May 31, 2017

CT Construction Digest Wednesday May 31, 2017

Stamford roads to close Saturday for I-95 ramp construction

STAMFORD — Construction around the northbound Interstate 95 Atlantic Street ramp will trigger some road closures Saturday.
While crews erect cranes in the project area, South State Street will be closed between Guernsey Avenue and Canal Street and Atlantic Street will be closed between North State Street and Dock Street, beginning at 6 a.m., the Connecticut Department of Transportation said in a statement.
The I-95 Exit 8 Northbound off ramp will be closed. All roads and the I-95 ramp will reopen at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Traffic will be detoured around the construction area during the closures.
The project causing the closures will make improvements to the Exit 8 off-ramp and to the surrounding side streets with reconfigured lanes along South State Street and a new Exit 8 flyover bridge. The work will require temporary off-ramp lane reductions.
The closures will be used to allow for the installation of the four steel girders that will span Atlantic Street for the new Exit 8 off ramp bridge, the DOT said in its statement.
Stonington — The K-12 School Building Committee will hold a community meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Stonington High School Commons to update residents on the upcoming $67 million project to renovate and expand Deans Mill and West Vine Street elementary schools.
Committee members, along with the project’s architect and construction manager, are scheduled to offer details about the updated construction schedule. There also will be an opportunity to ask questions about the projects.
Groundbreaking ceremonies are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday, June 5, at Deans Mill School and 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, at West Vine Street School. Work is slated for completion in the late fall of 2018.
School officials then will decide when students and staff will move into the renovated sections of the schools. Both schools will remain open during the work.

Town Meeting In Farmington To Discuss High School Project

Farmington residents next week will again voice their opinions on the long-planned high school building project, ahead of the scheduled referendum on the proposal.
A special town meeting is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. in the Farmington High School auditorium. From there, the plan for a new, $135 million high school will head to referendum on June 15. The proposal, which has been in development for about nine months, calls for the demolition of nearly all existing buildings at the high school campus on Monteith Drive. A new building would be built at the same location while repurposing some existing portions, including the original high school, built in 1928, which will be preserved CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

West Haven to apply for $2 million grant to upgrade part of Railroad Avenue

WEST HAVEN >> The city will apply for a $2 million state “Responsible Growth and Transit-Oriented Development” grant to construct lighting, a walkway and a bike path along Railroad Avenue between the Metro-North railroad station and the Yale West Campus, officials say.
The application, which must be filed by June 24, follows the recent 10-1 approval of the grant application by the City Council and the subsequent unanimous endorsement by the South Central Regional Council of Governments.The one council vote against it came from Councilman David Riccio, R-At Large, the council’s only Republican member and an announced candidate to oppose Mayor Ed O’Brien in November. Approval of the application follows the receipt last year of $984,000 in federal highway funds for the same project, of which nearly $300,000 has been spent so far on design. The total cost of the project, which will link Yale University’s West Campus to the railroad station, is a little more than $3 million, city Commissioner of Planning and Development Joseph Riccio Jr. told the City Council at a recent meeting. As part of the project, which is being designed by Luchs / DeCarlo & Doll of Meriden, the width of Railroad Avenue will be narrowed to 26 feet as the city installs separate lanes for walking and bicycles and lighting along the length of it, Riccio said. This is the second straight year the city has applied for the state grant, Riccio said. The state did not approve last year’s $1.4 million grant application. “We were not successful last year,” Riccio, the planning and development commissioner, said. “We hope to be successful this year.”
A little more than $700,000 remains from the original federal grant, Riccio said. Dave Riccio also cast the one vote against last year’s state grant application. Responding to a question from City Councilman Ron Quagliani, D-At Large, Riccio said there is no city share required for the grant. “Would this have to go through zoning?” Quagliani asked.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Trump Wants More Interstate Tolling, But Lawmakers Skeptical -

President Donald Trump fleshed out his proposal last week to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure by listing tolling on interstate highways as one way to raise funds, but his idea is encountering a reluctance in Congress.
Several key lawmakers said they were receptive to the idea, but cited obstacles to moving forward.
“Everything’s on the table: Gas tax, tolling,” said Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. “I’m not a big fan of tolling — I don’t like paying for a road twice, but that’s my opinion.”
Graves told reporters Thursday that lawmakers were considering even politically tricky sources
of money, including raising fuel taxes.
The administration raised the tolling option in a fact sheet released Tuesday, the same day as the fiscal 2018 budget request. The fact sheet lists several infrastructure proposals that were part of the budget request, but the tolling idea was listed CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

How Regulation Rollbacks Could Affect Construction Equipment

Regardless of whom you voted for in the recent election, there's no arguing the fact that our new president is considering some regulatory rollbacks that will have steep implications for the U.S. for years to come. Although many of the new administration's proposals are innocent at first glance, it is the indirect consequences that have some experts worried.
Equipment Emissions
One of the biggest and most obvious dangers of reducing regulations is the increased carbon emissions we'll likely see in the coming years. According to some estimates, his new policies could result in an
extra half-billion tons of greenhouse gases by the year 2025.
While the U.S. has experienced a steady decline in carbon emissions throughout the past few years, this trend will reverse itself under Trump's presidency. The phenomenon is being referred to as the Trump Effect.
President Trump's deregulation efforts are also
targeting vehicle testing and certification throughout the automotive and construction equipment manufacturing sectors. Those in the industry are concerned that the administration's attitude toward environmental protection could result in less funding and investment toward areas like business sustainability and indoor air quality.
What's more is that some players in the construction market have services which make equipment emissions-compliant. For example, the retrofitting of oxidation catalysts minimizes engine emissions; Carbon Monoxide is reduced up to 85%, Hydrocarbon by up to 60% and Particulate Matter up to 20%. Beyond emissions though, laborers could also be impacted by these regulation rollbacks.
General Labor
The general laborers who assemble, build and repair construction equipment are also facing new risks on account of overreaching regulatory rollbacks. For starters, the current administration's failure to act in an efficient manner has already cost would-be retirees well more than $400 million over the coming 30 years.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. Senate recently passed a resolution that makes it easier for employers to hide injuries and even fatalities that occur in the workplace. Instead of requiring employers to maintain logs of such workplace incidents for a minimum of five years, the new resolution only makes it easier to circumvent the standards of OSHA and similar regulatory agencies.
In hopes of dismantling the system even further, President Trump issued an executive order on January 30, 2017. According to the order, every proposal for a new regulation requires two previous regulations to be marked for removal. He's also letting companies penalize their employees for failing to disclose private medical history. CLICK TITLE TO CONTUNE

Oxford will vote in fall on middle school

OXFORD – Voters will have their say on a proposal to build a new middle school on Great Oak Road at a referendum this fall.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday to have a referendum on or before Nov. 7.
Robert Slie, chairman of the building committee, said the total cost is estimated at $48.6 million with state reimbursement ranging from $9.2 to $13.5 million. However, that estimate is still being refined.
First Selectman George R. Temple said, “we’re making no commitment as far as a dollar figure here. We had some estimates and we sent it back to the committee to reconsider, because we want the lowest possible cost for our goal of building a new middle school to take the town into the 21st century.”
New construction is eligible for 27.5 percent reimbursement from the state, but Slie said not everything in the project is eligible for reimbursement.
He said the town had to commit to having a referendum for the building project before the committee could file the application for state reimbursement.
The deadline is June 30, but Slie said the committee wants to file by June 16 to leave time should the state need any more information or changes.
The Board of Education plans to close Oxford Center School and the new middle school would be built between Quaker Farms Elementary and Great Oak Middle schools.
Anthony Hibbert, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, would move over from Great Oak and become principal of the new school for grades 6 to 8.
Heath Hendershot, principal of the Center School, would take Hibbert’s place at Great Oak for grades 3 to 5.
Herman Schuler, the committee vice chairman, said, “this committee met an aggressive timeline.”
Slie expressed his gratitude to Town Hall staff members, as well as the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and his building committee for holding several special meetings to move the process along.
Colliers International, the pre-referendum project manager, guided the building committee through the entire process, according to Slie.
The project was reduced from the 91,896-square-feet the education specifications called for, down to 81,984, which is the maximum square footage for state reimbursement based on 488 students. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

May 30, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday May 30, 2017

Construction of Meriden Commons in city’s downtown underway

MERIDEN — Construction of Meriden Commons I is underway at the corner of State and Mill streets to make way for 76 units of mixed income housing and 5,000 square feet of commercial space.
The city transferred the land to the Meriden Housing Authority in April and environmental cleanup on the property is complete. Construction crews have installed the piers and footings that will hold up the four-story building. Concrete slabs are expected to go up within the next few weeks, said Robert Cappelletti, executive director of the Meriden Housing Authority.
“We have a very aggressive 12-month construction schedule,” Cappelletti said.   The property is owned by the MHA, which has a leaseback agreement with developer Pennrose Properties to construct the 76 units and commercial space. The partnership is called Meriden Commons I. Construction is estimated at $14.5 million, Of the 76 units, 23 units will replace those lost when the Mills Memorial Apartments are demolished this fall. There will also be 38 affordable units and 15 market rate units. The apartments will have one, two and three bedrooms.
Financing came from a mix of private investment, low income housing tax credits, and $5.7 million from the state Department of Housing. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for June 12.
“They are moving pretty quickly there,” said Charlie Adams, a vice president for Pennrose Properties.
The partnership has also received low income housing tax credits and an additional $5.7 million from DOH for Meriden Commons II, which will have 75 units in one four-story building and two townhouse style buildings. Meriden Commons II will offer more three and four bedroom units and is estimated to cost $15 million. Twenty percent of the total units for both Meriden Commons I and Meriden Commons II will be market rate.
Cappelletti and Adams hope to close on Meriden Commons II by the beginning of 2018.
The construction will progress through the demolition of the Mills Memorial Apartments. The remaining families in the Mills high rise units recently received protected vouchers that can be used for housing anywhere in the U.S. or its territories. But many have chosen to stay in the city and have the right of first refusal to live at Meriden Commons when it opens.
City officials are pleased with the changes downtown. In exchange for 177 State St., the MHA gave the city the needed land to continue its Meriden Green flood control and beautification project to Cedar Street at the site of the former high rise.
At the opposite end of the Meriden Green near East Main Street, the former Record-Journal building at 11 Crown St. is being readied for demolition to make way for 81 units of mixed income housing.
“Pennrose is well underway with construction of Meriden Commons” phase 1, said Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski. Manafort Bros. “is on schedule with the demolition of the former Record-Journal building, the new Meriden Transit Cen​ter is nearing completion, and the Meriden Green is open and being enjoyed by many. Every day the face of Meriden’s downtown is changing for the better, and I hope that Meriden residents and business owners can appreciate the positive changes that are happening.”
CHESHIRE >> The Board of Education is proposing that a replacement for Dodd Middle School be built on town-owned land that is part of Cheshire Park.
In separate meetings over the past two weeks, the board and its consultants have presented plans for a three-story, 185,000-square-foot middle school, located in a wooded area of the park that would have an entrance off Country Club Road. The price tag for the proposed new school, which district officials say would open in 2021, would be $106.4 million.If the town moves ahead with the project, the average Cheshire homeowner would see their annual tax bills increase by $222.90 in 2020, the first year of a 10-year period during which the project would be paid off, Town Finance Director Jim Jaskot said.As is the case with a home mortgage, most of the payments made in the first few years of the payout would go toward paying off interest on the cost of project. Over the payoff period, more of the payments from the town would go toward the principal of the loan, Jaskot said.
The estimated cost of the project is based upon bonding the project at an interest rate of 4 percent, he said.
The average Cheshire homeowner has a house with an assessed value of $213,550, according to Jaskot. That average homeowner, with the tax on two cars included, will have a tax bill of $7,424 in fiscal year 2017-18, which starts on July 1.The school board and district officials say a new middle school is needed to allow for a reconfiguration of the current middle school structure. Currently, Dodd Middle School, which is located near the center of town, is used by seventh- and eighth-graders. Superintendent Jeff Solan said this week that taking sixth-graders out of their individual elementary school and joining them with those students in seventh and eighth grades will be more educationally beneficial. “Three years at Dodd will allow for a better understanding of the needs of the pupil,” Solon said during special meeting with the Town Council Thursday. A new middle school configuration would also allow sixth-graders to take advantage of some new extra-curricular activities that aren’t currently available at the elementary school level, he said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE 

Milford Silver Sands State Park build-out project may be halted

MILFORD >> The controversial build-out of Silver Sands State Park is one step closer to being halted — at least temporarily — after the state Senate recently unanimously passed a bill spearheaded by state Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford. If it were passed by the House and signed by the governor, the bill would ensure the state could not pursue the controversial construction project at Silver Sands for at least two years without the approval of city leaders. “The people of Milford don’t want this build-out of their beach, and the state of Connecticut simply cannot afford it,” said Slossberg, who has lobbied to halt the project, estimated to cost $10 million at a time when the state faces a huge budget deficit. “This project was ill-conceived from the start, and I’m glad we were able to put a stop to it. ... People deserve to have a say in what happens to their community, particularly when it comes to major, transformative construction projects like what had been proposed at Silver Sands.”
The bill still must pass in the House and be signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.  Milford’s House delegation, Kim Rose, a Democrat, and Republicans Pam Staneski and Charlie Ferraro, will work for its final passage, according to a press release from Slossberg’s office. The bill passed the Environment Committee in March.  Hundreds of residents had their say more than a year ago at a public information session and made it clear they oppose the work, which would include adding amenities such as a snack bar, bathhouse, storage building for maintenance equipment and booth for collecting a parking fee. There is no parking fee at the 297-acre property overlooking Long Island Sound. The park is uniquely situated next to three residential neighborhoods. One of the major fears of neighbors is that park visitors looking to dodge a new, substantial parking fee would park on residential streets.
Milford residents also railed against the concept of a parking fee, saying it would prohibit some families from using the park.State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials said months ago they may consider revisions to the plan based on input, but the overall project, including a parking charge, is likely to go forward.If the park were revamped, fees would likely be the same as at the other state coastal parks, DEEP officials have said.  Those seasonal fees roughly between Memorial Day and Labor Day are $9 plus tax on weekdays for state residents, and $13 plus tax on weekends; and for non-state residents, $15 plus tax during the week and $22 plus tax on weekends.

Construction Group Launches New Highway Work Zone Safety Effort

Fourty-four percent of highway contractors reported that motor vehicles had crashed into their construction work zones during the past year, according to the results of a new highway work zone study conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America. As a result, association officials launched a new national advertising and outreach campaign to urge motorists to stay alert and slow down while driving through highway work zones.
"There is no meeting, email or text that is more important than the safety of workers or motorists," Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer for the association. "It is absolutely essential for every driver to slow down, pay attention and put the phone down while driving through highway work zones."
Sandherr said that 49 percent of contractors who reported work zone crashes on their projects said that motor vehicle operators or passengers were injured, and 13 percent of those crashes involved a driver or passenger fatality. Highway work zone crashes also pose a significant risk for construction workers, Sandherr noted. He said 25 percent of work zone crashes injure construction workers and 11 percent of those crashes kill them.
Work zone crashes also have a pronounced impact on construction schedules and costs, Sandherr said. He noted that 27 percent of contractors reported that work zone crashes during the past year have forced them to temporarily shut down construction activity. Those delays were often lengthy, as 52 percent of those project shutdowns lasted two or more days.
Association officials said that a majority of contractors (82 percent) report that motor vehicle crashes pose a greater risk today than they did just ten years ago. That is why the association is launching a new national advertising campaign that is designed to help improve the safety of the nation's highway work zones.
Sandherr noted that the campaign will feature new radio ads that will air in dozens of cities around the country that caution drivers to be careful in highway work zones. The ads warn drivers that speeding, texting and losing focus while in work zones aren't worth the "nightmare" of killing workers, drivers or passengers.
"With the summer travel season starting this weekend, our message to every motorist is this: when you see construction signs and orange barrels, take your foot off the gas, get off the phone and keep your eyes on the road," the highway contractor added. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

CTDOT Initiates Planning for State's Rail System Future

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) announced the selection of a consultant team to assist the department with planning for the future of the New Haven Line and the entire statewide rail system. Developing the investment program to significantly improve the performance of the rail system is a key element of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's Let's Go CT! 30-year, $100 billion transportation vision.
The team will be composed of experts from three nationally respected firms — AECOM, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and STV — and will initially be tasked with developing a strategy to improve capacity, frequency, and speed of rail service on the New Haven Line. This plan, informally known as the “2+2” Plan, calls for running local trains on two outer tracks and express trains on the two inner tracks. The study will develop service and infrastructure investment strategies to achieve key performance targets for the rail system and evaluate the optimal strategy for creating direct service to New York Penn Station as well as to Grand Central Terminal.
This work effort, funded by an initial allocation of $3 million by the State Bond Commission from “Let's Go CT”, will inform future capital investment decisions such as the configuration of new rail stations, rail yard improvements, interlockings — allowing a train to switch from one track to another — and procurement of addition rail cars and locomotives.
“This critically important initiative marks the beginning of a new era in the state's rail system, moving us from the traditional commuter business model to a dynamic, interconnected transit network. Customers and business leaders are demanding these new services, which will unleash the true economic potential of Connecticut's communities,” said CTDOT Commissioner James Redeker.
“With the opening of the Hartford Line next year, we have an opportunity to take a fresh look at rail service across the state, to rethink schedules, fares, branding and other operational details. It will soon be possible to travel with ease between Hartford and the state's major cities along the coast,” said Richard Andreski, CTDOT bureau chief of public transportation.
“The initial phase of the study will look at various concepts and alternatives for future train service and potential investment needs. The first phase including recommendations on the future rail car and locomotive purchases will be completed next year. It will then be up to CTDOT, the General Assembly and the Governor to act on any recommendations,” he said.

Housing project on track in Waterbury

WATERBURY – A push to redevelop a former Cherry Avenue clock factory, now used as a plumbing warehouse, into apartments seems to be picking up steam. Even a recent finding of slight radium contamination in part of the building seems no impediment.
In 2016, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority granted $769,302 in low-income tax credits to Cherry Avenue Partners to build 40 apartments inside 145 Cherry Ave., which recently served as headquarters to Bender Plumbing and is still used for warehousing.
Earlier this month, the Connecticut Bond Commission granted a $3.2 million low-interest loan, over 35 years, to Cherry Avenue Partners.
A recent finding of radium contamination by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission seems no impediment. Developer Harold Foley III, a Georgia-based principal of Cherry Avenue Partners, said the project’s $13.9 million budget accounts for cleanup costs.
We are aware of it and we have a remediation plan that will end up costing us $108,000,” Foley said. “Initially we were very concerned about it, but not after going through with our due diligence and scoping.”
The federal agency says it found elevated radiation levels in a corner of the seventh floor at 145 Cherry Ave.
Radium is a radioactive substance that was used up until the 1970s to make clock hands and other instruments glow. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, exposure has been linked to anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, cancer and death. It’s uncertain how much exposure is needed to affect health, according to the federal agency.
Given the limited use of the seventh floor of the Bender Building, the federal agency found no immediate risk to health.
Foley said radium has been found on the floorboards, which will be removed and disposed of properly. It’s his understanding this area was used for the painting of clock dials.
Foley said he expects to complete a purchase of the building in June and begin work in 30 days. He said 80 percent of the loft-style apartments in the building would be rented at “affordable” rates, with the others being rented at market rates. He envisions granite countertops and hardwood floors.
“We just think overall it will be a beautiful building, comparable, if not better, than the Carroll Apartments,” Foley said.
Foley was involved in the redevelopment of the Carroll Building on lower Willow Street. The 110-year-old building was essentially a five-story, hollow husk with boarded-up windows when Foley’s partnership bought it for $511,000 in December 2015. The building has since been renovated into 35 apartments.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

May 26, 2017

CT Construction Digest Friday May 26, 2017

Saugatuck Island Bridge construction in full swing, pricing still a point of contention

WESTPORT — The project to replace the 88-year-old Saugatuck Island Bridge is going well and set to be completed by Aug. 15.
Rob Corroon, a member of the Saugatuck Island special taxing district board, said the project is running smoothly.
“Everything’s going very well,” Corroon said. “It’s a pleasure to work with the town of Westport. The folks in public works are the best of the best. The bridge is moving along and they don’t seem to be having any major issues.”
Residents were inconvenienced the week of May 12 when there was a temporary power outage for two hours to accommodate the switch from permanent electricity to mobile generators. The mobile generator — a needed feature while construction if ongoing — caused some disruption because of how loud it was when operating, but was tolerable, according to Corroon.
The cost of the $2.6 million steel replacement bridge is half funded by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, secured due to damage Hurricane Sandy caused in 2012. The other $1.3 million price tag is split equally between the town and the Saugatuck Island special taxing district.
But in a June 2015 RTM meeting, Public Works Director Steve Edwards gave his “conservative estimate” that the bridge would cost a total of $1.7 million and added that he hoped the price would be less than that. In fact, the actual cost is now expected at almost $1 million more.
“The bridge cost went from $1.7 million to $2.6 million—this is a problem for the people of the town,” Jennifer Johnson, RTM 9, said on Wednesday, adding that she felt the increase in cost was not handled in a transparent manner.
Edwards did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In an October RTM meeting Edwards explained the bids came in higher than expected.
“The final costs did come in considerably above what our initial estimate was, but because we had really good, competitive bids, we are comfortable that these are the real costs,” he said. “It’s not an arbitrary high level. It is an actual bid number reflecting the complexity of the project.”
Even as construction is ongoing, Johnson is still frustrated with the way in which the costs were distributed equally between the private island and the town for a one-lane bridge that serves the residents of Saugatuck Island.
“The town is being extremely generous in what it’s funding. The town is not funding 50-50 for private roads that snow plows have trouble getting up,” Johnson said.

Gov. Malloy suspends DOT construction for holiday weekend

All regular construction-related activity on Connecticut state highways and roads will be suspended for the Memorial Day Weekend to allow easier travel, according to a release from the governor’s office.
Gov. Dannel Malloy announced the brief construction hiatus will begin Friday at 6 a.m. and last through Tuesday at 6 a.m., the release said.
“Memorial Day has traditionally been the unofficial start of summer and one of the busiest travel days of the year, and we do not want our state’s residents to worry about any additional delays because of roadwork this weekend,” Malloy said in a prepared statement.
Only emergency work will be performed during the weekend, if necessary, according to the release.
Connecticut DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker supported the decision.
“Suspending work on a busy holiday weekend only makes sense,” Redeker said in a prepared statement.
NORWALK — By midday Thursday, two boaters had launched their vessels into the water under windy, rainy skies at the newly renovated Norwalk Visitor’s Docks at Veterans Memorial Park.
The weather was hardly ideal for the reopening day of the David S. Dunavan Boating Center, but Dock Master Neil Hershkowitz expects business to pick up over the Memorial Day weekend.
“One boat was about 34 foot and one was like 27 foot — nice size boats,” said Hershkowitz, referring to the first boats that rolled into the water after the renovations. “But again, it was just a start. If it’s nice weather, we’ll be busy Friday and Saturday.”
Under a $2.1 million contract with city, Holzner Construction of Bridgeport replaced the deteriorated underwater wooden launch ramps with massive full-width concrete ramps, installed a retaining wall and raised the parking lot at the Visitor’s Docks.
The old ramps left boaters dependent upon the tide when deciding whether to launch their vessels. A miscalculation often ended with a call to a towing company to get a stuck boat trailer pulled out. Hershkowitz doesn’t foresee that happening anymore.
“It’s a concrete-type launch,” said Hershkowitz, a parks department employee. “There’s no low spots so you can launch at any time. That’s the beauty of it.”
While the new ramps, parking lot and retaining wall are in place, the boating center office and pump station were running on generator power Thursday as Noreast Generator finished hooking up electricity.
The parks department had targeted May 1 as the reopening day for the Visitor’s Docks, but the city and its contractor were slapped late winter with a violation notice by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection over the handling of dredged materials. After testing, DEEP allowed the material to be returned to the water but fined the city $6,000, and the reopening date was pushed back several times.
The delay wasn’t good news for fishermen who like to get into the water in April. At times, the phone rang off the hook at nearby Fisherman’s World at the corner of Seaview Avenue and Fort Point Street.
“There’s going to be a lot of relief for people that have been itching to get into the water,” said Rich Mahoney, an employee at the store, before addressing usage of the public launch ramps. “Some people, if they belong to a marina, the marinas will put them in the water, but if you’re just a guy that keeps their boat in the trailer in their yard or in their driveway, you’re kind of out of luck (without the ramps).”
Although the Visitor’s Docks have reopened, they will be closed from 11 p.m. Sunday, May 28, through noon Monday, May 29, to make room for Norwalk’s 2017 Memorial Day Parade, which will step off from the park. No overnight parking will be allowed and violators will find their vehicles towed at their expense.

Bristol Hospital offers glimpse of proposed ambulatory center

A centrally located plot of land in downtown Bristol that has been vacant since a former mall was demolished there nearly a decade ago could look much different by 2019.
On Thursday, Bristol Hospital released renderings of a proposed 60,000-square-foot ambulatory center that would house specialty practices, lab space, therapy services and a ground-floor cafe.
The hospital has partnered with Florida-based Rendina Healthcare Real Estate, which will build and own the three-story building. The hospital would lease the building from Rendina.
The parties have not disclosed the price of the project.
City officials signed a purchase and sale agreement with Bristol Hospital last month for the land a 4-plus-acre portion of Centre Square (formerly known as Depot Square).
The deed has not yet transferred, but Mayor Ken Cockayne said Thursday that the hospital will pay approximately $50,000 per acre for the property, which is located between Main and North Main streets, about half a mile from the hospital's Brewster Road campus.
"The hospital has stepped up to the plate when no one else wanted to," Cockayne said, adding that the deal has already drawn interest from at least one other developer who may want to build mixed-use space at the square. "This will change downtown."
The building, which still needs local approvals, would be subject to local property tax, though Bristol officials have granted an abatement that starts at a 100 percent discount and declines in stages over a 10-year period, Cockayne said. Personal property taxes would not be abated, he added.
Bristol Hospital hopes to break ground later this year and complete the building by 2019.
A previous developer for the site of the former Bristol Centre Mall, Renaissance Downtowns, wanted to build apartments, shops and restaurants at the site, but the deal fell apart two years ago when Renaissance asked the city to provide $4 million towards the project.

Malloy Campaigns For XL Center Renovations

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy used a visit Thursday to the city's XL Center to campaign for an aggressive, $250 million makeover, as a key legislative committee has whittled away at his initial requests to get to project moving.
Malloy is seeking $50 million in 2018 and $75 million in 2019, one half of the renovations, which would be completed over three or four years. But the request, which would be financed through the sale of bonds, was cut deeply by the finance, revenue and bonding committee to $40 million and $35 million.
Malloy warned that smaller investments would only drive up the costs.
"If you don't put enough money into those various stages, what you'll end up with is more years," Malloy said, in a news conference. "Now, more years means more construction inflation, means more events not taking place in the facility, means a disruption in usage as well as the cost." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE


May 25, 2017

CT Construction Digest Thursday May 25, 2017

Natural gas likely in New Canaan by 2018\

NEW CANAAN — After 10 years of talk, the first natural gas lines may be in New Canaan by summer 2018.
As conversations between Eversource and town officials continue, it was announced the expected route for a pipeline into town — along Hillcrest Road and Springwater and Adams lanes — has changed.
According to First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III, Eversource is now eyeing Route 106 as the preferred route into town.
“We’re still talking with them. Their first foray into town is just going to be getting into the schools. It’s not until they get here that they’ll do their outreach and figure out how many customers they have,” Mallozzi said.
In time, Mallozzi said Eversource has indicated they hope to spread into New Canaan, beyond the 4.7 miles of pipe that is planned to be laid beginning at the border line with Stamford on Route 106 and across Farm Road, where it will connect with New Canaan High School, Saxe Middle School, South School, Waveny Care Center and the New Canaan YMCA, according to Director of Public Works Tiger Mann. East Elementary School may also be included in that list, though Mann said it was uncertain at this point.
The public buildings along the route have all been equipped with dual fuel-burning furnaces equipped to handle natural gas, Mallozzi said, meaning the town’s contribution to building the infrastructure is complete.
The result could be major savings on energy costs for the town, as well as residents.
“Oil prices have come down, but gas prices remain historically low. There would be significant savings for town buildings and homes,” Mallozzi said, though he said residential homeowners would need to invest in gas-burning furnaces before making the utilities switch.
Discussions between the town and Eversource — at the time Yankee Gas — began roughly 10 years ago, according to Mallozzi and Mann.
“A lot of it had to do with Eversource. They couldn’t find a route. A lot of the hurdles early on had to do with how they were going to come in and actually bring gas to us,” Mann said.
Mallozzi is hopeful that by incorporating large town-owned buildings, Eversource will have plenty of incentive to move into New Canaan.
“By letting them come in here and get larger users, given them the ability to spread out the gas line,” Mallozzi said. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

House Dems say 'budgetary relief' is the price of a new casino

If the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes want the House to join the Senate in granting them the right to build a casino off tribal lands, they must pay for the privilege and give Connecticut a measure of "budgetary relief," House Democratic leaders said Wednesday.
"The bill that passed the state Senate cannot pass the House as currently written," said House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford.
The Senate bill imposes a 25-percent tax on gross gaming revenues, but no licensing fee or other upfront payments, a disappointment to House Democrats who were hoping for as much as $100 million in new gambling dollars to help balance the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said a majority of House Democrats support the expansion of casino gambling, but they believe the state should extract a licensing fee from whomever is granted development rights, whether it is the tribes or their competitor, MGM Resorts International.
"We believe in the House that the exclusivity aspect of expanded gambling in the state of Connecticut is worth something," Aresimowicz said. "We believe in the House that expanded gambling in the state of Connecticut is worth something through the bidding process. The Senate didn't think so. We respectfully disagree. We'll work on the bill as it comes down and see what we can do to provide budgetary relief for our residents."
The Senate voted 24-12 early Wednesday for a bill permitting the tribes to jointly develop a commercial casino offI-91 in East Windsor to compete with the MGM casino under construction over the state line in Springfield. The Senate sees the project as blunting the loss of market share and stabilizing gaming revenue now collected by the state.
MGM says the state could do better with an open competition for the rights to a casino in Connecticut, especially if it considers a site in lower Fairfield County that could draw customers from metropolitan New York.
A complication is the agreement the state struck with the tribes in the 1990s: In return for exclusive rights to casino gambling for the tribal casinos, Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun, the tribes pay the state 25 percent of their gross slots revenue, which is expected to generate $260 million for the state.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has threatened to veto an open-competition bill or any other measure he sees as costing the state $260 million. A crucial question facing the House: If they opt for an open competition, would the state lose its slots revenue upon passage — or only after a new casino is open and generating revenue for Connecticut? CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Connecticut Office of Policy and Management backs New Haven in Union Station fight with DOT

NEW HAVEN >> New Haven apparently has an ally in the Office of Policy and Management when it comes to criticism of the garage proposed for Union Station.
New Haven officials, neighborhood groups and cycling advocates have rejected the design of the garage as half a century out of date.They also objected to the lack of first-floor retail, the size of the facility, skimpy accommodations for bicycles and a pedestrian bridge behind the garage that would only be accessible to state Department of Transportation and rail personnel.Bruce Wittchen at OPM reviewed the draft Environmental Impact Evaluation on the garage, which was presented to the public by the DOT in June 2016.  Wittchen said the EIE must include “an analysis of the short-term and long-term economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of the proposed action.” He said OPM had asked about the impact on the neighborhood, beyond just “the usual traffic and mobility measure. While it refers to some transportation analysis, Wittchen said it “says little about other neighborhood impacts or about their mitigation.” The OPM official said media reports on the public’s reaction “suggest that significant concerns have not yet been addressed.” Over the years the state DOT has worked on studies with the city on future development of the station itself and the area. The city has also been working to put its Hill to Downtown blueprint of residential and commercial growth in the area into effect.
“There has been substantial private, municipal and state investment and planning in the station area and this environmental review should give such concerns a corresponding level of consideration,” Wittchen wrote about the draft report. He also quoted from two commenters. “I think it was clear to anyone at the meeting that the singular focus for the design of the new garage is to accommodate as many suburban train commuters as possible. There is not a single design element that factors in economic or transportation benefits for the city of New Haven,” one person said. If the garage is not revamped, the commenter said it should not be built at all.  “Given concerns raised in meetings, the media and elsewhere, this EIE should thoroughly analyze the potential impacts on current or planned neighborhood functions and justify why the state’s preferred alternative dedicates this space and funding to expand parking,” Wittchen wrote. The OPM official wanted to know whether DOT has also looked into the potential change in parking demand at Union Station from the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line enchancements as well as the new stations along the Metro-North line. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Trump Team Eyes Public Asset Sales to Pay for Infrastructure

The Trump administration is eyeing plans to encourage the sale of public assets, such as airports and bridges, to help pay for a $1 trillion overhaul of the nation's aging infrastructure, an administration official said Wednesday.
In his budget proposal, Trump called for spending $200 billion over a decade to spur private, state and local spending on roads, highway stops and more of the country's connective systems that need an expensive overhaul. The real-estate mogul-turned president who has courted the construction industry is now leading an effort to pay for the massive project with some combination of public and private cash. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has said over the past few weeks that the plan is being written by a 16-agency task force.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump advisers are considering enticing state and local governments to sell some of their assets by paying them a bonus for doing so. The proceeds of the sales would then go to infrastructure projects. In some cases, the private buyers could make profits by charging fees.
Department of Transportation officials pointed to a project at St. Louis Lambert International Airport as an example. Last month, Chao announced the airport would become part of a privatization test program paid for in part by grants and using some land to boost parking cargo revenue. The program “is designed to allow airports to generate access to sources of private capital for airport improvement and development,” according to the agency.
Democrats and some activists have criticized the still-being-written policy as a rush to benefit private industry without going through environmental and other vetting.—AP

May 24, 2017

CT Construction Digest Wednesday May 24, 2017

Work progressing on Queen Street plaza in Southington

SOUTHINGTON — Workers have started on the foundation for an Aldi supermarket on Queen Street as part of a larger development that may mean the demolition of several nearby buildings.
The grocery store will sit farthest back from the road while a Chipotle Mexican Grill and Chick-fil-A will be built closer to Queen Street.
The property is owned by local developer John Senese. He bought several parcels, including a shuttered Chinese restaurant and a former 7-Eleven, for the plaza. The developer also cleaned up pollution caused by a metal plating company on the site. Senese couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Senese rezoned nearby homes on Upson Drive for a driveway to his plaza. In the past two weeks, trees and brush have been cleared near homes, according to Pete Benzi, who has rented a house on Upson Drive from Senese since November. Whether or not his home will be demolished is “up in the air,” Benzi said. He was told that the house next door at 4 Upson Drive will be razed. Benzi said workers removed asbestos from the home, a prerequisite to demolition.
He’s glad brush is gone but misses the trees between his house and busy Queen Street.
It’s unclear when the new businesses will open. A sign advertised open positions at the Aldi supermarket, directing people to apply at nearby Aldi locations.
Building Department officials said they haven’t received any demolition permit requests for the properties.
It’s not clear whether the 7-Eleven will also be demolished. Two homes south of the former convenience store, also owned by Senese, appeared vacant Tuesday.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the development last summer along with the rezoning of several homes. Senese has faced opposition from some residents of the neighborhood sandwiched between stores and restaurants, but a majority of the area’s property owners voted to lift a restrictive covenant that would have prevented the residential properties from being rezoned. Some residents, such as Don Johnson Jr., said the developer’s interest is a good opportunity to sell their 1950s-era homes.
Town Planner Rob Philips said the approval included the consolidation of three properties to two and the demolition of one house for a driveway.
Senese wanted to rezone more residential properties but was denied by the PZC earlier this year. Commission members and Philips said the entire neighborhood might be rezoned business but not piecemeal as was proposed. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
MERIDEN — Construction is expected to begin soon on new taxi lanes at Meriden-Markham Airport.
The new lanes will connect the Evansville Avenue airport’s main runway to an area where 16 new hangars are planned for early next year. A Federal Aviation Administration grant will cover more than 90 percent of the $220,000 cost of the taxi lanes, while the city bonded $1.3 million for the hangars.
“Some of our tenants have been waiting 20 years for a hangar,” said city Purchasing Officer Wilma Petro. “We’re very, very excited about the taxi lane project because we cannot do the hangar project until we do the taxi lanes, so I can’t wait for it to get started and I literally have tenants asking me every day when they are going to get their hangars.”
Petro said it will be the largest expansion project in 50 years at the airport, which was established in 1928. The hangars are planned for a vacant, grassy area north of the airport’s solar panels. -Last week, the City Council authorized City Manager Guy Scaife to finalize the FAA grant application for the taxi lanes. The airport currently has 12 hangars — four box hangars on the north field, six T-hangars on the south field and two large Quonset huts that hold 11 planes.
The 16 new hangars will not be enough to accommodate a waiting list of more than 60 pilots since most of the new hangars will only house one airplane.
“It won’t cover the waiting list, but it is a nice step in the right direction,” airport manager Constance Castillo said.
Work on the taxi lanes could start in four weeks, Petro said. The hangars will likely not be constructed until early next year.
Construction will not interfere with airport activities, Petro said
According to the 2017 Bridge Report on the ARTBA website there are 185 million daily crossings on nearly 56,000 structurally deficient bridges in the United States. Below is a list of the top 10 states that have 9% and higher bridges that are structurally deficient.
1. Iowa
The Savanna-Sabula Bridge was dubbed replaced after 84 years in service connecting Sabula, IA with Illinois. Photo: Kevin E. Schmidt/Quad City Times.
At the number one spot for the last two years, Iowa's percentage of structurally deficient bridges totaled in at a whopping 20.5% in 2016. With 4,968 bridges listed as deficient, this number is actually down from 2015, which was at 5, 025.
2. Pennsylvania
Costs for repairing the fire-damaged Liberty Bridge in Pittsburgh PA were set to $80 million. Photo: Steve Mellon/ Post Gazette
The Keystone state is often referred to as the worst state to drive as far as road conditions go, but it's ranked as a solid second for 2016. The total of structurally deficient bridges for the year was 4,506, which is 19.8% of the total inventory. CLICK TITLE TO CONTNUE

President Trump's Fiscal 2018 Budget Provides an Important First Step in Addressing Infrastructure Needs, Setting Spending Priorities

The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E. Sandherr, released the following statement in reaction to the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget released today by the Trump administration:
"While it is tempting to identify specific elements of the President's proposed budget that we like and other elements that cause us concern, the fact is members of Congress will likely continue to exercise their Constitutional responsibility to set the federal budget. Therefore it is better to see this document for what it is, a policy statement designed to provoke significant and productive debate about the best way to address the nation's aging infrastructure while simultaneously suggesting appropriate spending priorities.
"As a policy document, this budget provides an important, and much-needed, first step in identifying the best ways to pay for needed improvements, and expansions, to our aging infrastructure. The President rightly appreciates the need to increase investment levels significantly above current amounts. Moving forward, we plan to work with Congress and the administration to identify the right balance of private and public funds and establish long-term, sustainable funding sources that will allow us to repair and improve infrastructure for decades to come.
 "We also look forward to working with Congress and the administration to identify the best way to set broader federal spending priorities. We need to make sure federal officials prioritize spending in a way that continues to promote robust economic growth and begins to produce well-educated, well-trained workers for every sector of our economy.
"While it is easy to criticize specific elements of this or any other proposed budget, the President should be commended for doing what too few other politicians have been willing to do: make it clear that we need to make tough choices about future spending priorities, be willing to rethink long-held programmatic assumptions, significantly increase funding for America's infrastructure and find new ways to leverage private-sector resources to supplement federal investments." CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Farmington Council Sends New High School To Referendum

A proposal to build a new, $135-million Farmington High School will go before voters in a town referendum on June 15, the town council voted late Tuesday night. 
The vote came after about four hours of discussion and public input from more than 30 people, a third of whom opposed the project. Like the one dissenting vote, council member Jon Landry, opponents called the plan fiscally irresponsible and poorly timed, arguing that taxes will already be increasing as the town pays to upgrade its water treatment facility, and they noted there is no guarantee that the state will chip in $25 million – the amount the town hopes to receive by way of a school construction reimbursement grant.
But most residents, and six of the seven town council members, said they either support the construction or want to place the plan in the hands of residents, who will now vote on whether to authorize the town to borrow a total of $184 million, including interest, over 20 years to build the new school.
"As a Farmington homeowner, this is a very good move for me and for all of you," Jessica Lister said. "Schools are central to our identity as a town and we are in danger of losing that keystone to our identity if we continue to allow our high school to slip."
The proposed project was steered by a town building committee to address a slew of problems at the aging school, including lack of wheelchair accessibility to some areas.
Students and parents alike described the issues Tuesday as embarrassing and irreconcilable with the quality of the school's curriculum, teachers and standards: Classrooms that swing from sweltering to freezing cold, outdated technology, walls with mold and ceilings with leaks.
Elise Dudley, a sophomore, said she had an asthma attack during an English exam from the mold in one room. During a history exam, the power went out, nearly compromising the laptops students needed to finish their test.  CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

State Senate passes casino bill favoring Mashantuckets, Mohegans

The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes won the first half of their home-court fight with MGM Resorts International over the rights to gaming expansion in Connecticut as the Senate voted 24-12 early Wednesday for a bill authorizing the tribes to jointly develop the state’s first casino off tribal lands.
The bill that now goes to an uncertain fate in the House of Representatives would allow the tribes to build a casino off I-91 in East Windsor in an effort to blunt the loss of gambling dollars to Massachusetts once MGM opens a gambling resort under construction in Springfield.
“We did what we had to do. We stood up for Connecticut workers,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said shortly before the final vote at 12:35 a.m.
The Senate unexpectedly took up the bill shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, a day when MGM intensified its opposition, buying $400,000 in television time to air a commercial saying the state would be forgoing millions of dollars in license fees and other revenue if it cut a no-bid deal with the owners of the tribal casinos.
The tribes would pay no licensing fee under the bill approved Wednesday, only an annual tax equal to 25 percent of gross revenues from table games and slots. The first $4.5 million in slots revenue would be set aside for annual grants of $750,000 to each of six communities: Hartford, East Hartford, Ellington, Enfield, South Windsor and Windsor Locks.
East Windsor would be paid a one-time $8 million development fee, plus property taxes.
Uri Clinton, a senior vice president and legal counsel of MGM Resorts, said his company will press its case in the House, where Democrats have suggested they are seeking $100 million from casino expansion, that Connecticut can do better.
“I think in the middle of a budget crisis, the Senate just took a step to give away a privileged license worth over $100 million,” Clinton said in an interview following the vote. “I think there are people who are very smart in the House who understand the budget crisis. I think as it becomes part of the budget debate, additional options might show up.”
Sen. Douglas McCrory, D-Hartford, dismissed the $750,000 grant as a token payment to a distressed capital city that is considering bankruptcy. He equated the money with giving his constituents a few fish, not the ability to catch them. Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, also opposed passage.
Watching from the gallery was Marc DiBella, the city’s Democratic chairman and one of the lobbyists hired by MMCT, the joint venture of the tribes.
With an eye on tapping the lucrative New York City market, MGM is pushing a bill that would create an open competition for the right to develop a casino resort in lower Fairfield County, a measure opposed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as a threat to a revenue-sharing deal worth about $260 million annually.
In return for the exclusive rights to gaming in Connecticut, the tribes now pay the state 25 percent of the gross slots revenue generated at their Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun casinos, generating $7 billion for the state since 1993. From a high of $430 million in 2007, the slots revenue has dropped each year in the face of growing competition in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

May 23, 2017

CT Construction Digest Tuesday May 23, 2017

CT's 'bridge bank' finds its stride redeveloping downtown Hartford

For years, the 26-story former Bank of America building at 777 Main St. stood as an empty symbol of downtown Hartford's malaise as a hub for employment and urban living.
Today, the skyscraper has been transformed with $85 million in private and public capital into 285 nearly full high-rise living spaces, with a bustling coffee shop and a food market occupying its streetfront commercial spaces. Soon, drugstore chain CVS will relocate its downtown store from across the street, to 777 Main.
Bruce Becker, the New Haven architect-developer who transformed 777 Main from office space to housing, says the building symbolizes something much more positive for Hartford.
"It shows that if something is worth doing in Hartford, it can get done,'' Becker said.
As one of the most complicated office-to-housing conversions ever in this state, it also stands, Becker and others say, as a monument to the deal-making ability and tenacity of the staff at the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), the quasi-public state agency whose roots date to 1998 to spark revitalization of Hartford first, followed by the region.
CRDA has had measurable success in its core mission of presiding over the creation of some 3,000 downtown living units — it's halfway there. But its ever-growing plate has been filled with many more responsibilities, some say too many.
In addition to housing, it manages the state's money-losing Hartford area entertainment/convention venues; oversees 16,600 garage and outdoor parking spaces, plus a central utility plant housed inside the convention center to heat and cool not just that huge building but most of Adriaen's Landing, including the Marriott Hotel and the Connecticut Science Center; oversees the state's investment in the New Haven Connecticut Open tennis tournament; and coordinated and oversaw the rehabilitation of a pair of Hartford office towers the state acquired to relocate several state agencies — 450 Columbus Blvd. and 55 Farmington Ave.
All of that not only adds to the complexity and responsibilities for fulfilling its mission, observers say, but has exposed CRDA to public criticism over plans for a $250 million makeover of the XL Center.
"The workload grows exponentially,'' said Michael W. Freimuth, a former Stamford economic-development director who has been CRDA's first executive director since 2012. "The tasks and responsibilities grow just about every year."
Seeded with two separate $60 million capital infusions, CRDA since its inception has leveraged that money into $373 million in assets on its books against liabilities totaling $149.7 million, according to its fiscal 2016 annual report. Both are up from a year earlier.
Freimuth has a staff of 11 who handle everything from underwriting and vetting redevelopment projects, to ensuring vendors are paid and the lights stay on at the Convention, XL and tennis centers and The Rent. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Jepsen: Letter From Federal Regulators Eases Concerns On Casino Expansion

The operators of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun got another boost in their push for a casino in East Windsor, this time from the attorney general who had raised concerns that the expansion would danger revenue-sharing agreements with the state.
Attorney General George Jepsen said a letter from federal regulators is easing concerns that an expansion of casino gaming off the reservations of the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans would affect agreements that give the state 25 percent of monthly revenue from slot machines.
The issue has grown sensitive with the state's increasingly precarious budget situation. This year, the slots are forecast to bring $267 million to state coffers.
"The Department of Interior's letter appears to affirm that the department's policy and practice when reviewing amendments is not to disturb the underlying existing relationships among states and tribes," Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokeswoman for Jepsen, said in a statement. CLICK TITLE T CONTINUE

May 22, 2017

CT Construction Digest Monday May 22, 2017

Natural gas infrastructure projects must get back on track

t would be a colossal mistake for Connecticut to permanently back away from its commitment to expand energy infrastructure, which would provide increased statewide access to clean, affordable natural gas and support thousands of good-paying jobs.
Connecticut has suffered too long from the highest electricity costs in the nation. High energy costs not only hurt household budgets, but also hold back businesses and undermine job creation. Why would a business — especially an energy-intensive company — relocate or expand in Connecticut if the cost of energy isn’t competitive?
In February 2013, Gov. Dannel Malloy set Connecticut on a course to address our energy, economic and environmental challenges by releasing the state’s first-ever Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES). This plan, supported by the state legislature and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), projected converting 280,000 state energy customers to natural gas over a decade. This conversion would have been made possible through a critically needed expansion of Connecticut’s energy infrastructure, primarily pipelines.
Investing in our energy infrastructure — as envisioned by the CES — was an important step in providing a wide range of environmental and economic benefits, with job creation right at the top. DEEP estimated that construction of new pipelines alone would support 3,000 to 4,000 jobs over a decade. Connecticut construction had suffered severely during the recession, and this marked an opportunity for us to finally create new jobs on a large scale.
As part of the early implementation of the CES, my organization, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 478, sprang into action to meet expected demand for construction of 900 miles on new natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure. Pipelines are designed and built to operate safely for decades, and construction requires skilled, well-trained workers. Our local launched a training program, immediately opening the door for unemployed and underemployed Connecticut construction workers. We even received $4 million worth of equipment and support from our International.
Gov. Malloy visited our training center, where he underscored the broader economic promise of building out our energy infrastructure. “We will have a substantial positive impact on the environment while we lower costs… [and] make Connecticut competitive for jobs,” said the governor. Building pipelines, in other words, will provide the foundation for long-term economic growth and job creation across the economy.
In 2014, CES infrastructure projects began to put Connecticut men and women to work. For example, well-paid, union employees helped build Yankee Gas’ Wilton Expansion Project. In addition to building the pipeline, workers were needed to hook up businesses, schools and municipal buildings, as well as install new boilers. Wilton estimated that it would save $450,000 to $500,000 annually on future energy costs.
Under Gov. Malloy’s CES, this type of scenario should be repeated across the state for years to come. Infrastructure construction will create jobs, lower energy costs and help Connecticut attract jobs and businesses. We’ll also have cleaner air as households replace fuel oil with natural gas for heating. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Malloy: Only realistic 3rd casino option is the tribes’

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy moved forcefully Friday for the first time to focus the legislature’s debate on casino expansion, saying the only measure he would consider signing is a bill granting the owners of Connecticut’s two tribal casinos permission to build a commercial casino in East Windsor to compete with MGM Resorts International in Springfield.
In an interview with CT Mirror, the governor said he remains neutral on the question of whether to expand, but if the General Assembly is going to permit the state’s first casino off tribal lands, then lawmakers should respect the state’s long-standing exclusivity agreement with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribal nations.
The tribes have paid the state $7 billion since 1993 under the terms of agreements in which Connecticut granted gaming exclusivity to the tribal casinos, Foxwoods Resorts and Mohegan Sun, in return for annual payments equal to a 25 percent share of gross slots revenues. The deal is expected to produce at least $260 million for the state this year.
“If I can help the legislature focus, it’s do you want to work with the two tribal nations that employ thousands and thousands of people in our state? If that’s what you’re trying to do to help secure those jobs and that base, then there is one road to go down,” Malloy said. “I will not sign a transaction or bill that puts into real danger our existing arrangement with the tribal nations, nor would anyone in this building who thought about it. And I’m not sure we’ve had that clear, crisp discussion.”
The General Assembly is considering three options: Grant the tribes authority to jointly develop a casino just off I-91 in East Windsor, between Hartford and Springfield; create a competitive process to consider new casinos, including one in Fairfield County that could tap the New York market; or do nothing.
“I’m not pushing it, or pushing against it,” Malloy said. “But I always believe you should have a realistic discussion about realistic outcomes, and it’s not realistic to put $260 million or more at risk.”
Without the Malloy administration’s playing a role, the casino debate has been oddly unfocused. Legislative caucuses have included assumptions of new revenue — $100 million or more — based on fees they hope to collect for rights to a casino in East Windsor or competition for rights to develop a gambling resort in Fairfield County.
But numerous sources say the revenue numbers are not based on negotiations with the tribes, MGM or any other casino company MGM has enticed to look at the Connecticut market. An entry-level question that the legislature has not explored is: Could a casino near New York generate more revenue than is paid by the tribes?
The Senate Democrats caucused on Wednesday to discuss the status of casino expansion, sparking speculation the Senate was getting ready to take up a bill. But the Senate adjourned Thursday without action and will not meet in session again until Tuesday, when only two weeks and a day will remain until the adjournment deadline of midnight June 7. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Bronx developer turns his attention to downtown Norwich

Norwich — Randy Persaud's Stackstone Group website boasts in big letters: “What We Do: Revitalize Forgotten Communities.”
In downtown Norwich, Persaud believes he has found the perfect candidate for his Bronx, N.Y.-based five-person development and project management team to show its stuff. The three-year-old firm has rehabbed residential and commercial buildings in the Bronx and one six-unit Tudor building in New Britain and is branching out to more towns in Connecticut and upstate New York.
Persaud has been visiting the region to go to the casinos in recent years, and friends who live here and do business here and in New York invited him to take a look around in eastern Connecticut.
“They tell me I should come here and do stuff,” Persaud said Friday at his remote office in the Norwich Community Development Corp.'s Foundry 66 building at 66 Franklin St.
Persaud has been scoping out downtown Norwich since March, boosted by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's plans for a major entertainment and resort complex at the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston, a 5-minute drive away.
His company now has contracts to purchase three vacant, derelict buildings on lower Broadway: the Fairhaven at 26-28 Broadway across from the Wauregan and two smaller buildings that sandwich Billy Wilson's Aging Still, one at 51-53 Broadway and the other 59-61 Broadway.
Persaud hopes to close on the properties — which all have different owners — sometime in June and begin renovations shortly thereafter. He already has engineers and architects working on plans for mixed-use residential and retail/commercial development, he said. He declined to discuss details until he acquires the properties.
“The thing that intrigued me the most,” Persaud said of downtown Norwich, “was how can a place so beautiful be so desolate? This place needs a shot of adrenaline.”
Persaud has met with city officials in several agencies who serve on a review team that counsels prospective developers on what they will need to do. He also has walked through downtown with NCDC President Robert Mills to view available properties. He hopes the lower Broadway block will be the start of his Norwich investments.
He is aware of the negative attitude that appears pervasive about revitalization prospects for downtown and that others have tried and given up. He hopes to prove the naysayers wrong by starting with the highly visible commercial block directly in front of City Hall.
“We want a holistic strategy,” Persaud said. “If we can take one area in Norwich and restore it, then we will rinse and repeat.”
Persaud said he is aware that others have tackled the Fairhaven building in recent years. It has been renovated twice in the past decade only to return to its current derelict state. Persaud said by upgrading the entire block, he hopes to sustain all three buildings, improving the surrounding area, as well. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Home builders can't find enough workers

There's a huge "help wanted" sign hanging over the home building industry.
Builders throughout the country are struggling to find workers, and it's causing major problems: Labor costs are rising, homes are taking longer to complete and buyers are facing higher prices.
"We are now at the point that there is a serious shortage of workers," said Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders. "It's a real problem that ripples throughout the home-building process that ultimately costs the consumer."
When the housing market collapsed nearly a decade ago, home construction came to a screeching halt, leaving many workers in the field without jobs.
Workers fled to other industries or other countries, and many haven't come back. Some took jobs in the manufacturing and auto industries, while others found work in the energy sector.
"Simply, they were getting any work they could and had to go into other sectors to find ways to put food on the table," said Howard.
Foreign-born workers, the vast majority of whom come from Mexico and the Americas, make up a chunk of home builders' crews, and many returned home during the Great Recession and ultimately found gainful employment there.
"A lot of workers went back to Mexico," said Alan Laing, executive vice president at Taylor Morrison Home Corporation, a national home builder. "The Mexican economy has improved during that time so it's not a compelling proposition to come here. The immigration policies and employment practices make it harder for undocumented workers to gain employment."
What's more, the flow of immigrants into the industry has been slowing for awhile.
"The spigot was sort of being turned off in the later part of the George W. Bush administration and throughout the Obama administration," Howard said. "So it probably started then and got worse and worse."
In April 2006, the industry employed roughly 3.4 million workers, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Last month, home building employment was 2.7 million. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

New accounting rule gradually brings corporate tax breaks to light

Want to know how much money governments give away in corporate tax breaks? Good luck.
For years, the figure has been incredibly difficult to calculate. That’s because states, cities and other government units haven’t been directed to uniformly report the value attached to the various tax incentives, abatements and financing deals they agree to as a way of stimulating economic growth.A major accounting shift taking place across the U.S. now is changing things.The nonprofit Government Accounting Standards Board changed its guidelines beginning in 2016 to require reporting of economic development tax breaks.
For the first time, state, local, county and township governments were instructed to include in their annual reports information on their tax abatement programs. That included how many such deals they had going, the amount of tax revenue foregone and the value of any non-tax commitments, such as land purchases or utility structures, they had agreed to contribute in order to seal the deals.Watchdog groups praised it as an important precursor to debating whether such incentives are a good investment for taxpayers.“Before you get to the question of whether they’re getting their money’s worth, you have to know how much is being spent,” said Zach Schiller, director of research for Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland-based think tank that tracks government budget issues.Rollout of the new guidelines has not been without its hiccups, however. The accounting board late last month had to issue a clarification to its rule to assure that governments are reporting one of the most widely used economic development tools: the tax increment financing, or TIF, district.
 The mechanism has been used to develop the Polaris Fashion Place mall in Columbus; the Harbor Point Project in Stamford, Connecticut; Mesa del Sol in Albuquerque; the downtown Union Station in Denver; the Red Wings hockey stadium in Detroit; the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California; and a Cabela’s in Fort Worth, Texas, that promoters expected to draw more tourists than the Alamo, among dozens of other projects. Columbus, one of the first big cities to comply with the new rule, had opted not to list its TIFs in the tax abatement section of its 2016 financial report. Its decision appeared to comply with guidance on the matter issued by Ohio’s state auditor, Republican Dave Yost. Yost spokesman, Ben Marrison, said the guideline was based on the fact that there’s no reduction in revenue to the city under a TIF. “The existing taxes remain unchanged,” he said. “The property taxes that would have been collected on the improvements are collected from the property owner in a different form, but generally in the same amount.” CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

May 19, 2017

CT Construction Digest Friday May 19, 2017

Construction to begin on Brookfield’s streetscape

BROOKFIELD — If all goes to plan, the town will begin construction on its new downtown within weeks.
For the past five years, officials have been working in earnest to revitalize the Brookfield Town Center, more commonly known as the Four Corners.
In February, voters approved $1.7 million to top off the funding from grants for the first phase of a streetscape project that will add sidewalks, lights and parking to the area.
The town expects the state this week to approve its recommendation for a firm to head the project.
The town received bids from four firms last week, with base prices ranging from $1.6 million to $1.9 million. The chosen firm will be required to substantially complete the project by mid-November and be completely finished by mid-December.
As long as the firm starts in June as expected, Project Manager Greg Dembowski said, this should not be a problem. Construction is anticipated to take four to five months.
Dembowski and other project leaders met with business owners Tuesday afternoon to update them and reaffirm their commitment to work together.
“If you’ve got questions or issues or concerns, come to us,” First Selectman Steve Dunn told the business owners. “We want to work with you. We want to make this as painless as possible. It’s not going to be easy for a few months, but I think it’s going to improve the town center. It’s going to increase property values for everybody and when we’re done, we’re going to have a beautiful downtown.”
The town is working with business owners to move 18 mailboxes that sit where the sidewalks and parking spots will be. The town asked the businesses to purchase a post office box or agree to use a community mailbox.
Dunn said the town would pay for the businesses’ first year of the post office box and to set up the community mailbox.
“You’re working with us to accommodate the town,” Dunn said. “We’re working with you, so I think that’s a fair way to approach it.”
Some businesses will have to move their road signs, so Dembowski encouraged business owners to adhere to the zoning regulation’s standards for signs downtown. The town will pay for businesses to switch to the new standard if they do so now.
The first phase runs from the Federal and Station roads intersection south to Brookfield Funeral Home, north to Alexander’s Restaurant, west to the edge of the Mobil station and east to the Brookfield Craft Center. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

Cheshire officials present $106.4 million middle school plan

CHESHIRE — Architects proposed a three-story, 185,000-square-foot, $106.4 million middle school at Cheshire Park to replace Dodd Middle School at a public hearing Thursday.
Consultants said the town would likely pay more than $70 million, with the rest coming from the state.
Cheshire Park’s existing fields and facilities won’t be disturbed by the project. The school will be set back from Route 10 and have access from Country Club Road.
Ryszard Szczypek, an architect and educational planner with TSKP Studio, said he and other consultants evaluated more than a dozen parcels in town that would meet the needs of the new school, which included 20 acres and utility connections
Although it’s somewhat uneven, the Cheshire Park site is the best fit. Szczypek said dirt can be moved around to level the site without having to bring fill in or out.
The size of the building is determined by state guidelines for schools of between 1,000 and 1,200 students. A school any larger wouldn’t be eligible for the maximum amount of state reimbursement, Szczypek said.
 Tai Soo Kim, an architect with TSKP Studio, explained his design of the building, which is set among woods.
“I feel it has to be very friendly, small scale. Not an institutional building,” he said. “I think the building has to be in harmony with its surroundings. That’s what I’m aiming for.”
Nearly all of the construction and other costs of a new building would be eligible for state reimbursement, according to Szczypek.
“Cheshire’s rate is 33.93 percent today. The future may be another story,” he said.
The state requires submissions for grant applications by the end of June. Szczypek said waiting another year could mean a lower reimbursement since the state is looking into changing guidelines. He said the state’s reimbursement percentage has also been dropping, although the rate for next year is unknown.
“Your guess is as good as mine, but I don’t think it’s going to go higher,” Szczypek said.
A new middle school is the first step in a larger plan to rebuild or renovate the town’s educational facilities. The Town Council would have to approve the plan. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
WALLINGFORD — State officials have pushed back the closure of the Route 150 railroad underpass to June.
Department of Transportation officials previously said the underpass would be closed from May 15 to May 25 and May 31 through early June. On Thursday, the agency announced the closure would instead begin at 7 a.m. June 5 and continue until 7 a.m. June 25. “The work will include, but is not limited to, installation and repairs of supporting bridge structures, such as retaining walls and joints, as well as preparation of the rail bed for a new track,” DOT said in a statement released Thursday.
Signs, variable message boards and detour routes alerting the public of the closure will be posted on-site prior to the closure. Businesses and area residents should expect construction noise and temporary overnight lighting during the closure.The project is part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project, which is expected to begin expanded service in 2018. As part of the project, a second track was added along the line. New stations are also under construction in Wallingford and Meriden.
The red granite railroad trestle crossing over Route 150 in Yalesville has a long history. It was built in the mid- or late-1800s by stonemason William MacKenzie, who is buried in the historic Center Street Cemetery — with a stone fittingly made of red granite.
The underpass is called a skew arch because it meets Route 150 (Main Street) at 30 degrees, not a right angle. And skew arches are rare, John Bernick, assistant rail administrator for the DOT, previously told the Record-Journal.
“You don’t see them too much over roadways,” he said. “Over time, many were replaced with steel structures.”

Work almost ready to begin on Stonington elementary schools

Stonington — There will be a flurry of activity over the next few weeks as school officials get ready for the start of the long-awaited $67 million project to renovate Deans Mill and West Vine elementary schools.
Actual construction is expected to begin before the current school year ends on June 16. Students will return to school after Labor Day and the project is now slated for completion during Christmas break in 2018 instead of September of 2018.
A community meeting has been slated for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, in the Stonington High School Commons to discuss the project schedule and phasing. Groundbreaking ceremonies are scheduled for June 5 at Deans Mill School and June 6 at West Vine Street School. Both start at 4:30 p.m.
The project, which has an aggressive timeline, originally was slated to begin in March but there has been a delay because of the requirements of the bidding and permitting process, according to K-12 School Building Committee Chairman Rob Marseglia. He said the committee has been very careful in analyzing and vetting bids to ensure they meet all requirements.
In addition, school officials are working with the Gilbane Building Co., the construction manager, to develop phasing of the project that involves the removal of asbestos floor tiles and windows that contain caulk with low levels of PCBs.
While the schools will remain open during construction, the committee and school officials do not want students and staff to be in the building when work is being done to remove those hazardous materials.
“We are committed to turning the school over to the town in the safest manner possible,” Marseglia said.
Marseglia said the need to remove potentially hazardous materials is not unexpected, as the schools are 50 years old and were constructed at a time when such materials were commonly used. Testing previously had revealed their presence.
In addition, he said, the committee’s goal is to minimize the disruption to students and learning and not use portable classrooms, if possible.
Meanwhile the K-12 School Building Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to approve the first round of bids for work such as site preparation, steel work and pouring foundations. The bids will then move on to the Board of Selectmen for final approval on Wednesday. If they are approved, Marseglia said crews can be mobilized by the end of the month.

Redeker: The smartest guy in transportation

im Redeker has the best job in transportation.  And the toughest.
As Commissioner of Transportation for Connecticut for the past six years, he’s guided the agency through hundreds of millions of dollars in spending while managing three competing taskmasters:  his boss, Gov. Dannel Malloy… the legislature, which controls his budget… and commuters / drivers who depend on his product.
Redeker has successfully managed all three.
I’ve known the commissioner for all his years in Connecticut and always considered him the smartest guy in the room. But recently I watched him in action in a venue he told me he actually enjoys: a commuter forum sponsored by Danbury line politicians.
Organized by State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-Wilton), the single best commuter advocate in the State House, it was held on the first night of Passover in a week of school vacations, so the crowds were thin.  The 780-seat Clune auditorium at Wilton High School was empty aside from the 30 or so commuters spread across the room.  On the dais, a long table filled with area state representatives and senators looked like The Last Supper with Commissioner Redeker as the main course.
“Why was there no publicity for this event on the trains or at the stations?” asked one commuter.  No answer.  “Why was I stuck three times this winter on diesel trains with no explanation from conductors?”  No answer.  “Why do we pay all the taxes but get nothing back from Hartford?”  No answer, even from the pols.
Redeker was pacing himself, giving each complainer a chance to vent, then cherry-picking which issue to address.  When he didn’t have an answer (which was rare), he said so.  But when he did have a response (most often), he nailed it.
“Why does the New Canaan branch have more trains at lower fares?”
Easy one:  the New Canaan branch is electrified and has twice the ridership.  “The Danbury branch only has 1,400 daily passengers,” said Redeker.  “That works out to a per-trip subsidy of $17.  Now if we had better service we’d probably have more riders.  I just don’t have the money.”
Surprisingly, only a few of the 11 Hartford lawmakers on the dais said anything all evening.  Given their budget-juggling skills, they offered no explanation or optimism for improved funding of mass transit.
But to the downtrodden Dashing Dans and Danielle’s, the Commissioner offered some hope:  new rail cars for the branch lines are coming (in about four years) and old diesel locomotives are being rebuilt.
Less satisfied were residents of semi-rural Georgetown and Redding who complained about the trains’ noise pollution:  constant horn-blowing and bell-ringing at crossing gates.  Three folks from Metro-North sitting in the auditorium were mute as neighbors said they were afraid to complain ‘lest train engineers retaliate by leaning on the horn. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE