August 30, 2018

CT Construction Digest Thursday August 30, 2018

Stamford reps reject no-bid bridge repair pact

STAMFORD — The historic West Main Street bridge is turning out to be about much more than connecting one shore of the Mill River to the other.
It’s about an emerging downtown jewel, Mill River Park, home to the bridge and object of a $60 million renovation.It’s about a concern among West Side residents that their working-class neighborhood is being left out of plans for a shining park and downtown.
It’s about an uneasiness among some city representatives that a fast-track, no-bid contract to fix the bridge is not a good way to go, and an anxiousness among others that it is a onetime opportunity to repair what has languished for 20 years.
Residents filled the seats and lined the walls at Tuesday night’s public hearing on a $2 million contract to rehabilitate the 1888 bridge as a walkway only, which it has been since the state closed it to cars 16 years ago because the supports are crumbling.
The importance of the bridge was evident from the attendance of others at the six-hour meeting — Mayor David Martin and members of his cabinet; neighborhood activists; a city attorney; the traffic chief, city engineer and planner; preservationists; and members of the Mill River Collaborative and Downtown Special Services District.The hearing was before the board’s nine-member Operations Committee, but a dozen other representatives attended. Two committee members who are out of the country weighed in by writing letters that were read into the record.
At issue is whether the 125-foot bridge should be shored up to accommodate cars, as it once did, or remain pedestrian-only, as it has been since 2002. The collaborative obtained a $2 million grant it wants to give the city to rehabilitate the bridge for walkers only.
Martin’s administration supports the idea, saying it is good for Mill River Park because it will keep cars out of the greenway, and good for the West Side and downtown because it will create “walkability.”
 Some West Siders disagreed Joyce Griffin said the city has failed them by neglecting the bridge for so long that engineers now say it can wash away in the next heavy rainstorm.
“When it was closed it forced (traffic) out to Tresser Boulevard from West Main Street,” cutting the neighborhood off from downtown, Griffin said. “The majority of you have never had a desire to walk across the bridge, and you won’t do so when it’s fixed. People from other areas of town want to dictate what takes place in our community.”
The bridge should accommodate walkers and drivers, resident Russell Davis said.
“It’s key to the development of the Stillwater corridor,” Davis said of Stillwater Avenue, a West Side thoroughfare. “We need to do everything in our power to make it a better bridge for pedestrians and for traffic flow.”Others had a message for city officials — just fix it already.
“I am a pedestrian,” Sheila Williams Brown said. “I have been walking across the bridge for eight years. “I went to a … meeting when I was 65 years old and they told me the bridge would be (repaired) when I was 69. I’m almost 72 and nothing has been done.”
‘Remarkable object’
Preservationists favor the contract, saying it ensures restoration of the decorative trusses and other elements of the 130-year-old ironwork bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “This antique bridge … is a remarkable object … and you can walk right up to it and touch it,” said Wes Haynes, a Stamford preservationist. “Bridges with this lenticular truss design are being resurrected all over the world.”By more than two to one, speakers said the bridge should be for pedestrians only. Quentin Phipps, a director at the Stamford Charter School for Excellence on Schuyler Avenue, said no one has contacted the pre-K to Grade 4 school about plans for the bridge.
A large number of students walk to school, Phipps said, and for their safety, “we are adamantly opposed to a vehicular bridge. … What other school in this city would have been left out of this conversation?”Stamford resident David Kweskin read a letter from the UConn-Stamford campus director saying hundreds of students now living in a Washington Boulevard dorm need safe places to walk. Vin Tufo, CEO of Charter Oak Communities, the city’s housing authority, said allowing cars on the West Main Street bridge won’t ease traffic, but the agency is working on intersection realignments and other projects to improve flow. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE
NORTH HAVEN — The concrete walls are up and the roof is under construction at the 855,000 square-foot Amazon fulfillment center off Route 5.
”It’s on schedule for May 2019,” said Richard LoPresti, chairman of the town’s Economic Development Commission. “They put the walls up, went in and put in a crane and put in the steel.”
The $250 million warehouse and fulfillment center is expected to open in mid-May next year on the site of the former Pratt & Whitney manufacturing plant.
LoPresti and First Selectman Michael Freda have checked on construction regularly, and Freda said he has been in touch with Amazon developer Hillwood Investment Properties.
General Contractor R. C. Anderson could not be reached for comment.
The warehouse will feature mezzanines stocked with products and robots working alongside employees to pick, pack and ship goods throughout the region. Some of the other equipment includes conveyer belts, forklifts, and refrigeration units to service Whole Foods locations.
The town is also working with the state Department of Transportation, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers on plans to repair and expand Valley Service Road to provide secondary access to the warehouse away from congested Route 5.
Freda expects the warehouse to have an initial workforce of 1,800 and eventually reach 3,000 employees.
Freda is also the co-chairman of the Regional Workforce Investment Board of the South Central Region. The board works closely with the Workforce Alliance to help Amazon screen, assess and match potential employees from the local labor pool.
“They take people who are unemployed, and the Workforce Alliance evaluates skill sets and offers training on improving those skill sets,” Freda said.
He expects that as the opening draws nearer, there will be more job fairs in either New Haven or Meriden to hire warehouse workers and managers.
The new Amazon warehouse has also been a catalyst for commercial development on Washington Avenue (Route 5).
“Many of the small businesses are excited about the prospects of a large business like Amazon coming in,” Freda said.
In addition to the Amazon warehouse, BYK Chemical’s move to the town from Wallingford has sparked consumer confidence among retailers. One entrepreneur, Joseph Moruzzi, has breathed new life into the 60-year-old North Haven Shopping Plaza with improvements and new tenants.
Freda doesn’t expect much in the way of new apartment units because of the Amazon. ”I do expect to see a limited degree, maybe on the west side of Washington Avenue,” Freda said. “But there are no other plans at this point.”

New Developer Takes Over Redevelopment Of Crucial Corner Of Hartford's Main And Park Streets

A new developer is taking over the redevelopment of two, blighted vacant lots at the corner of Park and Main streets in Hartford, the latest in a long string of attempts to create a southern gateway to downtown.
A partnership of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners of South Norwalk and Freeman Cos. of Hartford will replace the Hartford-based, nonprofit CIL on what is expected to be a mixed-use development of apartments over storefront space. Both had submitted proposals to the city late last year and CIL was selected in March.
The city and CIL parted ways earlier this month, unable to reach a final agreement on a financing and construction timeline for the project, Kent Schwendy, CIL’s president and chief executive, said Wednesday.
“The timeline that they wanted — I know that on more than one occasion — I heard the mayor say they had a strong sense of urgency to make something happen here,” Schwendy said. “I understand that sentiment and I agree, the sooner the better, but I didn’t want to overcommit and disappoint the city and the community.”
CIL, formerly the Corporation for Independent Living, envisioned the development being constructed in sections, with the first phase possibly not completed until 2022. The nonprofit also wanted to put together the pieces of a financing package before firmly committing to any one of them, but the city wanted to show more solid progress.
“The center issue was that we had to have more flexibility in the timing in order to use our approach which is built for and by the community,” Schwendy said.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin praised CIL’s long track record of successful projects in the city, such as the recent conversion of the once-dilapidated Capewell Horse Nail Co. factory into apartments. Bronin said the city looked forward to working with CIL on other developments in the future.
“On the Park and Main project, while we all worked hard to put together a deal that could move forward soon, we found that the financials were just too challenging,” Bronin said in a written statement. “We’re going to work with the other bidder who responded to the RFP process, Spinnaker Real Estate Partners in partnership with their local partner, Rohan Freeman, to try to keep the project moving forward as quickly as possible.”
In a statement Wednesday, Matthew Edvardsen, director of acquisitions and asset management at Spinnaker said: “We are cautiously optimistic that, working collaboratively with the City of Hartford, we are well positioned to pursue the redevelopment of Park and Main.
“Our proposal is to improve the urban fabric of a crucial junction within a prominent Hartford neighborhood by advancing a high quality, contextually designed development that benefits the entire community.”
Spinnaker did not disclose details of its plans Wednesday but previously said it was a vision for a mixed-use redevelopment.
Spinnaker has experience in such developments in Fairfield County and elsewhere in the country. Spinnaker also has ties to Hartford as the owner of land now used for parking across from Bushnell Park and behind TheaterWorks.
Bronin, who explored a possible gubernatorial run earlier this year, will come up for re-election as mayor in 2019. He has not said whether he will run.
One reason for wanting to push the development along more quickly may be connected with the project securing public funding through the State Bond Commission. The change in the governor’s office coming in January could impact obtaining those funds.
CIL’s Schwendy said the nonprofit still considers the project crucial, even if CIL is not leading it as the developer.
“Anything we can do to help, we will do and a big thing is we won’t stand in the way of the city being able to progress and that’s why we stepped away,” Schwendy said.
For decades, the city has sought to redevelop the barren, 2.3 acres on either side of Park Street at the intersection with Main, also considered the gateway to Hartford’s Latino community.
In the 2000s, “Plaza Mayor” envisioned high-rise buildings and a square, in the spirit of the well-known square in Madrid with the same name. The project was downsized from an initial $64 million to $30 million, but the plug was pulled in 2009 when financing would not come together.
Three years later, in 2012, there was another push to sell the land to a developer, but it went nowhere.
The development is seen as a key pedestrian link for a city that has pushed its “walkability.” A development at Park and Main would, in theory, connect Bushnell Park and development envisioned near it with Colt Park and the Coltsville National Historical Park.
Initially, CIL envisioned 100 mixed-income apartments, possibly 10 townhouses along John Street with 17,000 square feet of street-level storefront space. Buildings would likely have been four stories high, keeping to the scale of the surrounding neighborhood.
And even though the South Green park was not a part of the project, CIL said the park and surrounding roads needed to be redesigned so it would work together with the redevelopment and make the area more pedestrian friendly.
Schwendy said the South Park Inn shelter for the homeless — a concern for some on how it would fit into the area’s redevelopment — could have fit into CIL’s plans.
“Our strong belief is that the homeless are not the problem, homelessness is the problem,” Schwendy said. “We are more than willing to work with the existing neighbors and the fabric of the existing community and make room for everyone. And we hope someday there are no homeless people. But until then, we’re not going to ignore them and say you can’t be part of this community.”

August 29, 2018

CT Construction Digest Wednesday August 29, 2018

Work to add Route 1 turning lane set to begin

NORWALK - Work will begin Wednesday to add a shared turning lane on Route 1 (Westport Avenue) between the intersections of Strawberry Hill Avenue and County Street.
The project costing $4,461,102, will be done by Water Construction Co., of Bridgeport. It’s scheduled to be finished on June 29, 2020.
The state Department of Transportation said 22,900 vehicles a day travel this part of Route 1. The work area is between Garavel Chrysler Jeep Dodge and the Marshall’s store.
DOT said the project will be performed in six phases:
Phase 1 is the Westport Avenue north side improvements,
Phase 2 is the construction of the south side of Westport Avenue and Strawberry Hill Avenue,
Phase 3 is the final paving along Westport Avenue,
Phase 4 is the construction on north of side of Strawberry Hill Avenue,                             
Phase 5 is the final paving along Strawberry Hill Avenue and Phase 6 is the installation of new traffic signals and signs. Motorists can expect lane closures on Westport Avenue, Strawberry Hill Avenue. and County Street during evenings only. Lanes will be operational during the day time.
The work hours for this project are Sunday through Friday between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., Friday through Saturday between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., and Saturday through Sunday between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.

October job fair to focus on manufacturing, trades

BRISTOL - The Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce’s Manufacturing and Trades Job Fair is set for Oct. 4 at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, 42 Century Drive.
The event, held in conjunction with TD Bank, will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is free to attend and open to the public as well as all students interested in careers in manufacturing and the trades.
Visitors can meet with representatives from companies with current job openings in fields including construction, carpentry, electrical and HVAC.
Cindy Bombard, president and CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, said that the chamber’s last job fair eight to 10 years ago sold out.
This time, it will focus on manufacturing and the trades. October, she noted, is Manufacturing Month.
“The Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce work closely with the manufacturing and trades industry and with more than 10,000 manufacturing job openings statewide, this job fair will be a great way to help meet their workforce needs,” said Bombard.
Bombard said that she is hoping to have 40 businesses at this year’s event.
Some that have already signed up include the Arthur G. Russell Co., Barnes Aerospace, Kelly Services, P/A Industries, Raym-Co, Inc., Trumpf and Tunxis Community College. The state Department of Labor also will have a presence at the fair.
“We have been dropping off fliers to non-chamber members and we have also reached out to some of the larger companies, like Electric Boat,” said Bombard. “We have also been coordinating with Justin Malley and the city of Bristol’s marketing department. We have also seen a lot of interest from the Hartford Business Journal.”
Bombard said she will be inviting students from Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central high schools.
“We’re hoping that our high school students can use this to get a flavor for what types of career openings there are,’ she said.
Bombard said vendor space is available for businesses with job openings. Space costs $100 for chamber members and $150 for non-members. Each space will include a 6-foot table and two chairs.
Immediately after the job fair, vendors can participate in a vendors-only cocktail hour from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. with representatives from TD Bank.
“TD is pleased to partner with the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce to help connect residents to career opportunities,” said Michael LaBella, TD’s market president for Connecticut. “This job fair is one of many ways in which TD seeks to increase financial security for our customers and communities through our newly launched Ready Commitment,”

Housing project plan in Newington faces opposition

NEWINGTON - Traffic, safety and contamination were among concerns cited at a recent public hearing for a proposed low-income housing development on Cedar Street.
The Town Plan and Zoning Commission heard from over a dozen people Aug. 8 about an application from Massachusetts-based affordable housing developer Dakota Partners for a 108-unit apartment complex at 550 Cedar St.
The proposal calls for amendments to the town’s zoning regulations to accommodate the project by creating a Workforce Assisted Housing District, which would be limited to this particular site.
“I’m not in favor of this project for the lovely town of Newington where I’ve lived most of my life,” said Sandra Charland, one of the speakers. “Unfortunately I don’t see any enhancement for the town if this goes forward.”
Her husband, Henry Charland, also spoke and blamed the project’s materialization on CTfastrak, the Hartford to New Haven bus rapid transit system that has two stations in town.
The proposal calls for three buildings with one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.
Seventy-five percent of the units would be rented to low- to-moderate-income families and the remaining quarter, at market rate.
The property would feature a clubhouse, playground, parking area and handicapped-accessible units on the first floor of each building.
The 7.7-acre parcel is the former site of Crest Motors, located behind Dunkin’ Donuts and east of the Amtrak railway. It is currently owned by Stop & Shop.
Although contamination on the property has been dealt with in the past, more still needs to be addressed before construction can begin.
“My client is interested in finishing the cleanup, redeveloping the property and putting it back on the tax rolls as multi-family housing,” Dakota’s Attorney Tim Hollister told commissioners.
The state’s Affordable Housing Appeals Act makes it very difficult for the commission to reject the application.
Also known as Section 8-30g of the general statutes, the act was designed to increase the amount of affordable housing in Connecticut.
To deny the project, the commission must prove that it would endanger residents in some way.
“The application cannot be denied by the zoning commission unless there is evidence on record that the proposed construction will result in a specific type of harm that constitutes a substantial public health safety concern that clearly outweighs Newington’s need for lower cost housing,” Hollister told commissioners, reading directly from the statute.
The lengthy application asserts the need for affordable housing in Newington, where renters – about 20 percent of residents - are currently paying an average of $1,600 per month.
Speakers at the meeting questioned this figure and the claim that Newington does not meet the law’s 10 percent threshold for affordable housing, coming in short by roughly 240 units at 8.14 percent.
Recently-built complexes at the Newington Veterans Hospital constitute affordable housing but are not included in this number because they are federally-funded.
“This is not a federal section eight housing project,” Hollister told the commission. “It just happens to be Connecticut’s law that governs this type of development is in title 8-30g of the general statutes.”
He disputed common perceptions about low-income housing developments as catalysts for crime and school overcrowding.
“There are often misunderstandings about so-called affordable housing. Those perceptions have simply proven to be not true in reality. Time and time again there’s concern, then it ends up being a wonderful new addition to the housing stock of the municipality.”
Clarke Castelle addressed comments on social media from project opponents, which he called “mean-spirited, inflammatory and factually incorrect.”
“I could find almost no sympathy among group members for the problem of affordable housing at the national, state or local levels, no recognition that solving it is a priority of both federal and state governments and no notion that the majority of residents share these concerns and wish to be part of the solution,” Castelle said, thanking the developer for considering Newington for the project.
The company used studies from Rutgers University to estimate that 32 school-aged children will live on the premises, with half relocating from other parts of town.
Dakota Partners Principal Roberto Arista told commissioners the apartments would likely be filled by nursing aides, school teachers and service workers.
“We believe affordable housing is a very important component of any economy,” Arista said. “It provides housing for working families who otherwise couldn’t afford to live in the community in which they work.”
Town Councilor Gail Budrejko questioned how renters will come and go from the complex if it is located near one of the town’s most dangerous intersections and almost no sidewalks.
“Residents without transportation will be at risk walking on one of the busiest roads in Newington,” she said.
Commissioners asked the design team to revisit its traffic study, as predictions failed to account for future users of a proposed railway station nearby.
They also questioned if roadway specifications could accommodate fire trucks and the location of a single dumpster on site.
Sandy Austin Goldstein recited detailed environmental contamination findings, urging commissioners to scrutinize all reports before making a decision.
“We must exercise due diligence because the potential impact to the people who live at this property in our town is too great not to,” she said.
Kathy Flaherty reminded commissioners of their obligation to follow state statutes.
“I am a legal aid lawyer and I know very clearly the need for affordable housing in Connecticut,” she said, adding, “What I would like to see is this Town Plan and Zoning commission follow the law.”

Roundabout Project Could Be Finished By October

The repaving and roundabout project along Hebron Avenue is ahead of schedule and should be complete by the end of October, officials said.
Worker have removed the old pavement and subsurface material and are installing a new road surface and sidewalks along the westbound lanes of Hebron Avenue, from House Street to the roundabout at the New London Turnpike intersection.
According to Daniel A. Pennington, town engineer/director of physical services, the project was scheduled to be complete by November but has been “progressing well.”
Hebron Avenue will remain open to westbound traffic only from House Street to the roundabout for the duration of the project. Once the northern portion of Hebron Avenue is complete, work will begin on the southern portion of the road from House Street to the roundabout, with westbound traffic moving to the newly completed northern portion of the road. “That traffic flow is most critical to the success of the project,” Pennington said of the traffic coming off Route 2 and traveling west into the town center. “None of that traffic will be detoured throughout the project.”
The roundabout at House Street is complete, but traffic will only be allowed to go north on House Street from Hebron Avenue until the paving project is complete.
“There are still things to do like landscaping and the removal of utilities and a pole right in the middle of the roundabout, but we’ve been pleased by the quality of work by the contractors,” Pennington said.Eastbound traffic on Hebron Avenue between New London Turnpike and the roundabout and Linden Street is prohibited. Motorists leaving the town center can take New London Turnpike to Sycamore Street.
Pennington said businesses along Hebron Avenue have remained open and accessible during the construction and the town and project manager have worked closely with them to alleviate any concerns. The town has held several meetings and invited businesses and property owners this summer, but only one person has shown up.
“I think it shows we are managing the project and traffic very well,” Pennington said.

Yale Peabody Museum gets $160 million gift for renovations

NEW HAVEN — The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History will undergo a major two-year renovation as the result of a $160 million donation by Edward P. Bass, a billionaire and philanthropist who graduated from Yale University in 1967.
The “gut renovation” will close the 152-year-old museum for two years. When it reopens, its prize brontosaurus fossil will have been remounted in a more natural pose, according to Peabody Director David Skelly.
“It’s going to enable us to expand the visitors’ galleries by 50 percent,” Skelly said Tuesday. There will also be major additions to make it easier for the 25,000 to 30,000 schoolchildren who tour the museum each year to visit, Skelly said. “When we reopen, we’ll have a dedicated K-12 education cener with space for people to get oriented before they go into the galleries,” he said
The renovation will include new student classrooms, “bringing Yale’s broader teaching mission into the museum,” Skelly said. “Yale’s reputation for leadership in the sciences is grounded historically in the Peabody Museum, founded 152 years ago,” Bass said in a press release “This renovation and expansion will enhance every aspect of the Peabody, bringing it up to date and preparing it for the future. We will have 50 percent more gallery space, cutting-edge exhibits, and the ability to put the extraordinarily rich collection not only on view for the public, but also in the hands of researchers and students alike.”
One feature that will remain, Skelly said is the 110-by-16-foot mural, “The Age of Reptiles” by Rudolph F. Zallinger, which is mounted on the wall of the Great Hall, where the Peabody’s prize dinosaurs are on display. The largest fossil, the brontosaurus, “is going to be completely taken apart and shipped to a firm that completely remounts dinosaurs,” Skelly said. “There aren’t too many of those.” The remounting will incorporate discoveries about the appearance and lives of dinosaurs made since the museum opened in 1925 with fossils brought back to Yale by paleontologist O.C. Marsh.
“When the brontosaurus was mounted in the late 1920s, it was one of the first dinosaur mounts anywhere, and to be fair to those folks they were learning as they were going,” Skelly said. The dinosaur’s tail will be longer and “be held up off the ground,” Skelly said.Bass’ donation is the largest known gift ever made to a natural history museum in the United States, according to a press release.
Bass, 72, is one of four brothers to have gone to Yale (as did their father) and has made major donations to the Peabody and other areas of the university, particularly involving the sciences.
He has a net worth of $2.1 billion, according to Forbes, which said he and his brothers sold their oil company to ExxonMobil in 2017 for $5.6 billion. Bass has invested in the Biosphere 2 closed environment project in Arizona. His donations founded the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies and he has supported the Class of 1954 Environmental Science Center and the Yale Science Building. This year, Bass donated $10 million to create the 500-seat O.C. Marsh Lecture Hall.
In the release, Yale President Peter Salovey said, “I am deeply grateful to Ed Bass for a gift that will transform the Peabody. Imagine an expanded natural history museum where the exhibits reflect the most current science; where faculty members and students can more efficiently use the collections; and where our investigators have spectacular research facilities. This is a magnificent gift.”

August 28, 2018

CT Construction Digest Tuesday August 28, 2018

New mixed-use developments in Middletown aim to encourage people to ‘eat, live, play’ near home
MIDDLETOWN — Two large parcels of land are being developed in the city for commercial and mixed-use projects that officials say will encourage residents to “eat, live and play in one location.”
Over the last six weeks or so, scores of people driving by Route 66/Washington Street near the Staples plaza have watched the felling of trees and construction crews clearing a 15-acre formerly forested plot that borders Carabetta Apartments on Plaza Drive.
Three commercial buildings will be built on the parcel. On the corner of Plaza Drive and Route 66, a 7,500-square-foot, free-standing structure will be built. Developer Abe Kaoud said he is still in negotiations with a tenant interested in building a restaurant there. A second, 8,500-square-foot O’Reilly Auto Parts store will soon occupy a newly constructed facility next door to the recently opened Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery and Pastry Shop at 762 Washington St., Kaoud said.
Phase three of the project, not yet completed, will be a 20,000-square-foot structure at the rear of the plot, built between Washington Street and Carabetta Apartments. Kaoud said he is in the process of lining up tenants, and hopes to get a retail business to come in. It took a year for Kaoud to gain approval on all aspects of the project, according to Middletown Planning, Conservation & Development Director Joseph Samolis.
Accommodations had to be secured from the Inland Wetlands Commission, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the Army Corps of Engineers, Samolis said.
“The developer has had to modify the design to have the least impact ecologically on the area. In some ways, it’s going to be a benefit. There was a storm drain eroding soil away from the parcel, delivering it into the Coginchaug River. This development incorporates methodologies to prevent that from happening,” he said.
Middletown Planning and Zoning Commissioner Stephen Devoto acknowledged he’d prefer a development be built in a mixed-use zone surrounded by businesses than in other parts of the city containing large tracts of open space.
“Those 15 acres of forest weren’t doing anybody any good surrounded by a four-lane highway and parking lot and apartments in back of it. We want to fill in development in the middle of where there’s already development.
“If I had to choose that between there or Maromas or Saybrook, where there’s much more open space, I’d much rather it go on 66,” Devoto said.
At the south end of town, the former Citizens Bank at 211 S. Main St. was recently razed to make room for a new, 17,574-square-foot facility that will include a coffee shop, Citizens Bank branch, and another business — potentially an urgent care facility, Samolis said. Crews were removing debris Monday morning.
Within that building are two 3,000-square-foot units that could be combined into one 6,000-square-foot commercial space.
The Citizens Bank there was distinguished by a feature that had become somewhat of a local landmark, Samolis said.
“At one point in time, the local community used to call it the solar bank, because it had a solar installation.”
Developer Robert Kempenaar II of Rhode Island plans to build retail or office space and four market-rate apartments on the second floor: two two-bedroom apartments and two one-bedrooms.
“What we’re doing is looking at our corridors — mainly on South Main Street, Washington Street and Newfield Street — that come into our urban core, and how we can better utilize property out there. It continues to bring the types of services the residents in those areas of towns need,” Samolis said.
A little over a half-mile away, the new 89-unit College St. Apartments on College and Broad streets is slated to open in fall, he said. There will be a commercial component on the ground floor of that structure as well. These new “market-rate” apartments, like those on South Main, incorporate the city’s vision for a walkable downtown.
“It allows people not having to jump in their cars to go down a few blocks or a few miles to grab a cup of coffee or go to the bank or to a commercial establishment. It’s all within their neighborhood,” Samolis said.
“We want to make communities where people can easily access the amenities they need without having to jump in a car and traveling out of town. We want people to be able to — as the saying goes — eat, live, play in one location,” Samolis said.
“The urban core and these arteries are being developed to serve populations that radiate from those arteries. Having a mixed-use development with a residential component with commercial does that,” he added.
Ensuring new development in Middletown, in complement with well-established commercial areas that can be easily accessed by public transit, pedestrians and bicyclists is the mission of the city’s Complete Streets Committee, which works with public works and planning and zoning staff.
The city made sure the state engineers who conducted a traffic study in the 211 So. Main St. area did everything possible to increase the safety aspect for pedestrians and bikers nearby, Samolis said.
The Complete Street group works “to facilitate walking and biking connections between neighborhoods, commercial districts, parks, public lands, private institutions and neighboring communities,” according to its plan.
That mission aligns with the city’s when it considers all new development, Samolis said.
“We’re looking for vibrant retail to complement the neighborhood so people don’t have to drive. They can get everything they need hopefully within walking distance.”

Malloy, Stamford officials laud Lione Park enhancements

Ignacio Laguarda
STAMFORD — As local officials butt heads over how best to patrol the city’s parks, improvements were unveiled at Lione Park on Monday that many hope will signal a new day for the area.
For some officials, such as city Rep. Jeff Stella (D-9), the park improvements can go a long way toward improving quality of life on the West Side.
He said Monday was a great day for the neighborhood, which he represents on the board.
“When you give kids the opportunity of learning new experiences and creating a brotherhood with the people in the same neighborhood, it reduces a lot of the tension, it reduces crime, and it brings people together from different cultures,” he said.
The park, located on the city’s West Side, has been a frequent stop for Stamford police for reports of illegal behavior. This April, the park was the target of a raid that netted three arrests and 33 tickets. The infractions included drinking, drug use, public urination, and marijuana dealing, among other violation Rep. Rodney Pratt, who also represents the West Side, applaudedthe Lione Park improvements, but he wants the city to do even more At the top of his list is improving the bathrooms on the site, which he said are not well maintained and should be expanded. Pratt also wants more benches and better sanitation in general with new trash bins.
“They got to finish the job,” he said of the city.Pratt is a strong advocate for adding dedicated police to the city’s parks.For one thing, he said, it’ll stop the raids, which he said can be damaging and abrasive to the community.
“When our parks are such big attractions, do you want SWAT out there or a regular policeman to cruise through with a car, [and] write some tickets?” he said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the park on Monday to celebrate the improvements, which include a new play structure for kids and new basketball and beach volleyball courts.
The enhancementsare essentially the first phase of a major addition to the adjacent Boys and Girls Club of Stamford, including a 18,000-square-foot teen center. The state contributed more than $1 million to the park improvements, and $4.5 million toward the second phase, which will include the teen center. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy called the improvements an “investment in the future.”
“We make these investments in this area because we understand that urban environments have their own separate set of challenges,” he said.
Pratt said he was grateful to see the state’s involvement, and hopes the improvements can help revitalize a park he said has been neglected. “When you improve the environment, people will adapt to it,” he said. “We’re improving the environment.”

Ansonia trolley tracks from the past head into future

ANSONIA — A piece of the city’s past may become part of its future.
About a hundred feet of cement-encased trolley tracks have been unearthed by J. Iapaluccio Construction company workers during the ongoing $5.2 million rebuild of Wakelee Avenue, which runs from Seymour to Derby passing Nolan Field on the city’s west side.
The tracks have been found between Jackson Street and Westfield Avenue.bBut Mayor David Cassetti believes more will be uncovered as the construction process makes its way to the project’s end at Franklin Street near Nolan field. “These tracks are part of Ansonia’s past,” Cassetti said. “I want to make them part of our future.” So Cassetti would like to see some of the tracks used as T-bars for a sign over the newly completed section of the Riverwalk on Pershing Drive.
Greg Martin, Cassetti’s director of constituent services, said the idea is to construct 10-foot-high flanking support posts and crossbar which would display a suspended entrance sign. The section has been named the DellaVolpe-Cassetti Passway, recognizing former Mayor James Della Volpe and Cassetti, who were instrumental in creating and finishing this section.
Martin said this would require about 34 feet of track.
A second proposal would use the track to spell out ANSONIA in polished block six-foot-tall letters somewhere downtown, maybe near the Maple Street intersection with Main or near Nolan Field. The letters would be constructed under a “Welcome To” wooden sign. A marker outlining the city’s trolley history would be underneath.
Historic rail line
Sheila O’Malley, the city’s economic development director, said the city is considering putting the remaining tracks out to bid and use that money to pay for the signs. “Some trolley and rail museums have expressed interest,” she said.
The uncovered tracks have been taken to JRD Restoration on Derby Avenue, Derby.
There John DelGado said he has gotten about two truckloads.“Some are in pretty bad shape,” he said. “Some are bent, badly rusted, encased in concrete...I’m going to have to hammer off the concrete, grind them down and smooth out the edges.”
However DelGado believes he’ll have enough for the city’s use.
John William Tuohy, the city historian, has done extensive research on the tracks..
“This was the second oldest trolley line in America,” he said.. “At the time transportation to and from the factories was an issue. This was an effective mass transportation system that ran from Seymour to Ansonia through Derby all the way to West Haven near what was Savin Rock—Connecticut’s answer to Coney Island.”
Tuohy said he has seen photos of some of the cars containing Wakelee Avenue in their message line as well as one with Ansonia, Derby, Birmingham imprinted on its side.
‘Rocket ship transportation’
Much of the line’s birth may lie with Charles Van Depoele, a Belgium-born inventor dubbed “The Flemish Edison,” Tuohy said. Van Depoele had several patents on trolley technology which earned him the nickname the “father of commercial street operation.”
Van Depoele arrived in the U.S. in 1845 and built a line in Scranton, Pa., which was admired by the Derby Horse Railway Co., according to Tuohy’s research. He said the Derby firm purchased a motor car and three 12-foot long passenger cars.
They began building a three and a half mile rail line in 1887 which stretched from State Street in Ansonia and ran through Birmingham and ended at Derby landing, where boats would then take passengers across the Naugatuck River, Touhy said.,
He said the electric plant located on the Derby docks would power the 15 horsepower trolleys to a maximum 20 mphThe first run took place on May, 1888, but Tuohy said there was an issue. The passenger cars’ roofs were higher than a tunnel they had to pass under. The roofs had to be lowered, but doing so left very little headroom.
By October 1890, Tuohy said the line was carrying 1,500 passengers each day and could cover the distance in less than 20 minutes.“A lot of people worked in the factories around the clock,” Tuohy said. “For them this was a safe, quick method of getting to and from work.”
Bankruptcies and mergers led to the creation of the Derby Street Railway company headed by Col. Holton Wood, who served in the state legislature.
Tuohy said the first motor car for the line was pulled from a scrap pile in 1912 and redesigned into four-foot scale models, one of which is now on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
The last run ended 11:15 a.m. on June 18, 1937. Tuohy said its 49 years in service made it the oldest line in New England and the second oldest line in the United States.
“The tracks were made here,” Tuohy said. “This was rocket ship transportation back then and Ansonia was on the cutting edge. Beautifying these tracks and reusing them should be part of the city’s renaissance.”

Stop-work orders issued at Groton water treatment plan

Erica Moser
Groton — With the issuance last week of stop-work orders for two subcontractors working on the town's water treatment plant, local representatives of organized labor saw an opportunity to advocate for local jobs and responsible contracting.
Paul Oates, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Labor, confirmed that the department on Thursday issued stop-work orders to the Massachusetts-based Callahan & Montalto Site Construction and to the Texas-based Malden Steel.
On Monday, he said the stop-work order for Callahan & Montalto had been lifted, and that Malden will be replaced with another subcontractor.
The stop-work orders were issued because the companies didn’t have Connecticut workers’ compensation, Oates said. Malden Steel also was not a registered business in the state. The stop-work orders collectively affected 12 employees.
These two companies have been among the subcontractors working on the $54 million renovation of the water treatment plant, located off Poquonnock Road across from South Road. Groton Utilities hired R.H. White Construction Co., which it said was the low bidder, as the general contractor.
R.H. White then hired subcontractors, of which Chief Operating Officer Jim McCarthy said there are approximately six. Oates said that Department of Labor inspectors interviewed five companies while on-site Thursday.
The two stop-work orders won’t impact the cost or timeline of the project, McCarthy said. He noted that the stop-work orders were based on paperwork issues, and that Callahan & Montalto had the wrong certificate.
When stop-work orders are issued, red notices are placed at the construction site, and word can travel fast. On Friday afternoon, several members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters Local 326 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 478 organized a small demonstration near the construction site. They put up a sign reading, “Are lawbreaking contractors working here now?”
Municipalities always talk about wanting the lowest responsible bidder, and “we want a quality contractor who abides by the law and is competitive,” carpenters’ union organizer David Jarvis explained to The Day afterward.
Some of the demonstrators and their supporters also took issue with work being done by out-of-state companies.
“Obviously we would like to see union workers on the job, but if nothing else, Connecticut workers,” said Michael Gates, an organizer for the operating engineers. Gates said he had a man at the demonstration who lives a quarter-mile from the water treatment plant but hasn’t had a job since December.
Keith Brothers, president of the Norwich-New London Building Trades Council, expressed a similar view. He said it’s “disheartening” that members out of work in the area are seeing Massachusetts and Texas license plates when they’re dropping their kids off to school.
“The state of Connecticut gives money to the town and the city of Groton, and they in turn spend it on contractors out of state, which is kind of ridiculous,” Brothers said.
He and Gates want to use the recent stop-work orders as ammunition to try to get project-labor agreements on the upcoming school building projects in Groton.
McCarthy, of R.H. White, responded to Friday’s demonstration by saying, “I think they, as union reps, have the right to recommend that union labor be used on the job. We have subcontractors on the job, some are union and some are open shop, so there’s no discrimination.”


August 27, 2018

CT Construction Digest Monday August 27, 2018

Route 25 project in Monroe making progress

By Tara O'Neill
MONROE — Police said the expected construction on Route 25 in Monroe has made a lot of progress in the first 24 hours. The roadway was shut down at 8 p.m. Friday and will remain closed until 6 a.m. Monday. The project was delayed three times by inclement weather before finally beginning this weekend.
Local traffic is being detoured on Old Newtown Road. Commercial traffic will take Route 25 to Route 111 to Route 34.
The closure was needed for work on a project that involved replacement of two box culverts, road repairs, installation of new drainage and a water main.
This is the first of three planned closures for this project this year. Additional dates have not yet been finalized, but will be announced as soon as they are.

NEW BRITAIN - A new year is on the horizon for Central Connecticut students, staff and faculty as classes start back up and summer comes to a close.
CCSU has said that, over the summer, it has made improvements to the campus landscape, academic buildings and dormitory halls that are not only appealing to the eye but beneficial to students.
As the fall semester is about to begin, university officials continue to beam over the Campus of the Future project, the latest installment of which is on track to open in January.
The $62 million Willard-DiLoreto construction task being funded through state bonds will be up-and-running after the 2018 winter break and feature 21 departments, including the financial aid and registrar’s offices. Engineering Director James Grupp called it the “heart of student services.”
Though completion is still months away, spookeswoman Janice Palmer said that the university is excited about the groundbreaking project, encouraging students returning to classes to take a moment and “stop and look around” at the newly upgraded facility.
Palmer said that Barnard Hall, which houses the School of Education and Professional Studies, will start its renovation once the work on Willard and DiLoreto is done.
“We’re also soon going to start construction across the street for a new parking garage,” Palmer added. “There’s going to be a skywalk to connect directly from Willard-DiLoreto to it.”
One of the most exciting things Palmer said is awaiting students right away is the new $1.1 million Nursing Learning Center Simulation Laboratories in Copernicus Hall. According to Palmer, the lab features 10 new offices, an expanded learning laboratory and six “simulation rooms” dedicated to a specialized area of health care.
Other simulation laboratories are being worked on.
Dormitories, including James and Barrows halls, have also received upgrades.
The over-20-year-old furniture in James has been replaced, and Barrows’ bathrooms now have power outlets
As for what can’t be seen on the outside, Palmer said that the WiFi connectivity, specifically outdoors and in the Elihu Burritt Library, has been “bumped up.”
But perhaps one of the most important new features near campus is the new food pantry, directly across from Vance Garage.
“We realize that responding to the needs of our students and staff very important, and it’s important to expand our services,” Palmer said. “Thankfully, our facilities are in a very accessible spot.”
Visits to the pantry are confidential, and guests are allowed to take up to 10 items each time they come.
Students will be able to visit the food pantry and experience the new upgrades, expansions and improvement beginning on Tuesday, the first day of classes.

Marriott hotel proposed for Route 372 in Cromwell

CROMWELL — In what town officials say is yet another sign of a reinvigorated local economy, Marriott is proposing to build a new 120-plus room hotel in town.
The Planning and Zoning commission has received an application to build a Springhill Suites hotel in a 19,868-square-foot building in the Cobblestone Plaza on the Berlin Road/ Route 3. The commission has scheduled a public hearing on the application Sept. 20, Town Planner Stuart Popper said.
The plaza, on the north side of busy Route 372, is home to a CVS at 60 Berlin Road and a Liberty Bank branch at 72 Berlin Road. If approved, Springhill Suites would be occupy 76 Berlin Road.
Marriott International, with headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, describes itself as a “multi-national hospitality company” with in excess of “6,700 hotels and 20 world-wide brands.” In a “supplemental narrative” provided to the planner’s office, Marriott said the hotel would sit on a 4.1-acre parcel of land, and would include 123 rooms with 115 parking spaces. The site is located “in a highway business district, in which a hotel is listed as a use requiring a special permit approval.”
“This is another win for Cromwell as we continue to grow our economic development in town,” Mayor Enzo Faienza said by email. “I’m proud of all the efforts (going on) all around in making Cromwell business-friendly. We are experiencing huge growth this is only going to get stronger.”
There are now four hotels in Cromwell, according to the assessor’s office. There is a possibility there could be another one in the offing in very short order.
Popper said owners of the Quality Inn at 111 Berlin Road have discussed filing “an amended concept plan” for a 3.89-acre parcel of land adjacent to the existing hotel, with an eye toward building a second hotel. CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE

State's labor challenges are many

Matt Pilon
Connecticut's labor force is a major driver of the state's economy that, if fine tuned, could offer a competitive advantage in attracting jobs and investment capital.
But like nearly all complex systems run by people, the state's labor market is inefficient.
In an ideal world, every person who wants a job would have one that provides satisfaction, purpose and security. Meanwhile, every employer would have a well-stocked pipeline of job candidates, with just the right skill-sets, at the ready to come aboard during a time of growth, or to bid bon voyage to a crop of longtime, loyal workers headed toward retirement.
Unfortunately, that's not how things really work.
Though Connecticut's labor force is 1.7 million strong — and highly educated, to boot — the matchmaking process isn't always easy.
Connecticut employers will need to fill an estimated 56,000 jobs annually through 2024, and several industries — health care, manufacturing and construction — are facing significant labor shortages, or the need to fill tens of thousands of jobs in the coming years, according to estimates from the state's economists.
There is also a mismatch of available jobs and skill-sets for certain industries in Connecticut.
Middle-skill jobs, which require more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree, account for 48 percent of Connecticut's labor market, but only 38 percent of the state's workers are qualified for those positions, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. At the same time, we have an oversupply of low-skill workers.
The need for a college education, however, will only grow in this state. About 38 percent of Connecticut residents 25 years and older have a bachelor's degree or higher, but by 2020 over 70 percent of jobs will require postsecondary degrees, according to a 2014 American Community Survey.
Hitting the 70-percent target will require 300,000 more grads than current rates of production will supply. Connecticut must also lure more college-educated individuals from out of state.
Connecticut, using both its own money as well as grants and federal funds, has tried to address these various issues, creating some programs that have produced promising results.
But because the economy evolves, workforce development is an equation that's never truly solved.
The challenges are many.
New hires often need training, which can cost time and money without any guarantee of a return on investment (turnover is a problem facing many employers). For better-paying gigs with greater responsibilities, employers often filter out applicants who lack the requisite work experience or education, which might take years to acquire. Sometimes, companies simply need more job candidates than area colleges or training programs can churn out in time; or employers and educators realize entirely new programs must be created.
Then there's the other half of the equation: the job seeker. Life's uncertainties and struggles may spur some to accept an offer right away. Others could be choosier, wanting to ensure they're making the best possible move according to their perceived value.
It's a combination of timing, strategy, planning and luck, akin to a game of musical chairs, but with real-life consequences.
With all that in mind, the Hartford Business Journal decided workforce development was an important topic to explore for our annual summer series, which kicks off today and will run for several weeks.
While it's not the only factor, a skilled workforce is a major consideration for any executives thinking about where to locate their businesses. The health of our economy could very well depend on how we prepare our next generation of workers.
Workforce development reaches across government, the private sector, nonprofits, colleges and even down to school children whose ideas about the future are still forming.
Connecticut's fiscal and demographic challenges lend additional urgency and complexity to the topic. The state's high debt and sluggish growth could constrain potential investments aimed at supercharging workforce-development programs. The state also has an aging population that will create gaps in the workforce, and more people are leaving Connecticut than moving in.
While Connecticut is a wealthy state, the gap between its rich and poor is vast. Many potentially productive workers, who could be bettering their own lives and the state's economy, face systemic challenges, including a lack of access to child care, transportation and education. Some have a criminal record stymying their potential upward mobility.
Today and in the weeks ahead, we'll introduce you to Connecticut's numerous workforce-development players, walk you through their challenges and how they're trying to tackle them, and explore ways employers are trying to recruit top talent.
You'll likely glean from our series that workforce development, if it's to make a difference, must be built around strong collaborations and partnerships. Those relationships are out there in Connecticut. Perhaps you could make them stronger.
For our readers who have management positions and hiring responsibilities, maybe our stories will inspire you to play some small part. It could benefit your company, industry and even the state.

Waterbury aldermen question store renovation using outside labor force

WATERBURY – Two current and one former aldermen are criticizing the fact the city’s Good Jobs Ordinance isn’t being applied at the ongoing $15 million renovation of the former Howland Hughes Department Store.
The ordinance requires contractors working on large-scale city projects to make a “good faith” effort to meet hiring quotas for women, minorities, city residents and apprentices.
City staff, however, point out the ordinance refers to projects funded whole or in part by city money, or federal and state money funneled through the city. But it also only applies to public buildings and facilities, such as schools or roads.
State grants are paying for up to $7.5 million of the renovation. Additionally, the city has granted large breaks on taxes and city parking garage fees to entice the long-sought renovation to the iconic downtown building.
“I guess Good Jobs only applies when certain people want it to,” former Alderman Lawrence V. De Pillo of the Independent Party said at the Aug. 20 Board of Aldermen meeting.
Republican aldermen Steven Giacomi and Roger Sherman added their voices to De Pillo’s concern following Monday’s meeting. Giacomi said he’s repeatedly heard complaints that all one sees is New York license plates at the job site.
“My feeling, and I think Roger would agree, is we are talking about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law,” said Giacomi, the board minority leader. “To me, it’s something that’s a little disappointing considering the enormity of the project and how important this is to the city.”
Giacomi said that city aldermen subsidized the ongoing maintenance costs of the privately held Howland Hughes building while top city officials worked to seal a redevelopment deal.
Mayor Neil M. O’Leary referred questions to Corporation Counsel Linda T. Wihbey, who shared a copy of a March 1 memo to a Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development official.
In that memo, Wihbey wrote the Howland Hughes renovation does not involve a public building, and so not be subject to DECD requirements for competitive bidding, contracting and construction guidelines for state programs. Nor would it be subject to “local hiring requirements of public projects,” Wihbey wrote.
DECD spokesman Jim Watson, in an email, wrote the state’s assistance was pledged to the project before July 1, and so is not subject to new legislation requiring even private recipients of DECD funding be subject to requirements to offer prevailing wage.
Joseph Gramando, a partner in Green Hub Development, said he’d heard complaints about all the workers from New York. A couple of his larger contractors are from New York, Gramando acknowledged, but most are from Connecticut.
Gramando said he was assured of not being subject to state bidding requirements prior to beginning the project.
“If you’re using certain state requirements, the price would be three times the (current) cost,” Gramando said. “We were trying to make a project work where we can get Post (University) into the city.”
Post University has signed a lease to begin moving “approximately 400” workers into a renovated Howland Hughes beginning in December. Gramando said he’s on target to deliver the building on time.
If all state public building construction requirements were applied, construction would not have yet even begun, Gramando said.

August 23, 2018

CT Construction Digest Thursday August 23, 2018

Danbury apartment complex to expand on Osborne Street
Zach Murdock
DANBURY — An expansion is on the way for the Victorian Meadows apartment and townhome complex on Osborne Street.City officials have given the green light to a plan to add 13 more rental units to the back end of the property situated next to the Danbury Hospital and Western Connecticut State University campus.The addition will bring the complex to 52 units in total, including seven apartments that must meet affordable housing requirements, and will add to the surging number of rental units in and around downtown.
“We haven’t had one building that hasn’t been fully rented before it was completed,” developer Bob Botelho said. “So it’s been well received by the general public.”
Victorian Meadows was first approved by city leaders in late 2009 under the city’s housing incentive option to encourage developers to hold rents low for some units in exchange for allowing more density for their projects.
The original 39 units at Victorian Meadows were built in phases over the subsequent six years and have become home to many hospital interns and staff because of its proximity to the city’s largest employer, Botelho said.
The addition will be built on two properties Botelho’s company is purchasing to the southeast of the current Meadows buildings closest to Cleveland Street. An existing home on one of the properties will be demolished and two new buildings will go up in its stead, according to the plans.
Botelho has not yet provided an estimated start date for construction.
Buildings 6 and 7 will include four two-bedroom units, five three-bedroom units and four one-bedroom units. One affordable, handicap accessible unit will be included in each building — a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom — and will meet the city’s affordable housing guidelines based on the average income in the city, putting potential rents in the range of $1,200 to $1,400 per month.
The exterior of the buildings will look similar to the style of the existing complex, some of which include red wrought iron pieces imported from Italy, city staff said.
“We don’t do anything that is off the book, it’s always something very custom,” Botelho said. “We get together with my trimmers and do something different for every building.”
The project received a final blessing from the city Planning Commission earlier this month without any opposition from neighbors and glowing reviews from city leaders.
“Tonight went lickety-split,” Commissioner Joel Urice said at the end of the meeting. “Part of the reason, for me, is I’ve seen the work.
“They built quite honestly a stellar development over on Osborne Street,” he added. “It’s a great piece of Danbury, so I have less issues with this developer than I might have with someone we’ve had less than a pleasant experience with.”

New Britain mayor withdraws support for Tilcon plan
New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart announced Wednesday that she has revoked the city’s participation in the proposed Tilcon mining expansion.
Tilcon followed suit shortly after with company president Gary Wall telling the mayor in a letter that he “concurred” with her decision.
“We agree with many interested parties that the Lenard (environmental) Study and the public have raised several issues which would require further review before any such project could move forward,” Stewart said in a letter dated Wednesday to John Betkoski, the head of the state’s Water Planning Council.
Stewart then went on say that due to the cost of further studies, she was withdrawing her support for the project. The city spent $350,000 to get an environmental impact study that was widely viewed as inadequate and skewed in favor of the mining project.
“I have concluded that the most prudent course of action at this time would be withdrawal of the proposal from further consideration,” Stewart said.
The move effectively killed the proposal since the project would have allowed Tilcon to mine 74 acres of protected watershed owned by the New Britain Water Department but located in Plainville. Tilcon would have mined the property for 40 years before returning the quarry back to the city as a “storage reservoir.” The city would have been paid an undisclosed amount for the mining rights to the land.
A spirited opposition to the project worked for more than two years to inform state residents of the dangers of the plan, including the possible pollution of New Britain’s water supply.
“The mayor testified before the legislature in March 2016 that ‘this has the ability to make extraordinary quality of life changes - for the better - in our communities for generations to come.’ The public overwhelmingly disagreed, this was an indefensible proposal with disastrous consequences to the environment and the New Britain and Southington water supply systems,” said Paul Zagorsky, an attorney who helped found Protect Our Watersheds CT to battle the plan. “It’s about time - and long overdue - that New Britain’s interests and voices are put ahead of Tilcon’s. What about the fact the city spent, at her request, $354,000 on a study that has been found to be flawed and incomplete?”
A similar plan proposed by Stewart’s father, Mayor Timothy Stewart, was also rejected under heavy opposition in 2007.
“This was long overdue for a number of reasons,” said retired Central Connecticut State University President Richard Judd, who worked with Zagorsky and the group to defeat the plan. “The first of which was the study done by Lenard which was a very poor study with a lot of lack to it.” Judd called every drop of water for New Britain residents “precious” and speculated that the proposal “won’t come back to bite us.”
The Water Planning Council and the state Council on Environmental Quality panned the project earlier this year after examining a 500-page study done by Lenard Engineering on the potential impacts of the plan on the watershed. Both agencies were preparing to file documents with the state legislature on their findings and to submit hundreds of public comments against the plan that have been received in recent months, when Stewart sent the letter indicating she was pulling the plug on the deal.
Since the project would have required a change in the use of a protected watershed, the plan was required to be reviewed by the legislature and the state Department of Public Health.
Although Plainville officials didn’t openly oppose the plan - with Tilcon as their second largest taxpayer - the Southington Water Department announced in recent weeks that the existing quarry is already damaging their water supply by shifting the water flow toward the quarry and away from Crescent Lake.
Tilcon wanted to expand the quarry to within a half-mile of Crescent Lake, which is used to augment water flow in the Quinnipiac River during periods of drought.

Torrington council authorizes mayor to award contract to raze Southeast School

TORRINGTON – Southeast School faces an impending death sentence.
The City Council on Monday unanimously voted to authorize Mayor Elinor C. Carbone to award a contract to Standard Demolition Services of Trumbull for $248,290. The old neighborhood school, which was built in the 1930s, will be razed in the months to come.
Southeast hasn’t been a school since 2005, when the alternative high school program was moved to Torrington High School. After that, day care centers and after-school programs leased the space, including Shookie Recreation, but the building has sat empty since 2011.
The city has tried to sell the building over the years but without success. It has cost the city about $20,000 a year to heat and maintain the building, even though it was barely used.
In 2014, the Board of Education took possession of the building again and mulled reopening it with new programming. Public Works Director Jerry Rollett said it would cost $2 million to remediate the building at the time, but school officials put the figure at $3 million, with state grants picking up most of the cost. Upgrading would have included bringing the building up to code, remediating the asbestos and lead, and adding a new roof for permanent use.The demolition eventually will give the street department, which abuts Southeast School on the western side, another access road and more space. Though the street and parks departments merged several years ago, they are in separate buildings, with tools scattered in different buildings around the city.


August 22, 2018

CT Construction Digest Wednesday August 22, 2018

Danbury residents can help oversee massive Interstate 84 expansion project
By Zach Murdock
DANBURY — State engineers are looking for local help to develop a $715 million plan to rebuild Interstate 84 between Exit 3 and Exit 8 in Danbury over the next decade.
Engineers from the state Department of Transportation have hosted workshops with dozens of towns, businesses, groups and councils across the area over the past year, but they’re missing one core group — neighborhoods.
Now the team is forming a project advisory committee of at least two dozen local officials and neighborhood leaders to help guide the design of the highway expansion and improvements with their local experience, officials announced Tuesday at a luncheon for members of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce.
“We don’t live in Danbury,” said Dave Sousa, a senior planner and consultant working with DOT on the project. “We have the data, but you all have the experiences. So it’s really important that we talk in these settings and get the feedback ... (The committee) is a really interesting way to engage people through representatives of people who live here.”
The committee will be formed this fall and will meet on a regular basis with engineers and consultants working on the project to provide feedback and help keep the entire project on track as it moves through a series of design phases through essentially the mid-2020s, DOT Project Manager Andy Fesenmeyer said. The massive expansion plan was first announced in early 2015 as part of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s ambitious 30-year, $100-billion plan to upgrade and modernize transportation infrastructure across the state. Malloy announced the plan at the time overlooking the interstate in Danbury and on Monday announced the I-84 construction project in Waterbury would be opening this month, a year ahead of schedule.
So far the Danbury project team has collected data and will spend at least the next two years working on potential proposals for the stretch of highway and securing necessary federal environmental permits — possibly setting actual construction all the way back to about 2030, according to the latest timeline. “Our timeline is still mid to late-20s and the reason we put it like that is we don’t even know what we’re building right now, so it’s hard to guess when we might build that,” Fesenmeyer said. “So the timeline is fairly long because, to work through the public, it’s an intensive alternative analysis to make sure we get the right project.”
This 6.5-mile stretch of the highway was originally designed in the late 1950s to handle about 15,000 cars per day — a far cry from the 80,000 to 110,000 vehicles that drive it daily now.
Atop the project’s priority list will be reconfiguring the interchanges where I-84 and Route 7 meet, which require lane changes and left exits that cause congestion and dangerous situations, DOT officials said.
But the final expansion might not mean simply adding an extra lane in each direction, Fesenmeyer said. As much as 40 percent of traffic on the highway between Exit 3 and Exit 8 is local traffic simply avoiding the city’s zig-zagging street network and stoplights, he said. It could be possible to add a local-traffic-only lane along the highway to ease congestion for through-traffic on the main interstate lanes without overburdening the existing city street setup, he suggested.
That will be for the advisory committee of neighbors to help decide and balance, though, which underscores the necessity for involvement early and often in the lengthy design process, state and local officials agreed. “I think the community engagement process is going to be really paramount to the whole thing,” City Councilman Vinny DiGilio said. “The city of Danbury and its residents went through a lot on Route 6. We were kind of held hostage to things happening there out of our control for a long, long time and there’s going to be a lot of those type of things during this process.
“That 30 to 40 percent (of local traffic) is here 100 percent of the time,” he continued. “The improvements and the end result are going to be excellent. The means, the work to get there, is going to be where the real special sauce happens.” DOT officials will be at this week’s Downtown Chow-Down during lunch on Thursday at Kennedy Park and plan to host more public community meetings in the fall.

Danbury leaders begrudgingly advance $102 million water treatment plan referendum
By Zach Murdock
DANBURY — Voters will be asked to approve a $102 million referendum in November for federal- and state-mandated upgrades to the region’s aging wastewater treatment plant in Danbury.
The City Council begrudgingly agreed Monday night to put the bond question before voters despite members’ skepticism that the costly upgrades will have any significant impact on the outflow into local waterways.
But council members say state and federal environmental rules have forced their hands to advance the plan despite its jaw-dropping price.
Now the city finds itself up against a series of deadlines to implement the proposed upgrades or face steep penalties from state environmental authorities, ranging from daily fines to outright losing its state permit for the plant.
“It’s not something we’re happy about doing, but it is what it is and it has to be done,” Council President Joe Cavo said after the meeting. “This is one of those infrastructure things we have to deal with and it’s a quality of life issue — you have to keep flushing your toilet and washing your dishes. But it’s for the voters to decide, so we have to put it to them.”
Still unclear, though, is how much the project might ultimately cost some city residents and business owners, Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola said. Although every city voter will be eligible to cast a ballot on the referendum question, only homeowners and businesses connected to city sewer will bear the cost through their monthly sewer bill.
Any ultimate rate increase necessary to fund the project cannot even be estimated until bids go out next spring and the state decides how much grant funding it will receive, both of which will happen well after voters would be asked to approve the borrowing, Iadarola conceded.
“It’s almost impossible to figure that out at this stage,” he told the council. “We’re trying to get our hands around that.”The wastewater treatment plant off Newtown Road was last upgraded in 1993 and now serves Danbury, Bethel, Brookfield, Newtown and Ridgefield.The referendum follows the city’s lengthy battles with state environmental officials and three environmental groups over treatment standards at the plant and some cases when it had to discharge untreated water into nearby brooks.
The city settled the lawsuit brought by environmental groups last year for a $100,000 fine and a series of updates to its regulations and the treatment plant itself. But it has now been a decade since the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection ordered the city increase its water treatment to remove 98 percent of phosphorous from the water leaving the plant.The aging plant currently removes about 90 percent of phosphorous from the water — which can cause environmental or health problems in large amounts — but the planned upgrades will push the plant to the mandated 98 percent mark, Public Utilities Superintendent David Day said.Mayor Mark Boughton agreed the city has “no choice” but to pay for the upgrades or face steep penalties, from daily fines to losing their state water treatment permit entirely.
“I don’t have a problem with (the upgrades), it’s the phosphorous removal that just gets absurd,” Boughton said. “I don’t think this is going to have any impact downstream, but we’re not going to win the argument. We’ve been fighting with the EPA and DEEP and just haven’t broken through.”
The 21-member council must authorize the referendum with a supermajority vote at its meeting in September to formally advance the question to ballots this fall.
If the council doesn’t, it risks losing state funding for the upgrades and a consent order to complete the upgrades anyway, city corporation counsel Les Pinter said. If voters vote down the borrowing, the city likely would face the same dilemma, he added.
Voters approved a $10 million bond referendum two years ago to begin the process of designing the upgrades and designs are about 70 percent complete as of this summer.
If approved by voters, the city would bid the project next spring and could begin construction later next year to complete the improvements by mid-2022.

20 towns to split $62M for affordable housing development
Joe Cooper
The state will award over $61.5 million in funding to build, restore or expand 978 affordable housing units in 20 towns, officials announced Monday.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the grants and loans will support multi-family housing units in high opportunity areas, which are identified by access to municipal services, local education systems and low crime levels.
The housing funding raises the availability of low-cost homes in Greater Hartford and in towns including Farmington, Manchester, Glastonbury, South Windsor, Enfield, Stamford, Greenwich, New Haven and Norwich, state officials said.
Since 2011, the state Department of Housing (DOH) and Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) have built, rehabilitated or pledged funding for about 24,332 housing units, with over 20,000 of those remaining as affordable to low and moderate-income options for homebuyers.
The $1.4 billion investments were matched by over 2.4 billion from other financial sources including the private sector.
Projects to receive funds include:
Farmington: New Horizons Village: DOH will award a $3.5 million grant to New Horizons Inc. for renovationing a 68-unit community providing assistance to over 100 low-income adults with physical disabilities.
Hartford: Ward Affleck: DOH is funding almost $1.3 million to the 14-unit affordable housing property for interior and exterior improvements.
Hartford: Cityscape VII: DOH will provide a grant up to about $1 million to Pope Park Zion LLC for the seventh phase of its Cityscape Homes project in Hartford's Frog Hollow neighborhood.
Hartford: Bristol Apartments: DOH is funding up to $813,780 for exterior and interior improvements at the 15-unit affordable housing property.
East Hartford: Veterans Terrace: DOH will send $5.2 million to the Veteran's Terrace Communities LLC to begin the first phase of reconstruction and rehabilitation at the 45-unit moderate rental property.
Glastonbury: Herbert T. Clark Congregate: DOH has awarded a $3 million grant to the Glastonbury Housing Authority for its 45-unit congregate property. The grant will be used for exterior and interior upgrades. The property owner and utility companies will also provide funds.
Manchester: Spencer Village and Spencer Village: DOH will award a $2 million grant to the Manchester Housing Authority for its 80-unit elderly property. The funds are meant for exterior and interior improvements. The building owner, CHFA, and the utility company will also provide funding.
South Windsor: Wapping Mews: DOH will provide up to $2 million to the South Windsor Housing Authority for its 30-unit elderly property. The funds will cover interior and exterior improvements and upgrades to the community and laundry rooms to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

Manchester Panel: Renovate, Enlarge 3 Elementary Schools; Convert Another To Preschool

A committee charged with drafting the second half of a school modernization plan made preliminary recommendations Tuesday to renovate and enlarge three elementary schools and convert another to a preschool.The panel, made up of town and school leaders and citizens, has considered three main options to bring the remaining elementary schools up to 21st century standards and balance racial and socioeconomic enrollment in each school.
Voters approved an $84 million bond issue in 2014 for the first phase of the school modernization project. That work is to be completed next year. The panel that drafted that plan, the School Modernization and Reinvestment Team Revisited, has been revived as SMARTR2 to plan the second phase and bring a proposal to voters.
Meeting in Lincoln Center Tuesday, the committee dismissed the option of “like-new” renovations to all four elementary schools: Bowers, Buckley, Martin and Keeney. A major problem is the expense: about $33.1 million after a state reimbursement. Also, that estimate is in today’s dollars, and construction costs are expected to climb before the projects begin.
Committee members also rejected renovating and enlarging two schools to accommodate about 580 students each and closing two others. Because the state reimburses more for larger projects, that is the least expensive option, at $19.8 to $22 million, but it would leave little room to accommodate increased enrollment in the future, members said.
Renovating three of the four schools — Bowers, Buckley and either Keeney or Martin — and making the other into a preschool makes the most sense, in part because it provides flexibility for future growth, panel members said. The net cost to taxpayers for renovating the three schools so that each could accommodate 400 students would be about $28.3 million.
The panel was leaning toward converting Martin to a preschool. Chairwoman Cheri Eckbreth said that made the most sense since Martin already meets some of the code requirements for a preschool, including bathrooms attached to each classroom. Randall Luther, representing the project architect, TSKP Studio architects, said the estimated cost of converting Martin into a preschool is about $14.5 million, before state reimbursement.
The SMARTR2 panel’s recommendations now go to a joint meeting of the board of education and board of directors, scheduled for Aug. 28. After that, public hearings would be held in September and it could go to voters for a referendum in April on issuing bonds. If voters approve, construction on the first school would not begin until the summer of 2020, General Manager Scott Shanley said.
So far, Bennet Academy has been joined with the Cheney Building for a new fifth- and sixth-grade school. The project also includes "like-new" renovations and additions to Waddell and Verplanck schools, so that each will serve up to 530 students. Robertson and Washington schools are to be closed eventually.