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Legislative AlertThe Connecticut House of Representatives may be voting on a solution to fix the Special Transportation Fund as early as next week.
Use this link https://www.votervoice.net/CCIA/campaigns/58617/respond
to call your State Representative tell them to vote in favor of using the existing car sales tax to fix the funding shortfall in the Special Transportation Fund.Make the call. Leave a message. $4.3 billion of projects are at stake! Please forward this message to as many people in your organization as possible
Some lawmakers still pushing for tolls as session winds down
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Some state lawmakers aren't giving up on passing legislation before the General Assembly adjourns in less than two weeks that could eventually lead to highway tolls on Connecticut's highways.
Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz said he hopes the House of Representatives will vote this week on a bill that would require the Department of Transportation to come up with a plan for tolling, including discounts for in-state drivers and commuters and possible long-term reductions in the state gas tax. The Berlin lawmaker said he's "no longer afraid" of the political ramifications of supporting tolls, given the state's deteriorating transportation infrastructure and a spending account for transportation projects that's facing insolvency beginning fiscal year 2019.
"If it happens here, at least I can personally walk out of here with a clean conscience saying I have done everything to put the issue right out in center, in front of everybody, and we couldn't get the votes," he said.
Even if the bill clears the House, where Democrats hold a slim majority, its fate is doubtful in the Senate, where there are an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn its regular legislative session May 9 and then begin campaigning for re-election in November.
Republican Sen. Toni Boucher, of Wilton, a co-chairwoman of the Transportation Committee, said GOP senators recently discussed the prospect of tolls in a closed-door meeting.
"By the end of it, every single person that I spoke with there just didn't have any appetite for a toll bill this year," she said. "Even the Democrats on their side are having a difficult time trying to bring any toll bill out."
Boucher argues that Connecticut taxpayers have been taxed too much since the state ended tolling in the late 1980s. She said there "might be room to negotiate" if there was an immediate reduction in the state gasoline tax, among the highest in the nation."We see this tolling scheme as another additional tax on a state that has been devastated by too many additional taxes," Boucher said. "We need to show where they're going to take another tax off the table so we're not adding more to the tax burden."
Electronic tolling is one of the proposals being pushed by the group Move CT Forward, a coalition that includes the construction industry and trade unions.
Move CT Forward has been running a series of TV, radio and online ads warning about the condition of Connecticut's roads and bridges and the lack of funding in the Special Transportation Fund. The group is also calling a $3 fee for each new tire purchased, a seven-cent increase in the gasoline tax over four years, higher motor vehicle license and other fees, and a new transportation authority to oversee transportation-related revenues. Those are the same actions Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed. Under his plan, tolling would begin in Connecticut in fiscal year 2023.
The governor has warned that $4.3 billion in transportation projects will have to be delayed or canceled if there isn't new revenue generated for the transportation fund.
Meriden announces bidder for Mills Apartments demolition
Mary Ellen Godin
MERIDEN — Bestech Inc. of Ellington is the qualified low bidder for the Mills Memorial Apartments demolition, city officials said Friday.
Bestech’s base bid came in at $1,947,007, below the $2 million state grant awarded to demolish the 1960’s public housing complex.
City officials scheduled a pre-award meeting with Bestech for next week, according to city Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski.
“Assuming all goes as expected, we would anticipate being able to start the abatement and demo by mid-May,” Burdelski said Friday. “We do anticipate having all of the structures demolished by the end of 2018.”
The period to bid ran from March 1 through March 28.
The work includes cleanup and demolition of the complex, located at 144 Mill St. The 4-acre site has two high-rise apartment buildings and three low-rise buildings. Cleanup is expected to begin in May, with demolition anticipated in July.
The public housing complex operated by the Meriden Housing Authority was built in 1961. City Planner Robert Seale said the city has contemplated demolishing the Mills since the 1970’s.
The demolition of the Mills is a key component of downtown revitalization. Plans call for hundreds of mixed-income apartment units in several projects as opposed to concentrating poverty in one project or area.
Construction of Meriden Commons I is nearing completion at 177 State St., with the second phase of that project expected to begin in the coming months.
The two projects will add 151 apartments downtown with more than 15,000 square feet of commercial space. Eighty percent of units are considered affordable or covered under Section 8 income limits.
The Mills buildings now sit on land the Meriden Housing Authority swapped with the city that will allow it to continue the Meriden Green flood control project to Cedar Street.
An underground storage tank on the Mills property was set to be removed Friday, thus clearing the way for the city’s demolition. According to Robert Cappelletti, executive director of the Meriden Housing Authority, Meriden Commons developer Pennrose Properties paid for the $10,000 tank removal.
“Pennrose offered to help both parties,” Cappelletti said. “Obviously it's very exciting for the new projects to go up and the old to come down. It will be an amazing transformation for the downtown area.”
Groton ceremony recognizes workers who died on job
Groton — A 55-year-old construction worker died on Friday after she fell through the floor of a building under construction in Vernon.
To Congressman Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, this is the kind of tragic story that illustrates why it's important to recognize Workers' Memorial Day, and why it's important to maintain worker safety regulations.
He was one of the speakers at the annual Workers' Memorial Day ceremony held at Washington Park here on Saturday. It was sponsored by the Southeastern Connecticut chapter of the AFL-CIO, and more than 200 people attended.
Chapter President Wayne Burgess explained that the day has been observed since 1989, to recognize workers who were killed on the job or died from work-related illness. He said that in 2016, nearly 5,200 workers were killed on the job, and another 50,000 die every year from occupational diseases.
Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick spoke of efforts to develop a "culture of safety" in the city.
"This is not a memorial service that's sort of about the ancient past," Courtney said. "It's the present we're living in now."
He criticized the U.S. Department of Labor, under the administration of President Donald Trump, for rolling back a dozen Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations in the past 18 months, calling it the opposite direction of where the nation should be headed.
Personnel data shows that OSHA dropped 119 permanent employees between December 2016 and September 2017, a 6 percent decrease, the Washington Post reported.
"We have to fight harder for more safety rules," Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said at the Groton ceremony. Wyman and other speakers made a plea for attendees to vote for those who listen to these concerns.
Lori Pelletier, executive secretary-treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, lamented the U.S. Senate campaign of Don Blankenship in West Virginia. Following a mine explosion that killed 29 in 2010, Blankenship was found guilty of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards, and he was sentenced to a year in prison.
Connecticut Deputy Secretary of State Scott Bates, noting that he had a neighbor who died of lung disease from working with asbestos, said that while our parents and grandparents built an America with good jobs that people can come home from every day, there is no guarantee this will continue.
The ceremony also featured Joyce Harris playing taps and then Jessica McCombs singing "Amazing Grace" as union leaders placed seven wreaths at the Memorial Monument.
Following the Workers' Memorial Day ceremony in Groton was one in Hartford.
On Thursday, Courtney joined with four Democratic members of Congress to introduce a resolution in support of Workers' Memorial Day.
Bradley International Airport officials prep new 20-year, $1.4B master plan
Bradley International Airport officials are recommending $1.4 billion in projects over the next two decades as part of an ambitious master plan that would prepare the state's largest airfield for millions of additional passengers.
Nearly two years in the making and involving the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA), which operates Bradley, myriad consultants and other stakeholders, the plan will serve as a guide for accommodating future airline and passenger growth and building the airport's capacity as a key tool in the region's economy.
It's the first master plan under the CAA since the authority took over Bradley operations from the state Department of Transportation in 2013 and the first master plan update since 2005.
Notable projects recommended in the 417-page, $1.25-million plan include:
• A new passenger Terminal B connected to the current Terminal A.
• A new consolidated rental car and ground transportation facility with 830 parking spaces that will put all rental car companies in one space on-site and eliminate shuttling to rental sites.
• A reconfigured Schoesphoester Road that includes four roundabouts for smoother flow along the airport.
The Route 20 connector road into the airport is already being realigned through the former Lot 1 surface lot, to improve traffic flow into the airport and make room for the future rental car facility.
Other projects include taxiway enhancements, a new baggage inspection/federal inspection service facility, additional parking and more.
"We have plans that were already progressing that we know we're going to build, for example, the transportation center," said Kevin Dillon, CAA's executive director. "We're very close to getting to the point where we're going to go out and finance that project," which is estimated at $220 million and will be paid for through fees on rental cars, known as customer facility charges.
Dillon hopes to see ground broken for the project, near the Sheraton Hotel and in front of where the former Terminal B (Murphy Terminal) was, later this year, with completion in about 2021.
A new Terminal B, with about 440,000 square feet, would roughly double existing terminal space to about 843,000 square feet and connect to Terminal A for a "more cohesive terminal experience for passengers as well as the added benefit of lower costs," the plan says.
It's the plan's biggest project, pegged at about $509.5 million over three phases starting with phase one in the 2023-2027 time period and phases two and three in the 2028-2037 period.
Before work would begin on a new Terminal B, though, the airport would maximize the capacity of Terminal A by relocating baggage explosive detection equipment currently consuming lobby space and making other changes to improve passenger capacity and flow.
"I've often said, I do believe at some point this airport could be a 10-million passenger airport," Dillon said. "If we're going to get to that number and go beyond, we're going to need to improve this infrastructure over time."
There were 6.4 million Bradley passengers last year, still below the 2000 and 2005 peaks of roughly 7.4 million and 7.2 million passengers, respectively. The 2000 peak was before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2005 peak was before the Great Recession, rising fuel prices and massive industry consolidation that reshaped the industry and hit small- and medium-hub airports — including Bradley — hard, Dillon said. The master plan contemplates roughly 9.4 million passengers by 2037, an average annual growth rate of 1.82 percent. Passenger totals last year grew 6.2 percent.
Wish list or reality?
Although not cast in stone, the master plan is generally a road map to follow based on what's known today and will be periodically updated, based on changes that may occur after the plan, Dillon said.
"For example, if we're able to cultivate a major cargo development here at the airport, that could alter how we're looking at some of the expenses under this plan," he said.
The plan will be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, which must approve it.
While it's difficult to say if every recommended project will get done, "as I sit here today, I do believe this is an accurate reflection of where I would look to take this airport if I were here for the next 20 years," Dillon said.
To approach 10-million passengers requires Bradley to recapture passenger leakage to New York and Boston, he said.
"So in a market like this, it's all about seats," Dillon said. "I continue to believe if we can get the seats here, we will fill them, that there's that much market strength."
More passengers means more flights, which leads to more landing fee revenue, and rental car, parking and concession revenue, he said.
"Passenger numbers really drive our business across the board," Dillon said.
Bradley's No. 1 selling point is convenience, Dillon said, so the master plan focuses heavily on projects enhancing that. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Farmington is on the cusp of another development wave with the construction of apartments, condos and medical offices
Farmington is on the cusp of another growth spurt, one where new development of apartments, condos, senior-living spaces and medical offices predominate.
The affluent, suburban enclave seven miles west of downtown Hartford has about 25,000 souls who lay heads there at night, but its daytime population swells to 32,000 — the result of commuters who arrive daily to work at UConn Health, Jackson Laboratory, Carrier, Otis Elevator and Stanley Black & Decker.
With a name derived from its once lush farmland and a history of bivouacking Colonial and French troops during the Revolutionary War, Farmington today is highly regarded for its diversity of employment in manufacturing, health services/medical research; its many recreation options; and its quality schools despite possessing one of the lowest property-tax rates in the state, at 26.68 mills.
The latter is courtesy of a large commercial tax base, achieved with the foresight of town leaders who more than a generation ago created an industrial park to house commercial employers, to shoulder the property-tax burden. Farmington does not offer tax or other incentives to lure companies.
"Our philosophy is that our economic incentives are our low taxes,'' said Town Manager Kathy Eagen.
Those elements have combined to reignite a fresh wave of planning and construction, says Rose Ponte, the town's economic-development chief and other town leaders. But with nearly all of Farmington's developable acreage built out and homebuilding slowing, Town Planner William Warner says the focus now is to allow commercial developers, in certain areas, to pack more structures onto a lot.
Among projects underway or planned is a 12-unit luxury condo community on the former Chuck's Steak House site in Farmington Village, the town's historic section; an assisted-living facility with companion seniors-only apartments on Route 4, opposite Wood-n-Tap Bar & Grill; and an upgrade of the town's sewage-treatment plant.
Meantime, behind the Starbucks on Route 4/Farmington Avenue, Newington landlord Reno Properties Group is eyeing the site of a historic home to erect apartments, Ponte said.
"Rentals are so in demand right now,'' she said.
More recently, a West Hartford church put up for sale an undeveloped 18.5-acre tract on Farmington Avenue, opposite UConn Health and Jackson Laboratory. With barely 8 percent of the town's developable land left, Farmington Avenue Baptist Church's parcel could draw a high price tag, observers say.
Jackson Lab's arrival in Oct. 2014 exposed a need in Farmington for more apartments — particularly smaller, affordable units — to shelter young scientists and other professionals.
Robert Wienner, developer of West Hartford's successful Blue Back Square residential-retail-office development, is eyeing a makeover of a ?-acre strip fronting Farmington Avenue/Route 4, in the Farmington Village district.
There, Wienner subdivided the tract, keeping the Farmington Avenue frontage and selling the rear portion that once held Chuck's to Tolland builder/developer PAC Group LLC. PAC is finishing The Pennington, a 12-unit luxury condo community overlooking the Farmington Country Club.
Wienner say he's deliberating what to do with his leftover strip, but his plans will be consistent with the town's vision for its eastern "gateway."
"The town's vision is to turn the village into a more pedestrian-friendly, walkable area,'' he said. "It's an unusually charming and desirable place. They're really smart and clear-thinking about what they wanted to happen in the Village, and I wanted to be a part of it.''
Nearby, Newington landlord Reno Properties Group LLC owns a 4-acre parcel, site of a 300-year-old farmhouse, bought 10 years ago for $900,000 to redevelop into a retail center, anchored with a bank branch, said Reno broker Dan Garofalo.
"We felt it was a great town. A great corner. A gateway site,'' Garofalo said.
There, state transportation contractors are due to wrap in June their $12 million makeover of the heavily-congested Route 4/Route 10 interchange.
Crews have widened, repaved and re-signaled a stretch of Route 4, leading from the curve that once housed a Chevy dealership, to the Route 10-Main Street/Waterville Road connector. (The length of the project has frustrated some local merchants who say the added congestion has cost them business).
That's atop an earlier widening and rebuild of a Route 4 bridge spanning the Farmington River a few years ago. Also underway is a long-awaited capacity upgrade of the town's sewage-treatment facility, once a frequent source of neighbors' odor complaints. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
Buyers Sought For Hartford's XL Center As General Assembly Opens Bidding For Aging Arena
For sale: Fixer-upper with potential in the heart of downtown Hartford; built in 1975 with a roof that was replaced five years later; sold in “as is” condition.
Bidding starts Monday.
The Capital Region Development Authority is issuing the “request for proposals” for the purchase of the aging XL Center in hopes of attracting a buyer that would relieve taxpayers, at least in part, of the costs for operating and upgrading the arena.One bidder — Oak Street Real Estate Capital, a Chicago private equity firm — already has stepped forward with an unsolicited bid.
In addition, “we’ve gotten two or three pokes, but we don’t know if they will manifest themselves,” Michael W. Freimuth, executive director, said.Freimuth said the state is not pledging to devote funds for improvements as part of the RFP, but “the state could be a player. I would think honestly whatever proposals come in, it would require some state participation.”
A buyer is being sought after CRDA’s recommendation for a $250 million makeover of the arena failed to gain traction in the legislature. State lawmakers, instead, last year required that a sale of the 43-year-old Veterans Memorial Coliseum be explored.
The proposals are due by June 29, but a decision isn’t expected until the fall after evaluation and negotiations by a review panel. The panel will include a representative from Stafford Sports, a New Jersey sports venue consultant that has worked with CRDA on past plans to makeover the arena
The panel also is likely to include members of CRDA’s venue committee, Freimuth said.
The Hartford city council also would have to sign off on any agreement because it owns the property. CRDA leases the arena under a long-term arrangement and manages it.According to a draft of the RFP, a buyer would continue to operate XL Center as an arena and to professional industry standards. CRDA is seeking bidders who would operate with diminished future investments by the state or city. The arena also may have to close temporarily for renovations or upgrades.
The future of the XL Center has been debated for more than a decade, as the aging arena has lost its competitive edge against newer concert venues at Connecticut’s two casinos. And now, the arena faces a new threat in MGM’s Springfield casino and entertainment complex, set to open Aug. 24.
The arena still has strong sports tenants — its mainstay business — in UConn women’s and men’s basketball, UConn hockey and the AHL minor league Wolf Pack.
Upgrades to the arena have become a political football. Some state legislators argue it is no longer worth pouring state funds — $40 million since 2014 and another $40 million approved last year — into the money-losing venue.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has pushed for upgrades throughout his tenure as governor, proposed another $100 million this year, but the fate of that plan remains unclear as the legislature nears the end of this year’s session.
Closing the arena, right in the heart of downtown, would be a blow to restaurants and other businesses in the area, supporters say. The arena also is a key component of downtown’s revitalization, they say.
One estimate puts the cost of demolition at $40 million.
Bidding will be complicated by the uncertain future of CRDA’s negotiations to buy the atrium and retail space outside the arena, which are on-going. The space is owned by Northland Investment Corp. and is seen as important to boosting revenues in any future redevelopment.
For instance, the atrium space would be needed should a second concourse — as recommended in the $250 million CRDA proposal — ever be built. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE