran; Fred Galvin; Glenn Gollenberg; Stephen Karney; Cliff Libby; Ray Moore; George Pfaffenbach; and Rebecca Sawyer.
Gollenberg is the architect for the school renovation project, which is speeding towards a conclusion. Karney is a member of the School Building Committee that is overseeing the high school project. Moore, the husband of former town council chairwoman Barbara Moore, has worked as a facilities manager, while Sawyer is a project manager The council interviewed six other applicants who were not named to the committee. They are: Cynthia Abraham; Angela Crane; Adam Dawidowicz: Shawn Kelly; Pamela Rinaldi and John Roche. The committee will hold its initial meeting next Thursday, Maniscalco said on Friday. During that meeting, the committee is expected to elect a chairman and vice chairman, review the project schedule, review the request for proposals for a project architect and review the scope of work for the owner’s project manager, Maniscalco said. In exchange for giving the town the land on which the town hall will sit, Motto proposed — and the council agreed — to have him serve as OPM. He will be paid approximately $400,000 of the estimated $15 million construction cost. Motto had also proposed he choose both the architect and the contractor, but the council rejected that idea. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Preston, Mohegans will miss targeted negotiation deadline

Preston — The Sunday deadline for reaching a purchase and sale agreement between the town and the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority will not be met, town and tribal officials said, but the parties will meet Monday to review what both say are only "technical" issues that remain unresolved.
For the past two weeks, Preston town officials have said the proposed roughly 150-page Property Disposition and Development Agreement has been in the final stages of negotiations. The document is in the hands of attorneys for both parties, and First Selectman Robert Congdon said Thursday he still anticipates receiving a final agreement soon from tribal officials.
Chuck Bunnell, chief of staff for the Mohegan tribe, said Friday that tribal leaders will meet Monday with Congdon and Preston Redevelopment Agency Chairman Sean Nugent to discuss the technical issues raised by the attorneys for both parties. He said he did not expect a final agreement to be ready following the Monday meeting, but said it should be shortly thereafter.
Neither Congdon nor Bunnell would disclose what technical issues were being discussed.
"Everybody is committed and enthusiastic that we will get through the technical issues remaining," Bunnell said. "We are meeting on Monday to do that. Everyone involved is very enthusiastic."
Tribal leaders unveiled plans for the entire 393-acre property on Jan. 17 that call for a 40-acre theme park, indoor water park, synthetic ski slope, large sports training complex, a major chain outdoor-theme retail store, hotels, senior housing and timeshare units and a marina on the Thames River, with possible water shuttle to the Mohegan Sun across the river. The plans also include a public park near the river.
The state Bond Commission on Feb. 1 approved a $10 million grant to Preston to complete the environmental cleanup of the property.
But the delay in completing the agreement meant that the Board of Selectmen could not hold a special meeting this week to schedule dates for a town meeting and referendum vote on the project, pushing those dates into March.
The memorandum of understanding signed by both parties last May called for a six-month negotiation period that was to have expired in November. At that time, the parties agreed to a 90-day extension to Feb. 19. Both parties expected that with the bulk of the negotiations completed, no additional extension would be needed.
Congdon said missing Sunday's deadline means only that the period of exclusive negotiations with the tribe will end. Once that deadline passes, Congdon said the town would be “obligated” to contact other parties who have expressed interest in the property. Town officials have not talked to any other parties during the exclusive negotiation period with the tribe, which started last May.
Nugent said he knows of only one other party who has contacted the town regarding the former Norwich Hospital property, and "I informed them we are in negotiations with the tribe." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Brooklyn sending school roof projects to town meeting

BROOKLYN —Brooklyn's boards of finance and selectmen are sending a $5 million project to replace roofs on both schools to town meeting.
The Board of Selectmen called a town meeting for March 7. With the elementary school roof in dire condition, residents are being asked to consider the request now because of concern that the level of state reimbursement might drop as soon as the next budget year
"I think they've done their due diligence, and really I think that's their job," First Selectman Rick Ives said. "The combinations of the Board of Education and the people they hired plus the administration has moved this along, admittedly, quickly but this will also get it in front of the school construction committee."
The town must approve the project before the state will consider its funding. Brooklyn currently gets 72.8 percent reimbursement from the state for any roof replacement project that is more than 20 years old.
"We know the reimbursement rate is not going to go up," Board of Education Chairman Aimee Genna said. "It may not go down, but it's definitely not going up."
Board of Finance Chairman Jeff Otto said, given the state's finances, it's reasonable to believe the level of support for school construction projects could decrease.
The Board of Education has hired PM Resources as its project manager and Hibbard & Rosa as its architects after reviewing proposals from seven architects.
The elementary school roof is 53,000 square feet and would be a metal roof with an expected lifespan of 40 years, said Roger LaFleur of PM Resources.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Due to a last-minute decision on Friday to pursue additional legal reviews, a special Killingly Town Council scheduled for Monday has been postponed again. The meeting, now moved to an undated time next month, will eventually include discussion on several potential agreements with NTE Energy LLC, a power plant developer that hopes to build a 550-megawatt facility in Dayville.
Tax revenue: At the meeting, postponed from January, the council will discuss a tax stabilization agreement with NTE that would provide the town with approximately $90 million over 22 years, potentially making the company the town's largest taxpayer. The agreement is contingent on the Connecticut Siting Council giving permit approval for the project. The Siting Council, which recently finished the evidentiary portion of its proceedings, is expected to make a decision in the spring.
Protection: The council will discuss a commitment by NTE to provide property value protection for a number of residents living within 2,500 feet of the proposed facility site near the town's industrial park. The protection would extend to about 20 homeowners and involve assessments of the property before any construction began. If a property owner moves and the value of the property drops within an eight-year window, NTE would make up the difference. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

In DoNo's shadow, Hartford's other developments take off

Almost unnoticed amid Hartford's booming conversions of older office buildings into housing and commercial space and construction of a ballpark and UConn campus, is another wave of development that has been underway in the city's northern section for more than a year.
Along the approximately 2 ½-mile strip, stretching from downtown's northern edge along Market Street/Rev. R. A. Moody Overpass/Weston Street, parallel to I-91, to the North Meadows, several commercial projects worth millions are either done or nearing completion, while plans for more Downtown North (DoNo) development are underway.
According to city planners, Hartford's updated zoning rules aim to promote development along this stretch to eventually include apartments, hotels and beds and breakfasts, bars and restaurants, and retail.
Candlewood Suites Hartford Downtown, an 81-room, high-rise hotel on Market Street, opposite the taller, roomier Radisson Hartford — both standing in the shadow of Dunkin' Donuts Park — is almost finished and could be open in time for the April 13 opening day game of the Hartford Yard Goats.
Further down Weston, New Country BMW is under way on a $5 million expansion of its new-car showroom and related facilities. Directly across the road is a $3 million New Country Mini showroom that opened in 2014.
On the same side of the road but two blocks away, the former Baronet Coffee property has been sold, realty brokers, business neighbors and city officials say, to make way by mid-2018 for a Land Rover dealership run by Avon's Mitchell Auto Group.
Opposite the main U.S. Postal Service regional office on Weston, Hartford Toyota some months back relocated from its former showroom-service quarters fronting Weston Street, to a much larger facility fronting on Service Road and the southbound side of I-91.
Anchoring Weston Street's northernmost stretch is the 40-year-old Hartford Correctional Center, with four dormitory buildings and a staff of around 377, according to the state Corrections Department website.
This end of the Market/Weston street corridor is zoned industrial, where it is home to a storage yard for towed-wrecked vehicles, and waste-processing services, city planners say.
On the northbound side of I-91, at the junction of Jennings and Liebert roads, Pride Convenience Stores has begun framing the main building for its truck-stop/rest area. The site will offer fuel, fast foods and amenities, including lockers and showers for motorists.
"The Candlewood Suites is my favorite building in Hartford. Why?'' asked Sean M. Fitzpatrick, Hartford's director of development services, which includes economic development. "It was built entirely with private money.'' CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Malloy: Choice is modernize or close aging XL Center

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday that a $250 million plan to overhaul the aging XL Center in downtown Hartford to keep University of Connecticut teams as tenants is a blueprint to modernize a 1970s arena that has reached the end of its useful life, not a long-shot bid to bring NHL hockey back to Connecticut.
"This is not a wing and a prayer with respect to NHL hockey," Malloy said. "This is a long process, a thought-out process and one that we think leads to the logical conclusion that either we close this facility in the not-too-distant future, or we rebuild it. Because I'm certainly not going to propose that we spend $750 million to $1 billion on a new facility."
Malloy said publicity about the invitation he and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin extended to the New York Islanders to consider the XL Center, which he says they made after reading about the team's interest in a new venue, has led to inquiries from an ownership group now trying to acquire an NHL franchise.
"As a result of sending that letter, getting as much publicity as it got, we have been contacted by a group that would very much like to explore" the state's plans for modernizing the XL Center, Malloy said.
But Malloy said the NHL flirtation, while welcome and worth pursuing, has wrongly cast the years of planning and feasibility studies by the Capital Region Development Authority, which now runs the arena built by the city of Hartford, as driven by a courtship to bring an NHL team to the former home of the Hartford Whalers.
"A lot has been made, and I think has confused people that we need to spend money on this facility in the hope and prayer that we'll get an NHL team," Malloy said.
Arena executives took Malloy and reporters on a tour of the arena, pointing out a pipe that ruptured the previous night during a UConn basketball game, a freight elevator that broke four years ago, an unreliable air-conditioning system that keeps away summer concerts and a leaky refrigeration system that struggles to maintain ice for hockey.
"If we're going to keep this facility open, and by the way I would advocate that the capital city needs a facility like this, the general area needs a facility like this, then we're going to have to spend money on it, or we're going to have to replace it in total," Malloy said.
The cost of replacement starts at $750 million, while a design firm hired by the Capital Regional Development Authority has prepared a $250 million plan that Malloy wants the state to fund that could transform the arena with new mechanical systems, larger concourses and modern amenities, including revenue-producing luxury boxes.
Malloy made news with a letter sent on impulse to the owners of the New York Islanders offering the XL Center as a home to an NHL franchise looking for an alternative to their temporary home at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn. Publicity over the letter has prompted an unnamed group trying to acquire an NHL franchise to inquire about the XL modernization plans. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Old Whalen Jr. High to be turned into apartments in Hamden

HAMDEN >> The state will contribute more than a half-million dollars toward the redevelopment of the former Michael J. Whalen Jr. High School into apartments and a community center.
Hamden will receive $600,000 grant through the state’s Brownfield Revitalization Program that will be used to demolish a portion of the former school located in the town’s HIghwood neighborhood and the removal of possibly contaminated debris.
The school was constructed in 1956 on the site of a former dump made up of industrial waste from New Haven manufacturers, including the former Remington Arms plant. When the town looked into expanding the school in 2000, the history of dumping in the neighborhood came to light, and instead the decision was made to build a new school on the former Meadowbrook Golf Course rather than try to remediate and expand the old school.Since then, the entire neighborhood has undergone a massive cleanup project that entailed removing the contaminated soil and replacing it with clean soil. The last phase of that project is the reuse of the middle school. Mutual Housing Association, the same organization that redeveloped nearby Highland Square on Dixwell Avenue, will construct a mix of market-rate and affordable housing units on the site, and will preserve the school’s gymnasium to be used as a community center.
As part of the project, a portion of the old school will be demolished, to which the grant money will be used, said state Rep. Michael D’Agostino, D-Hamden.  “The old Middle School has been vacant for too long,” D’Agostino said. “This grant will allow the town to move forward with the economic development of southern Hamden, benefiting the entire neighborhood and the town as a whole.”The grant was awarded to the Hamden Economic Development Corporation, which has orchestrated the Newhall remediation project for decades.  “I want to thank Gov. Malloy for this grant and ensuring that Hamden will receive a portion of the $6.9 million allocated for his statewide remediation and brownfield clean-up program,” D’Agostino said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE