January 31, 2019

CT Construction Digest Thursday January 31, 2019

Cromwell Town Council wants garage project reconsidered
Jeff Mill
CROMWELL — The Town Council has sent the public works garage project back to the Board of Finance for another review.
The board last week split 3-3 on a motion to approve the project.
The tie vote scuttled the proposal to build a 38,000-square-foot plus garage and office space for the Public Works Department and Water Pollution Control Authority.
The building would be built on a 13-acre parcel of town-owned land off County Line Road, which sits between Shunpike Road and Interstate 91. The projected cost of the project is $9.3 million. The WPCA would pay for 28 percent of the cost.
The Board of Finance’s “no” votes were cast by Republican Steve Wygonowski and Democrats Edwin Maley and Bob Milardo (who was incorrectly identified as a Republican in a Middletown Press article that ran Tuesday).
On Tuesday evening, Maley said there was no question the garage is needed.
But he said he did not feel he had sufficient information — and the time to examine it in detail — before he was asked to vote on the proposal. The council met Monday to approve a proposal to abate taxes for residents who are federal employees who were caught up in the 35-day government shutdown.
Also on the agenda was a proposal from the town administration to bring up the garage proposal again and ask the council to approve it.
Earlier this month, the council voted 4-0-3 to approve the project.The council’s three Democratic members abstained.
On Monday, the council voted 6-0-1 to approve the project.
Councilor Allan Waters was one of the members who initially abstained. Councilor Myron P. Johnson again abstained.
On Monday, Waters and fellow Democrat James Demetriades voted in favor to the plan.
“We need it. There’s no two ways about it,” Waters said of the project on Wednesday morning.
Waters is especially pleased that the garage would be built on town-owned land, “so there’s no $300,000 we’d need to spend to buy it, because we already own it.”
In an email Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Enzo Faienza thanked his colleagues for approving the project.
“I’m very pleased with the Town Council’s decision for the reconsideration to the Board of Finance,” he said. “I hope the board will have a meeting in the near future so they can reconsider the proposal, and I hope we can all move on from here.”
Town Manager Anthony Salvatore also said Tuesday, “I’m very pleased at the council’s action.”
“And I hope the Board of Finance will act upon this in an expeditious manner,” he said.
“We have a contractor out there who is waiting for approval so he can lock this project into his schedule,” Salvatore said.
What’s more, the town is anxious to “take advantage of the 2019 construction season,” Salvatore said.
“These are reasons to keep this project moving forward at a timely pace, along with the favorable bond rates that we still can capture due to our AAA bond rating,” Faienza added.
Salvatore said he and Director of Finance Marianne Sylvester are “continuing to discuss options that we can bring to the Board of Finance to consider.”

New London will share in State Pier revenues under new deal
Julia Bergman 
New London — The city will receive 10 percent of the Connecticut Port Authority's share of the revenue from State Pier, and an annual $75,000 fee to defray the cost of police, fire and other city services.
The agreement was announced Wednesday morning by Gov. Ned Lamont — whose office helped negotiate the deal — and city and state officials at a news conference at a packed City Hall. Earlier in the morning, the port authority's board met and voted to approve the agreement, which guarantees payments to the city for 20 years.
Mayor Michael Passero said the governor delivered on a promise to be a partner with New London, and set the relationship between the port authority and city "on the right path."
"The agreement today is the beginning of the process to correct some historic inequities that were built into that relationship," Passero said. "New London will be receiving additional revenue in recognition of its role as the host city for the State Pier."
The port authority also committed to supporting any proposals to change statute to include the mayor of New London as an ex-officio member of its board, which would guarantee that the city has a seat at the table during future discussions surrounding development of State Pier.
On Jan. 7, the port authority announced a 20-year deal with New Haven port operator Gateway to run State Pier, a state-owned facility. The deal drew immediate criticism from Passero, who said he was disappointed there was no guarantee of funding to the city. He also expressed dismay at being sidelined from the negotiations. The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments backed the city's bid for a better deal, sending a letter to Lamont asking him to get involved.
Calling the deal a public-private partnership, Lamont said it's a template for how he'd like to think about development in the state going forward.
Scott Bates, chairman of the port authority's board, said the deal represents "a new day for New London."
"Every day you see a ship come into New London, New London gets a piece of the action from that," Bates said.
The port authority, under the agreement with Gateway, will receive 7 percent of Gateway's gross annual revenues at State Pier, with a minimum annual guarantee of $500,000. That means the city is guaranteed a minimum of $50,000 annually, in addition to the annual $75,000 fee for municipal services.
The fee for services will increase annually based on the Consumer Price Index. The revenue share minimum will increase to $68,750 after five years, and will continue to grow every five years after that.
The minimum is meant to protect the city against a downturn in the economy or decline in activity at the port, Bates said. With increased activity, New London will see more money.
Under its expiring agreement with Logistec, which has managed the pier for two decades, the port authority gets 6.75 percent of the assessable revenue generated from the port. That’s amounted to about $500,000 to $550,000 in recent years. 
Gateway will take over operations at State Pier on May 1, under the name Gateway New London LLC.
Matthew Satnick, co-CEO and chairman of Enstructure, Gateway's financial partner, said Gateway has customer-specific, commodity-specific and market-specific ideas for New London's port. The ideas are based upon what the company has built in New Haven, which is the highest-volume commercial shipping port on Long Island Sound. He said the company has customers who are interested in moving to New London but declined to talk specifics at this point.
The city also will continue to receive funding from the state under the payment in lieu of taxes program for the State Pier property, which totals about 32 acres. Last year, the state paid about $164,750 in PILOT funds for State Pier.
Passero said "most importantly" the agreement promotes the larger goal shared by "all the stakeholders in State Pier": to turn New London's deepwater port into "the offshore wind capital of the Northeast."
New London officials have worked with offshore wind companies Deepwater Wind and later Orsted, which purchased Deepwater, to lay the groundwork for State Pier to become a staging area for offshore wind development. Deepwater Wind developed the five-turbine wind farm off Block Island and is under contract to deliver 300 megawatts of electricity to Connecticut from a wind farm off Martha's Vineyard.
Orsted is not part of Gateway's 20-year contract to operate State Pier, even though company officials spent several months laying out a vision of working with Gateway to help transform State Pier into a world-class offshore wind hub supporting upcoming projects and potentially drawing suppliers and manufacturers to the region.
Lamont said a focus of his administration is on reliable and affordable energy, and reducing the state's carbon footprint.
"Wind power is going to be a significant piece of our future, and New London is at the very front of the line," he said.
Passero, Bates and Lamont agreed that significant additional investment would be needed in State Pier to compete with other ports in the Northeast vying to be staging areas for offshore wind development, but none of the men was willing to say an exact dollar figure.
Gateway has committed $30 million in capital improvements, such as equipment and maintenance at State Pier. The port authority also received $25 million from the state for improvements to the facility. Orsted has committed to keeping Deepwater Wind's pledge to invest at least $15 million in the pier.
Deepwater also has committed funding to New London, pledging an annual $750,000 investment in the city as part of a host community agreement for the length of its stay in New London. Orsted has said it would maintain Deepwater Wind's commitments and plans to open office space in the city as well, but city officials say it remains unclear how long Orsted will stay.
Passero said those discussions are ongoing. Separately, the mayor said he is working closely with Lamont's staff on the Crystal Avenue property that houses a closed high-rise apartment complex, which has been talked about as an area that could be developed in conjunction with port activity, and "the value of that as a port asset."       

January 30, 2019

CT Construction Digest Wednesday January 30, 2019

 Overhaul planned for New Haven’s Grand Avenue Bridge
Clare Dignan
NEW HAVEN — The Grand Avenue Bridge will be getting a makeover.
Beginning late this year, the city plans to begin rehabilitation of the bridge, expected to take up to two years. City engineers Tuesday sought input from residents on the future of the iconic neighborhood bridge.
“This is truly a special structure on the Quinnipiac river,” City Engineer Giovanni Zinn said. “It’s truly a treasure and with that comes the responsibility of preserving that historical character.”
In a community discussion involving dozens of area residents from both sides of the Quinnipiac River, Zinn covered the scope of work on the bridge, bridge closure and other traffic impacts, project finances and schedule, public amenities and business impacts, in addition to community concerns.
The design of the bridge project is 90 percent completed and expected to be finished and ready to be put out to bid by late winter. Construction is not anticipated to start until late fall . But once underway, construction could last up to 2 years.
The project cost is estimated to be $25.5 million, two-thirds of which will be underwritten through a combination of federal and state funds. The rehabilitation project will include new bridge abutments, approach spans, electrical and mechanical systems and rehabilitation of the swing span. “This is transformational,” state Rep. Al Paollilo, D-New Haven, said. “This will set the stage for the next 40 to 50 years. This is good planning and it has been a priority for the delegation.”
The project limits extend from Front Street to Quinnipiac Avenue and will involved the replacement of both approach spans, rehabilitation of the center truss and full replacement of the mechanical and electrical equipment on the bridge.
The mechanical systems of the bridge currently working are the original systems built in 1898. The bridge closes for every few years for maintenance, which can take up to a couple of weeks to complete.
The city also plans to create new abutments where the bridge meets the land, allowing engineers to take weight off aging piers that aren’t structurally sound, because the approach spans will be built in one span, unlike the current two, Zinn said
One of the planned improvements is to provide a minimum sidewalk width of 10 feet on the south side of the bridge to accommodate a shared-use path.
Additionally, work will include rebuilding the bridge deck; rehabilitating the house; replacing any electrical; and blast cleaning and repainting the structural steel. The black paint on the bridge now causes it to overheat during the summer, so Zinn proposed changing the color to gray.Quinnipiac Avenue resident Chris Ozyck, who can see the bridge from his home, suggested painting the bridge green instead, so as not to make the neighborhood look drab. He cited other historical bridges in the Northeast that are green.
The other element Zinn sought input for was lighting on the bridge. It currently has no lights, but Zinn presented several options of how the bridge could be lighted.
“The lighting is a really subjective thing,” Ozyck said. “People don’t like change so getting consensus on lighting, if it’s not done in a traditional way, will be hard. It’s a great idea and I’ve been an advocate and I’m hoping we can work on it longer.”
The intersections on either side of the bridge will remain in service the entire time, Zinn said. Nevertheless, it will cause complications for a couple of days once it’s closed. Traffic was one of resident Lee Cruz’s concerns, along with the effect on local businesses.
“Whatever traffic (the businesses are) getting from the other side won’t be there, so how do we make that up?” he said. “But overall we need to do it and it’s going to be good for us. Just like telling kids to take their medicine and trust it will make you better.”
The importance of the bridge was evident in the number of people who showed up to the presentation, said Acting Economic Development Director Michael Piscitelli, a Fair Haven Heights resident .
“All of us on the city team are really proud we were able to organize design and construction funding so that it moves in sequence without having to shut the bridge without a plan to repair,” he said. “This is a New Haven treasure. It’s a historic resource for the state and the city. Here we have water dependent businesses, aquaculture, great coastal parks and the bridge is an anchor to all that. It’s an anchoring point to all residents.”
“This is the iconic symbol of Fair Haven,” Cruz said. “It is a physically and emotionally the bridge between Fair Haven and Fair Haven Heights. I don’t think there’s any person that’s grown up here in the last 100 years that doesn’t think of the Grand Avenue Bridge when they think of their neighborhood.”
The design firm Hardesty and Hanover has been hired for the project and the city will go out to bid later this year for the construction work.

New Britain will discuss road work plans with residents
Skyler Frazer
NEW BRITAIN – The city’s Department of Public Works is hosting an informational session Thursday to discuss an upcoming project on Myrtle Street with residents.
Public Works officials will meet residents in Room 504 of City Hall at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening to discuss a Phase VI Streetscape project on Myrtle Street and East Main Street. According to design plans for the project, it will make improvements to Myrtle Street and East Main Street, between Washington Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
These improvements include the reconstruction of East Main Street between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Main Street and milling and paving Myrtle Street between Main Street and Washington Street. The work also includes the replacement of existing catch basin tops and installation of new catch basins, installation of new granite curbing, new concrete and brick paver sidewalks and pedestrian ramps to meet current Americans with Disabilities Act standards, installation of new signage and pavements markings, removal of impacted existing street trees and installation of new street trees, upgrades to existing traffic signals and new streetlights.
Based upon preliminary assessment of the project, construction will cost about $3.37 million. The State of Connecticut will provide about 100 percent of the construction costs through its Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program.
The city has completed the semi-final design of the project and now wants input from property owners in the area. City Engineer Rob Trottier sent out letters to property owners in the Myrtle Street and East Main Street area last week to inform them of Thursday’s meeting. Those interested in obtaining more information about the project can reach out to Trottier at 860-826-3355 or go to www.NewBritainCT.gov and look under the Public Works tab.
The informational session is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31 in Room 501 of City Hall, 27 West Main St.

Third-casino bill eliminating need for federal approval could hinge on legal opinion
Brian Hallenbeck
Hartford — A legal opinion that former Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen slipped into the third-casino debate won’t go away.
It re-emerged Tuesday as a likely sticking point in a state legislative committee’s consideration of a bill that would enable the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to proceed with their East Windsor casino project without gaining federal approval of their amended gaming agreements with the state.
That approval, in the case of the Mashantuckets’ amendment, has not been forthcoming.
Following a meeting in which the tribes’ respective chairmen, Rodney Butler and Kevin Brown, addressed the Public Safety and Security Committee, Rep. Joe Verrengia, the West Hartford Democrat who co-chairs the panel, said he’s unwilling to risk the gaming revenue the tribes share with the state.
Jepsen repeatedly identified that risk, most recently during the last legislative session.
The tribes’ payments to the state — in exchange for the exclusive right to operate casino gaming — have exceeded $270 million in each of the last two fiscal years.
Sen. Tony Hwang, a Fairfield Republican, asked the tribal chairmen if they’d seek a new opinion from Jepsen’s successor, Attorney General William Tong.
Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, said the legislature should seek such an opinion if it thinks it is necessary.
“I have requested that very opinion,” Verrengia said. “It’s already in motion.”
He said he had asked the speaker of the House, Joe Aresimowicz, a Berlin Democrat, to seek an opinion from the office of Tong, who took office this month.
Sen. Cathy Osten, the Sprague Democrat who introduced the bill eliminating the need for federal approval, pushed for prompt approval of the measure, which she said would enable the tribes to start construction in East Windsor “within a month.” She said the bill “negates” the political “interference” the tribes believe has tainted the U.S. Department of the Interior’s action — or inaction — on the gaming amendments.
Amid the delay, MGM Resorts International, the Las Vegas-based casino operator, has opened a nearly $1 billion resort casino in Springfield, Mass., where it has had an impact on business at the tribes’ existing casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. The proposed East Windsor facility, to be called Tribal Winds, is meant to limit that impact.
The tribal chairmen said Tribal Winds could be open in 18 to 24 months after construction begins and would provide the state with an additional $75 million annually in gaming revenue payments.
Kevin Brown, the Mohegan chairman, said the tribes already have sunk $15 million into the East Windsor project, much of it in acquiring the casino site off Exit 45 of Interstate 91 and demolishing the abandoned Showcase Cinemas building that stood there. The tribes expect to spend between $250 million and $300 million on the project.
“We’re ready to go when you are,” Brown told the committee.
The tribes have long maintained that federal approval of their gaming amendments is unnecessary, a view Interior officials shared, the tribal chairmen said, up until “heavy lobbying” by MGM Resorts changed things.
While the tribes have secured all local approvals for the East Windsor project, it was revealed that owners of property near the casino site have filed a lawsuit against the town and the tribes over the issuance of zoning approvals. The tribal chairmen said the suit is not expected to hamper the project.
Verrengia limited Tuesday’s discussion to the status of the East Windsor project, though the public safety committee will be taking up a number of other gaming-related matters during the current legislative session, including the legalization of sports betting.
A bill referred to the committee this week calls for the creation of the Connecticut Gaming Commission and establishment of a competitive bidding process for a resort casino license.

Windsor's Great Pond has apartments underway
Gregory Seay
Nearly a decade since plans for Windsor's Great Pond mixed-use development first aired, construction is underway on a 230-unit apartment community in the master-planned community.
Fairfield residential developer Eastpointe LLC since last Nov. 1 has been constructing on 12 acres acquired from Great Pond's owner the first of eight buildings that will comprise Eastpointe's The Preserve at Great Pond, Eastpointe co-managing partner William R. Finger said Tuesday.
That first building will house 50 apartments on four floors and is slated to be ready for occupancy by late August, Finger said. The other buildings, all completed in stages one year later, will have three floors and will house 12, 24 or 36 units, ranging from studios and one-bedroom apartments to two- and three-bedroom units. Rents will run from $1,400 to $2,400 monthly, he said.
The Preserve is the first development on Great Pond since owner Winstanley Enterprises LLC, of Concord, Mass., one of Connecticut's biggest commercial landlords, in 2010 bared its ambitious vision for a mixed-use development on 633 acres fronting Windsor's active Day Hill Road corridor.
Winstanley is a partner in redeveloping Great Pond with ABB Group, owner of the former Combustion Engineering nuclear-boiler production/testing facilities that once occupied the site.
Winstanley officials referred inquiries about The Preserve to Eastpointe, which is no stranger to the Hartford region. In 2014, it began development of Simsbury's 168-unit Eastpointe at Dorset Crossing apartments off Hopmeadow Street.
In July 2017, Eastpointe sold Dorset Crossing for $36.5 million, or $217,000 per unit.
The Preserve, occupying a site fronting Day Hill Road and in the shadow of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.'s Windsor office building, will offer many of the amenities increasingly popular with the Hartford region's urban and suburban apartment dwellers, Finger said.
A 6,000-square-foot clubhouse also under construction, Finger said, will feature a fitness center; golf simulator; cafe; a resorts-style swimming pool; outdoor bocce court; and a firepit.
For more active residents, The Preserve will offer free loaner bicycles; and a ¾-mile walking/jogging trail ringing Great Pond's 16-acre pond.
Originally bared in Dec. 2010, family-run Winstanley Enterprises touted Great Pond as a $750 million project that was to be a mix of single-family and multifamily housing aimed at a wide demographic. Fully developed, it also would include hundreds of thousands of square feet for neighborhood retail, office and research and development space.
But last August, Winstanley's patriarch, David Winstanley, indicated in papers filed with Windsor a shift in his development vision for Great Pond.
According to area commercial brokers, Winstanley Enterprises lately has pitched a portion of Great Pond's acreage available for development into a pair of mammoth industrial distribution facilities -- each around 500,000 square feet -- like the kind that have sprouted or under construction in Windsor.
Online retail giant Amazon occupies a sprawling, 1.4 million-square-foot fulfillment center adjacent to Great Pond.


January 29, 2019

CT Construction Digest Tuesday January 29, 2019

Bristol updating Memorial Blvd. School progress on two websites
BRISTOL - It’s easier than ever for residents to keep up with the city’s progress on turning the old Memorial Boulevard School into an arts magnet School.
City Hall and the Board of Education have created interconnected links between their websites “to provide information and updates on the building and developmental plans for the Memorial Boulevard Interdistrict Arts Magnet School Building Committee,” according to a statement from Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu’s office.
On the BOE website, www.bristolk12.ct.us , click on the green Board of Education tab, scroll down and choose School Building Committees, which will open to links for several active committees, including one for the Memorial Boulevard Interdistrict Arts Magnet School Building Committee.
The school site lists the building committee members and the dates and locations for their upcoming meetings.
On the City Hall website, www.bristolct.gov , the link is located by clicking “I Want to…” on the blue navigation bar, and then moving down to Find Info On… Boards, Committees & Task Forces section.
On the city site Michael Dietter, school district director of special services, who also chairs the building committee, gives a detailed introduction to how the project came about.
“The Memorial Boulevard School, recognized by the Connecticut Register of Historic Places, was constructed as Bristol High School in 1922. The school, a dominant feature at the gateway to downtown Bristol, has served the community of Bristol for several generations and in many configurations. Upon redistricting and the opening of two new pre-K-8 schools in the 2012-13 school year, Memorial Boulevard School was turned back to the city and remained dormant save for the occasional municipal training or community interest associated with theater revitalization,” his introduction begins.
The site also contains a timeline of milestones to date in the project’s phase one, from the school board approving educational specifications for the arts magnet school and submitting them to the state in November 2017, to this month when the City Council approved the building committee’s selection of D’Amato and Downes as construction managers.
In addition to the Memorial Boulevard Interdistrict Arts Magnet School Task Force link, “this new section lists other informative links on the city’s website providing the public an opportunity to follow the actions of other city boards, committees, and task forces in an effort to be informed of issues that are important to them,” the mayor’s statement said.
“For those people who are interested in following the developments on both the new school as well as the theater component, this is a great way to do so,” said Michael Dietter, school district director of special services, who also chairs the building committee.
The building committee has been meeting twice a month to put the planning pieces in place for the project to begin, as well as ensure that all guidelines set forth by the Office of School Construction and Grants Review are met.
“We know that this is a high profile project to re-use and renovate a building that is significant due to its physical location on the Boulevard gateway, to various generations who attended school there as well as future students, and the future of downtown,” said Zoppo-Sassu.
“It was important to us to position it on both the Board of Education website and the city’s website, since it really is a joint effort by both the BOE and the City Council,” she said.
In addition, the mayor pointed out there had been substantive work done in the last 10 years by other boards and commissions that is also available for review.
“Many of these items are still of interest and give the big picture of all the pieces of information that have been accumulated over time in reference to this initiative,” she added.
The city and school board are collaborating on the project to create the arts magnet school for grades six through 12. The architect, Farmington-based Quisenberry Arcari Malik LLC, has estimated that the new school could be open by August 2022.
Southbury fines developer again over use of heavy equipment
SOUTHBURY – After a developer paid $2,550 in fines for using two blue rock crusher machines on a construction site at 1416 Southford Road in the fall, he brought the equipment back this month. The graveling operation resumed amid the snow-capped dirt piles on Wednesday, during Thursday’s downpour and in Friday’s sunshine.
Zoning Enforcement Official Chris McGinness, who pulled the work permit a second time due to the zoning setback violation, is slapping the developer with a $450 fine for every day the violations continue, while seeking a temporary injunction to stop the work.
“The town is not allowing this,” he said. “The town is enforcing it to the extent the law allows.”
Dichello Construction also performed blasting last year while preparing the site for construction of Krikit’s Garden Center, prompting concerns from some residents over noise, potential property damage and damage to their wells, as well as health concerns over dust from the graveling operation.
McGinness said the rock crushing violates Section 8.8.4 of the zoning regulations on processing materials. The section says “no processing machinery shall be erected or maintained on the lot within less than 150 feet of any property or street line or within less than 300 feet of an existing dwelling or other principal building on any other lot.”
Pasquale Dichello, owner of the construction company and the property as Star Fox Enterprise LLC, claims, depending on the positioning, the graveling equipment is within 10 feet of the setback from the closest house, which is behind the site and high up, and within 30 to 40 feet of the setback for a property line. He also contends the town’s zoning laws are outdated and have never been challenged.
“Come on, what am I gonna do?” Dichello said. “This is not hurting anybody_ It’s not making noise.”
Since the town’s regulations were passed, Dichello contends there have been improvements in how rocks are crushed, with quieter machines and less dust, adding watering down sites keeps dust down.
Dichello said he looked up the town records and saw the previous owner, Mary Tomlinson, applied for a variance to allow rock crushing but withdrew her application before a hearing. He said the setback law has never been challenged, adding he would consider appealing it, but would probably be done graveling by the time it is resolved.
If he knew the setbacks were not challenged, Dichello said he would have filed an application for a variance right away.

McGinness sent a cease-and-desist order to Dichello on Jan. 16 and revoked Dichello’s work permit the next day.
“Considering the reintroduction of this violation and the previous letters mailed to and received by you, I am fining you $150.00 a day per violation on the site,” McGinness wrote. “Currently you have two violations on your property, each piece of processing equipment is considered a violation … to date you are cited $750.00 dollars by the Town of Southbury Zoning Department.”
On Wednesday, Dichello continued excavating the site, despite not having a work permit, which is another violation. McGinness said he could be fined $450 a day. The money goes into the town’s general fund.
“We will be seeking a temporary injunction from the district judge,” McGinness wrote in the letter. “I have directed our Town Attorney to initiate this action and he will be filing this injunction.”
“We’re paying a hefty fine, but it kind of works out,” Dichello said. Though he would rather not be fined, Dichello said money made from the gravel covers the fines. He hopes to finish rock crushing by mid-March, weather permitting. Then the site would be ready for construction.
Though he disagrees with the zoning regulation, Dichello has no ill will toward town officials for enforcing it. “The town of Southbury has good people, who are reasonable,” he said. “Of course they have to follow the rules, so you can’t blame people. I think some of the rules should be updated. Some laws are a little bit old.”

Bristol-Babcock property’s cleanup could hit $13.7 million
WATERBURY – City officials have received a cleanup estimate for the Bristol-Babcock property: Anywhere from $6.3 million to $13.7 million.
The cost makes action on the ruined industrial complex, destroyed in a raging fire in 2015, unlikely anytime soon.
Mayor Neil M. O’Leary sought the study of the property, which is along the Naugatuck River on the city’s southern border. O’Leary was considering claiming the property for redevelopment but wanted an estimate of costs first.
O’Leary hadn’t yet had opportunity to pour through the extensive report Friday. He was not yet sure what the estimate meant for the chances of city involvement.O’Leary said he’d need to investigate the possibility of state or federal remediation grants and talk with the property owner.
Owner Norman S. Drubner, a prominent local attorney and developer, said that price clearly puts the cleanup beyond the reach of private redevelopment.
“Obviously, it’s not economically feasible for a private party to put out that kind of money,” Drubner said. “This is a good neighborhood, but it’s 6 acres and it’s Waterbury, Connecticut. It’s not Manhattan.”
“That kind of a number is a staggering number to clean that up,” Drubner said.
In areas with high property values, private developers can undertake costly cleanups and still realize a return on their investment. Industrial cleanups in Waterbury have required government funding because the return on investment is never high enough for an investor to spend the time and money.
Bristol Babcock Co. once employed hundreds at its massive manufacturing complex. Sections of the brick complex stood six stories tall.
Drubner paid $3 million for the Bristol Street property in 1986 as the company prepared to move to new quarters in Watertown. He’d hoped to build apartments on the property along the Naugatuck River.
An economic recession in the early 1990s scuttled the housing market, Drubner has previously noted. The coming years would bring new environmental regulations, making it more difficult to develop.
A massive fire in 2015 hollowed out large portions of the complex. A portion fronting Bristol Street, untouched by the fire, later began to spill bricks into the street. Drubner paid to have that section torn down. The wreckage was left in place behind a fence.
City officials have commended Drubner for maintaining fences around the property, continuing to pay his taxes and cooperating with their environmental investigation.
Drubner had hoped to gift the property to the city. The municipality can apply for state and federal cleanup funds that are unavailable to a private developer.
The state provided $200,000 for Waterbury’s environmental study. The contract with HRP cost $55,350. The remainder can be used for further study if the city were to move forward with redevelopment, said Waterbury Development interim CEO Jim Nardozzi.
Much of the site was dangerous and inaccessible due to unstable buildings. HRP poured through documents of known environmental issues and investigated those areas that remain accessible. Investigators found mold, along with damaged building materials containing asbestos and lead paint. Any asbestos would have to be cleared before demolition, HRP’s report said.
Any demolition would require further testing and removal of hazardous materials. Future development would require soils cleanup. Underground storage tanks should have their hazardous materials pumped, according to the report.
State Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-75th District, hasn’t yet been provided the HRP report. Brownfields are a big part of his legislative focus, so he plans to get a copy. Reyes acknowledged the estimate is daunting.
If the city were to proceed, it would have to seek money and pursue the cleanup in phases, Reyes said.
“There is no way would give us that much money in one shot,” Reyes said.
The state has provided the city with millions of dollars for cleanups. After the Nova Dye factory on Mill Street burned flat in 2012, the state provided a $2 million cleanup grant. That allowed the city to hire contractors to clear debris and open the site down to the foundations of the factory. Late last year, the state authorized a $3 million grant to finish the cleanup and create a public park.
The state and federal government provided $36 million to demolish and clean up the former Scovill Brass Works site in the city center during the late 1990s, clearing the way for the Brass Mill Center mall.
More recently, the state provided $3.1 million for demolition and cleanup as the decaying 17-acre Anamet manufacturing complex and $1 million more to clear away burned buildings at the former Risdon manufacturing site, both off South Main Street. And there have been a number of other large grants.
Both the Anamet and Risdon cleanup projects are ongoing, and the city is seeking additional money for both. Considering the high estimate at Bristol-Babcock, the city might want to complete a number of ongoing brownfield projects before it takes on anything more, Reyes said.
“I think the mayor and his team have been as aggressive as they can,” Reyes said. “I think they’ve got plenty on their plate right now.”

E. Windsor tribal casino rebranded
Joe Cooper
Tribal leaders of Connecticut's first off-reservation casino in East Windsor have rebranded the proposed $300 million project, which has been delayed over changes to the state's long-standing gaming compacts.
The joint gaming venue by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes, formerly known as MMCT Venture, has been renamed as Tribal Winds Casino.
The tribes are partnering to remain competitive with MGM Springfield, which opened a $960 million casino and entertainment complex in Aug. 2018.
The rebranded casino also includes a new logo and hiring goal for construction workers and staff at the proposed one-story facility.
Tribal officials said the venue, the nation's first joint tribal gaming project, will employ at least 2,000 construction workers and 2,000 permanent staffers upon its opening. The casino will also support another 1,000 indirect jobs at small business vendors, they said.
At least 650 jobs will be set aside for Hartford area residents.
Rodney Butler, Foxwoods' interim CEO and Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council chairman, said the project is ready to break ground, but the development remains in limbo as former U.S. Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke has refused to sign off on changes to the state's gaming compact with the Mashantucket tribe.
Zinke resigned in Dec. 2018 amid several probes aimed at him, including one regarding his refusal to approve changes to revenue-sharing agreements between the tribes.
The Mashantucket tribe last year asked a federal judge to reconsider its lawsuit against Zinke, which alleged he was coaxed into blocking the proposed East Windsor casino amid a lobbying campaign from MGM Resorts International and Nevada Republican lawmakers.
Sen. Cathy Osten (D-Sprague) has co-sponsored a bill that would allow Connecticut to bypass the federal government's role in approving changes to tribal compacts required to open the East Windsor casino.
The East Windsor project remains in flux as MGM Springfield last week completed its fifth full month in operation.
While MGM has poached some gaming revenues from Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, Butler and Ray Pineault, Mohegan's president and general manager, recently told Hartford Business Journal that MGM has had less of an impact on its gaming operations than projected.

Committee To Hear About East Windsor Casino
HARTFORD, CT — On Tuesday the Public Safety and Security Committee will get an update from tribal officials regarding their plans for an East Windsor casino that’s intended to compete with MGM’s new casino in Springfield.
MMCT Venture LLC, a joint venture formed by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, said Monday that they will name their new casino in East Windsor “Tribal Winds.” Officials plan to tell the committee about their plans for the development, which has been stalled by the U.S. Interior Department’s failure to immediately approve amendments to the tribal gaming agreements.
Some lawmakers are looking to make sure the casino can be built without federal approval, while others think it’s time to eliminate the tribes’ exclusivity over gaming in Connecticut. It’s unclear which side will prevail in what’s expected to be another legislative battle.
“Building on the iconic brands of our two flagship properties, Tribal Winds will be a world-class gaming and entertainment facility that combines our shared past with the proud local character of East Windsor,” Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler said Monday. “This shovel-ready facility will create jobs and bring in new revenue for the state the minute we break ground.”
Tribal Winds is expected to support 5,000 jobs from the start of construction through the grand opening, with at least 2,000 jobs for the building trades during construction and 2,000 permanent jobs at the facility once it’s operational.
MGM Resorts International has been lobbying Connecticut to open the bidding process for gaming facilities. Currently, the two tribes have exclusive gaming rights. The Las Vegas-based company wants to build a casino in Bridgeport and compete for more of the New York market. It already owns the Empire City Casino in Yonkers.
“It is time now for Connecticut to move beyond the back-and-forth of the past few years and establish an open, competitive bidding process for a commercial casino,” MGM said in a statement. “Let all qualified developers — including the Tribes — respond, and let the State decide which proposal is best. The vast majority of Connecticut residents support that approach. They’re right.”
Meanwhile, the tribes have presented themselves as a sure bet.
The Foxwoods Resorts Casino and Mohegan Sun have brought the state $7.5 billion over the past 25 years. The state gets 25 percent of gross slot revenue from the two tribal casinos.
Connecticut’s take over the last year was around $263 million. However, based on the competition from MGM Springfield since it opened last summer, the number was expected to drop to $203 million. The latest estimates have it increasing to $248 million.
That revenue, according to the tribes, would disappear if the state opened the bidding process to a commercial entity.
The Public Safety and Security Committee will hear testimony from tribal officials at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Legislative Office Building in room 1D.

January 28, 2019

CT Construction Digest Monday January 28, 2019

With new brand name, the Mohegans and Mashantucket Pequots launch campaign for East Windsor casino
It’s a new year with a new legislature and governor -- and now there’s a new name for the proposed third casino in Connecticut.
The joint venture of the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes lobbying for the casino to compete with MGM Springfield has launched a new campaign to win state legislation, unveiling a name for the proposed East Windsor gambling site.
The newly named Tribal Winds Casino is expected to support 2,000 construction jobs, 2,000 positions to staff the facility and 1,000 indirect jobs supporting vendors, tribal officials said. The plan would designate at least 650 jobs for residents of Hartford, East Hartford, East Windsor, Windsor Locks and other area communities. The casino was previously named MMCT Venture LLC, in recognition of the joint initiative of the Mashantucket and Mohegan tribes, who operate competing casinos on their reservations in southeast Connecticut.
In addition, the casino is expected to generate as much as $75 million a year in tax revenue to Connecticut.
“We’re talking about the next phase of this development, to save jobs, bring more revenue to Connecticut,” said Rodney Butler, tribal council chairman of the Mashantucket Pequots, which runs the Foxwoods Resort casino. “The project is shovel ready. We’d be there were it not for the roadblocks in Washington, D.C.”
He was referring to former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is the target of several probes. One investigation is focusing on his handling of requests to approve changes to slot machine revenue-sharing agreements with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes.
Last September, a federal judge ruled that Connecticut and Mashantucket Pequots have no legal standing to compel Zinke to accept revisions to the state’s existing gambling agreement with the tribe. Connecticut’s authorization of the East Windsor casino in 2017 was contingent on the Department of Interior accepting the revisions as a means to guarantee the new project would not jeopardize the state’s current revenue sharing deal with the two tribal casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
Sen. Cathy Osten, a Sprague Democrat, is leading a group of state lawmakers backing legislation that would drop the requirement for federal approval.
“There was some stymieing at the federal level that was political in nature more than policy,” she said.
MGM Springfield, a $960 million enterprise, loomed as a major threat to Connecticut’s two casinos when it opened last summer, but revenue numbers for the past five months at casinos in both states show fears about competition could have been over-estimated.
MGM Springfield told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in June 2014 it expected in its first year $412 million in gross gaming revenue, which includes table games and slot machines. In the five months it has been in operation, it’s generated about $101.5 million in revenue.
In an emailed statement, Michael Mathis, president and chief operating officer of MGM Springfield, said the casino is “experiencing an extraordinary response.”
"We continue to grow the market with more than 15,000 visitors a day coming to our resort. We have a robust schedule of events and promotions planned for 2019 and look forward to welcoming many more guests in the months ahead,” he said.
Peggy Holloway, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, said revenue would typically ramp up over nine to 12 months “before it plateaus.”
“It’s already plateaued,” she said.
Initial results are below expectations, but it’s early to conclude that revenue will continue to decline, Holloway said.
In addition, MGM Springfield, like other downtown casinos, may initially have difficulty drawing visitors. “It’s hard to get people to a downtown area that’s experienced decline,” Holloway said.
And the region may be saturated with casinos. “It’s not build it and they will come anymore,” Holloway said.
The performance by MGM Springfield has prompted Connecticut officials to revise their calculations of revenue from the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos, which are taxed at the rate of 25 percent of slot revenue.
“We built in a significant decline,” said Chris McClure, a spokesman for the state Office of Policy Management, the governor’s budget office.
However, a January estimate of $248.6 million is up by $25 million from November. Revenue is still expected to decline, to $219.2 million by the 2022 budget year. By then, Connecticut officials expect competition not only from MGM Springfield, but also Encore Boston Harbor, another Massachusetts gambling resort that will be in “full operation,” McClure said.
Butler said sports betting, also on the agenda at the General Assembly, and the prospect of a casino in Bridgeport “have always been part of the conversation.”
Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council, said sports betting is already moving in neighboring states, which should prod Connecticut to act.
“We are realizing this is another point at which we could be left at the starting gate,” he said

PHOTOS: The construction of Interstate 91 and 691 in Meriden
Throughout the late 20th century, interstate highways were constructed across the country. Two highways, Interstate 91 and Interstate 691, were constructed in Meriden.
Take a look back at photos from the construction of both highways in the city.

Stamford is paving, is your road next?
Barry Lytton
STAMFORD — The city boasts the largest municipal roadway system in Connecticut at 315 miles, which doesn’t include state roads like Boston Post Road — known here as Tresser Boulevard and Main Street.
The city’s Highways Division has a list of 132 roads to maintain. As of this month, the department was working on 10 of them after completing about 40, sealed cracks in four and was waiting on utilities or development projects to finish work before getting to dozens of others.
While waiting, city Traffic and Road Maintenance Supervisor Thomas Turk said he sometimes skips to the next project down the priority list, the so-called “draft rank.”
So who is next on the list, and still “pending” a maintenance project? That would be Largo Drive, ranked No. 31. No. 32, Glenbrook Road from Hope Street to Frankel Place, was paved in November.
According to the city’s Jan. 3 paving list, the next five Stamford roads to be sealed or paved will be Brook Run Lane, Fifth Street, Clearview Avenue, Crystal Street and Canal Street.

Bridgeport theater developer gets 2nd financing extension
Brian Lockhart
BRIDGEPORT — How long will it take for the developer of the downtown theaters to obtain financing — or, in the alternative, for Mayor Joe Ganim to come up with a graceful way during an election year to admit the project is dead?
On Friday, Ganim’s office told Hearst Connecticut Media that New York-based Exact Capital will get a second 30-day extension to come up with $56 million to renovate the historic Majestic and Poli Palace theaters and the Savoy Hotel along Main Street.
Exact was initially given a year by the city to get the money together. That deadline came and went Dec. 27, at which time City Hall said Exact would have an additional month to produce.
“OPED (the Office of Planning and Economic Development) has confidence in Exact Capital’s commitment to the city and project,” Rowena White, Ganim’s communications director, said in a statement Friday.
White said OPED has had “regular communications” with the developer and that the theaters endeavor “is no different than others that take longer periods of time due to the various financing challenges, the historic preservation elements and the overall complexity and size of the project.”
Ganim while running for mayor in 2015 had campaigned on re-opening the Majestic and Poli Palace, which sit boarded up, abandoned and decaying at a gateway to downtown.
But when the mayor in 2017 pushed for the City Council’s quick approval of the deal with Exact, there was speculation whether it would happen and if Ganim’s goal was to have a splashy development announcement to tout during his failed 2018 bid for governor.
The mayor has called Exact’s plans — which also envision nearby residential towers, one 18 stories tall — “the most exciting urban development project anywhere in this state.” So it would not be great politically for Ganim, who is seeking another four-year term and facing opposition from fellow Democrat state Sen. Marilyn Moore, to have to admit that the deal with Exact fell through.
Last month, City Council President Aidee Nieves had said Exact executives should come to town to meet with and brief that legislative body. She noted some newer council members were not involved in approving the 2017 deal for the theaters.
“I think it would be in a good faith effort for the developer to be there and not just hear it from the Office of Planning and Economic Development,” Nieves said.
But as of Friday, no such meeting had been scheduled, according to Councilwoman Maria Valle, a co-chair of the council’s economic development committee.
Councilman Ernie Newton, who helps run the council’s contracts committee, said that group should be involved as well. Like Valle, Newton was also not a part of the City Council that approved Ganim’s deal with Exact in 2017.
“This is a good example of when you rush projects through, these kind of things happen. Bridgeport has to do a better job on how we go after developers,” Newton said. “As (contracts) co-chair, we’re not doing business like this. We’re going to dot our ‘i’s, cross our ‘t’s, and make sure developers are serious and committed to do what they said, not just to have a ‘photo op’ and then nothing happens.”
Prior to taking on the Majestic and Poli Palace, Exact’s only other experience with a theater is the ongoing work at the Victoria Theater in Harlem. That project is funded and under construction, with no significant delays.
Exact’s proposal had been chosen from a handful of plans submitted to the city in early 2017. Late last September, as questions about whether Exact would come up with its financing mounted, Hearst filed a Freedom of Information Act request with OPED seeking all of those 2017 development proposals for the theaters and Savoy Hotel. As of Friday that nearly four-month-old FOI request was still pending.

Bergstein: Adding tolls would cut traffic on I-95
Hannah Dellinger    
GREENWICH — Improving transportation infrastructure, developing targeted career education initiatives and bettering conditions for existing businesses are the keys to growing Connecticut’s economy, according to Greenwich resident and PepsiCo Chair Indra Nooyi.
A packed crowd gathered for a community conversation focused on the state’s economic growth with Nooyi and state Sen. Alexandra Bergstein (D-36) at the Greenwich Library Cole Auditorium on Thursday night.
A freshman senator, Bergstein started the discussion by asking Nooyi what businesses look for when considering a move to a new state.
“The first thing we look for are whether the policies of the state government are business-friendly,” Nooyi said. “Also, is there a talented workforce? Is there a specialized workforce? Can I get my products out of the state easily? Is there airport access? Is the (transportation) infrastructure going to hold up?”
New, improved transportation options

Using harbors and waterways for more commercial transportation and adding commuter ferries to New York City could transform many communities in Connecticut, said Nooyi, who stepped down as CEO last fall. She is continuing as chairwoman of the board of directors for now.
Updating and improving deteriorating infrastructure to better serve commercial vehicles would also be a plus for prospective companies, she added.
But the most critical of the state’s transportation needs is finding a way to fix the traffic jams on Interstate 95, Nooyi said.
Bergstein, who has already introduced a bill to bring tolls back to Connecticut in her first weeks in the state Senate, said installing electronic tolls on I-95 would achieve that goal.
 Though a small group of protestors gathered outside the auditorium before the event to display their opposition to tolls, the audience inside cheered Bergstein’s proposal.“Congestion on I-95 is an enormous problem. And there’s a cost to that. The cost per resident is about $2,300 a year in excess fuel and lost time,” said Bergstein, who is the first Democrat in decades to represent the 36th District, which encompasses all of Greenwich and part of Stamford and New Canaan.
According to Bergstein, a driver who commutes about 50 miles a day would spend an average of $600 a year on tolls under her legislation.
“That may sound like a lot of money, but you would save $2,300 a year,” she said. “And you would get home to spend more time with your family.”
Implementing congestion toll prices — which would be higher at busier times — would reduce traffic, Bergstein said, because truck drivers would likely adjust their travel times to avoid higher prices, shifting to night travel instead of making the trek during rush hour. And adding an HOV lane would encourage drivers to commute to work together, taking more cars off the road, she said.
With about 30 percent to 40 percent of the state’s highway traffic made up of trucks and tractor-trailers, Bergstein said tolls would take the burden off taxpayers to pay for damage caused by large commercial vehicles from out of state.
The senator also suggested credits or exemptions for low-income families to create “true fair market pricing so we don’t disproportionately impact vulnerable people.”
Learn in Connecticut, stay in Connecticut
“We want young people to not just get their education in Connecticut, but to make a life in Connecticut,” said Nooyi.
Bergstein asked the business leader how public and private partnerships can be applied to education and job training to create a pipeline of skilled workers for businesses.
“Workforce development is required for business development,” said Nooyi. “We need to map out what kind training we need to provide to our future workforce.”
Companies that have left the state could return once they see Connecticut has the workforce the need, she said.
Bergstein floated the idea of offering student loan forgiveness to graduates of Connecticut universities who stay and work in the state for several years as an incentive to keep young people from leaving. By adding a pool of healthy young people to the state’s health insurance plan, the overall cost of insurance would go down, said Bergstein. A good insurance plan would be an additional incentive for young people to take jobs in Connecticut, she said.
Building better business relationships
The most effective way to bring companies into the state is by bettering relationships with the ones that are already here, Nooyi said, because business leaders will strive to bring more companies in their industries where they work.
Pointing to the insurance industry in Hartford, Nooyi said companies there have been on the front lines of recruiting more firms in their field to work in Connecticut.
Because the state was once a hub for high-end manufacturing, the buildings and structures previously used could be fired up again by the same companies if the state can persuade them to return, Nooyi said.
That infrastructure can also be revitalized and find new life, Bergstein added, citing media companies Blue Sky Studios, which has an office in the backcountry, and NBC Sports, which took over a former manufacturing plant in Stamford, as examples. “Why we became a hub for media is because of the financial service companies that used to housed here,” she said. “Those buildings have the infrastructure and capacity to create the product that the media is putting out.”
To achieve the bipartisan goal of renewing the state’s economic growth, Nooyi said a clear plan needs to be forged.
“We have to outline the vision we want for Connecticut,” she said.

Lamont talks grid reliability, offshore wind with DEEP staff
Benjamin Kail
Hartford — For Katie Dykes, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's new commissioner, the scariest briefing came right after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when she was deputy commissioner at the agency.
"If the wind direction shifted 15 minutes later than it did, a substation in Bridgeport would have been submerged and we would have had no power to the largest city in Connecticut for months," Dykes told Gov. Ned Lamont, who toured DEEP headquarters and met with department heads and staff Friday afternoon.
Lamont peppered DEEP's energy team — comprising experts and attorneys with DEEP and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority — with questions on upgrades and maintenance to the state's power grid, which faces aging infrastructure and threats from climate change, including sea level rise.
Kelly Porter, director of utility regulation for PURA, noted the grid's reliability had greatly improved over the last several years, with added vegetation management, system hardening and utilities "routinely upgrading."
"But as your system starts to age that's when it gets more costly," Porter added. "A lot of the distribution system was built out in 1960s and 70s when we had a lot of growth in Connecticut. We're starting to see that some of that is reaching the end of its life. That's one of the biggest drivers on electricity rates on bills: having to renew and refresh that distribution system."
After a brief discussion on the costs of underground wires, Lamont joked, "We're going to need wires to transmit electricity for the rest of our lifetimes? No Bluetooth?" Dykes responded that she hadn't seen a wireless electric distribution proposal from any utilities.
Part of a multi-agency review during his first weeks in office, Lamont said the tour gave him a fuller perspective of DEEP's duties, which range from land and permit issues, natural gas pipelines, wastewater management, forest protection, lifeguard recruitment and training, renewable energy procurement and helping to ensure the New England power grid remains reliable.
"I'm just going around learning what everybody does in the state ... so I can tell the story of what you do on behalf of the people," he told staffers. "Not enough people know what DEEP does and too many people take state government for granted."
Lamont posed a question to regulators following mentions of Millstone Power Station's previous hints of early retirement — a prospect experts at ISO New England in 2016 said would spark frequent and lengthy rolling blackouts.
"What's our backup?" Lamont said. "Let's say these guys say, 'Pay me a super premium or we're shutting down in three years?' And I say, 'Go ahead, make my day.'"
After a staffer quipped, "That actually already happened," Dykes noted DEEP and PURA were working together, and with ISO New England — the nonprofit grid operator and wholesale electricity market administrator — to ensure "we're getting good strong market design that supports our policy goals in the state."
In the state's zero-carbon electricity auction, DEEP selected a 10-year proposal from Millstone that amounts to about half the facility's 2,100-megawatt output, a move that Millstone owner Dominion Energy and lawmakers had desired for years.
Lamont and Dykes say they are enthusiastic about opportunities for renewable energy, however, including offshore wind and solar power.
Several states surrounding Connecticut are seeking large influxes of offshore wind within the next 15 years. Earlier this month Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York almost quadrupled a previous offshore wind procurement target: from 2,400 megawatts to 9,000 megawatts by 2035. And Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey are all pushing for more than 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind.
Whether Connecticut will seek a specific offshore wind target, as recommended by many clean energy advocates, remains to be seen. Asked about the possibility, Lamont noted the state was already slated to "purchase a fair amount" from Orsted US Offshore Wind with its Revolution Wind project south of Martha's Vineyard. Lamont has said he supports further investments that will help New London become a regional wind power hub.
"We've got ambitious climate goals and we know offshore wind has a lot of benefits. It has a high capacity factor, it's running all the time and it performs in the winter, which is terrific," Dykes said. "We're in regular calls with those states to look at pooling our buying power. We're also looking at issuing an integrated resource plan which will really evaluate what our long-term goals should be."

January 25, 2019

CT Construction Digest Friday January 25, 2019

Killingly power plant returns to CT Siting Council
Matt Pilon
The developer of a major power plant in Killingly has returned to the Connecticut Siting Council hoping for a project approval that has thus far eluded it.
NTE Energy reapplied to the Siting Council Jan. 18, seeking a key approval called a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need for its Killingly Energy Center (KEC).
The dual-fuel (natural gas and diesel oil), combined cycle plant would be located on Lake Road in Killingly, less than two miles west of I-395.
The Siting Council rejected the then-550-megawatt project "without prejudice" in May 2017, finding that NTE hadn't demonstrated a public benefit of building the plant, partly because grid operator ISO New England had not selected the plant in its annual auction to secure generation capacity five years into the future.
NTE asked to reopen the proceeding in early 2018, but withdrew its application soon after, once it learned that ISO NE had again not selected the plant for a so-called forward capacity contract. However, NTE said last week that it has prequalified for the upcoming forward capacity auction and believes its offer price is competitive and more likely to receive a contract.
In its latest request to reopen the Siting Council proceeding, NTE said several things have changed since the 2017 rejection.
For example, NTE said the plant has received an air permit from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, reached an agreement with Eversource for upgrades to a gas pipeline that would serve the facility, and secured a local tax agreement with Killingly, among other steps.
NTE has also decided to switch the make and model of its proposed combustion turbine generator, which would increase the plant's output to 650 megawatts "at essentially no additional cost," according to testimony from Timothy Eves, NTE's senior vice president.
NTE has said it hopes to build the plant in time for commercial operation in 2022.
The Siting Council said it would consider NTE's motion to reopen the project's proceeding for its Feb. 14 meeting.
As proposed fossil-fuel power plants often are, the Killingly Energy Center has been controversial. Environmental groups, local residents and others have expressed concerns about increased air pollution, noise and other worries.
Connecticut's largest new power plant opened last year in Oxford. The 805-megawatt CPV Towantic plant made 2018 the biggest year in at least a decade for new generation coming online in the state.

Connecticut trade group calls for an immediate halt to natural gas expansion
Luther Turmelle
The trade group representing Connecticut’s home heating oil dealers is renewing its efforts to fight the expansion of the natural gas network in Connecticut.
Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, sent a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont Tuesday urging that Lamont issue an Executive Order that would bring a halt to all efforts to expand the natural gas distribution network and connecting new residential and industrial customers.
In the letter, Herb cited the explosion of a natural gas pipeline in Massachusetts last year and two additional incidents that occurred last weekend in New York and Rhode Island. A pressure buildup in the natural gas distribution of Columbia Gas caused explosions and fire that impacted 8,600 customers across three eastern Massachusetts communities.
Last year’s Massachussets disaster killed an 18-year-old and injured about two-dozen other people. It also left thousands without heat and hot water, in some cases for months
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo declared a state of emergency for the Newport area late Monday after National Grid suspended natural gas service to 7,100 customers due to a pressure problem associated with the Algonquin Pipeline, with is part of the transmission network that brings the fuel into New England.
The natural gas transmission pipeline runs through Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey and is 1,130 miles. It is owned by Enbridge, based in Canada.
Enbridge officials were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Herb said Wednesday that he also heard from the Connecticut home heating oil dealers that service residential and commercial customers in New York City and surrounding community that “hundreds of service interruptions” have prompted home owners and business to switch to home heating oil. “I was trying to loop our new governor in on what has been going on,” Herb said. “This expansion was part of an initiative by the previous governor.”
Lamont’s press office did not respond to a request for comment about Herb’s letter The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in late 2013 gave the go-ahead for the state’s three natural gas utilities to expand 900 miles of mains to 280,000 customers over a 10-year period.

Herb insisted that he is not trying worry the public unnecessarily.
“The natural gas system is falling apart just over Connecticut’s eastern border in Rhode Island and to its western border in New York, and that is why we are calling on Governor Lamont to take action before it hits home,” he said. “It’s time for the natural gas industry to be transparent and explain what it is going to do to fix these problems.”
Eversource Energy’s natural gas division and two other utilities, Southern Connecticut Natural Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas, are three companies that distribute the fuel to Connecticut consumers.
Orange-based Avangrid is the corporate parent of SCG and CNG as well as Berkshire Gas. Spanish energy-giant Iberdrola holds a controlling interest in Avangrid.
Natural gas is one of the safest, most efficient and most reliable energy sources available. It’s also clean-burning, convenient and affordable compared with fuel oil, which is why so many Connecticut residents ask for gas when they build new homes or upgrade their heating systems.
Ed Crowder, a spokesman for Avangrid, said “ our companies have a decades-long track record serving customers safely and reliably in Connecticut.” “They know they can count on natural gas being there for them when they need it,” Crowder said. “There’s no need to worry about scheduling delivery trucks, leaky oil tanks or running out during a cold snap. We look forward to making safe, convenient and environmentally friendly natural gas available to more Connecticut homes and businesses in the years ahead.”
Tricia Modifica of Eversource said the public wants natural gas.
“Natural gas is efficient, clean and safe and this call for a moratorium is, unfortunately, more of the oil dealers association’s rhetoric aiming to scare consumers,” Modifica wrote in an email. “The state’s gas expansion program was developed to give Connecticut residents and businesses another fuel choice - which they requested and are embracing as demonstrated by the interest in conversions. While we know more natural gas capacity is needed in this region to ensure fuel security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve reliability, our gas customers can rest assured we have planned for these types of weather conditions and work to ensure we have ample gas supply even during these record-breaking usage days. As for the Rhode Island incident, we are assisting National Grid in their efforts to get their customers back online and we resent this attempt by CEMA to run another campaign based on inaccuracies.”
Officials with both Avangrid were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Hartford presses in court for right to push forward developing Downtown North

With the future of the development around Dunkin' Donuts Park at stake, the city argued in court Thursday that it should be allowed to move forward with a new developer who wants to build hundreds of new apartments and bring new stores and shops to the neighborhood.
Last fall, the city asked the courts to order the fired developer of the baseball stadium, Centerplan Construction Co, to remove the liens it placed on the properties and release the properties to the city. Without such an order, the city cannot move forward with a new developer it has selected, RMS Cos. of Stamford.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin testified Thursday that the city should be allowed to pursue another developer quickly to tap into the momentum of revitalization taking root in the city. The Downtown North development -- named for its location just north of downtown -- also would provide much-needed property tax revenue and help push up overall property values in advance of a revaluation in 2021. 
“These are among the most visible, undeveloped parcels in the city,” Bronin said. “The faster we can get them developed, the more we can build a sense of progress and momentum. A key part of our development strategy is to create sufficient residential density in the downtown and the areas adjacent to the downtown that we see a different level energy and activity that we can begin attracting other amenities. People bring people.”
Bronin said the 13-acres of undeveloped land around the ballpark is one of the biggest opportunities to get closer to a goal of a strong, stable urban core.
Thursday’s hearing was the latest development in a long-running dispute with Centerplan that dates back to 2016 when Centerplan was fired from the ballpark project after it missed two key construction deadlines. Another firm finished the construction of Dunkin' Donuts Park, and it opened a year late.
Centerplan’s contract to develop the land around Dunkin' Donuts Park also was subsequently terminated by the city. In response, Centerplan placed liens on the parcels surrounding the ballpark, effectively blocking any redevelopment.
Centerplan filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination. In September, the city filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking to force a decision over who had control of the properties. The city was dealt a setback when Judge Thomas Moukawsher denied that request, reasoning that Hartford can’t terminate its ground lease with Centerplan unless the developer has been found in default.
The city turned to filing a motion for “injunctive relief” asking the courts to allow the city to move ahead with another developer, Randy Salvatore, owner of RMS.
The overall wrongful termination lawsuit is continuing and could go to trial as early as this spring. Centerplan is seeking $90 million in damages.
Bronin argued that the city would never be able to work again with Centerplan given its contentious relationship. Bronin said he is confident the city will prevail in the overall lawsuit, but it doesn’t make sense to delay development.
Bronin testified Thursday in the case. Salvatore also is expected to testify as is Jason Rudnick, who was president of Centerplan during the ballpark’s construction. The hearing will resume Tuesday.


January 24, 2019

CT Construction Digest Thursday January 24, 2019

State approves plans for consolidated middle school in Groton
Kimberly Drelich
Groton — The state has approved the final plans for the new consolidated middle school, allowing the town to go out to bid for the project.
Superintendent Michael Graner said his reaction to the approval was "unbridled joy."
"We have been working towards this for five years now," he said. "It started with the idea we wanted to try to develop a middle school that would meet the needs of children on both sides of town and that ultimately gave rise to the vision of Groton 2020 to build a consolidated middle school."
The town now has permission to bid out the estimated $86.09 million middle school project, which will receive 47.5 percent reimbursement from the state, Graner said.
In 2016, residents had approved at referendum $184.5 million for the Groton 2020 plan for the consolidated middle school and two elementary schools.
Graner said the town cleared a long series of obstacles over the course of planning for the Groton 2020 plan, and he's delighted so many people supported the projects.
During the planning process, officials petitioned the state for one of the construction projects — the elementary school at the Carl C. Cutler Middle School site — to be designated as a diversity school to address racial imbalance. That project is slated to get 80 percent reimbursement from the state, he said.
The town also worked for two years with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to remove conservation restrictions from the former Merritt Farm property and instead place them on other properties, so the town could build the middle school on the Merritt Farm property adjacent to Fitch High School.
Then in December, the Groton 2020 plan had to head back to referendum for a change in which the town could build two new elementary schools, rather than convert the middle schools into elementary schools. With the approval, architects have resumed their work and are continuing to design the two elementary schools, Graner said.
Last week, school officials submitted the final plans and cost estimates for the middle school to the state Department of Administrative Services' Office of School Construction Grants and Review, Graner said.
"It was really a meticulous, thorough review," Graner said. "They were asking everything, from engineering aspects to permission to use the Merritt property."
Graner said with the state's commitment to fund the project and authorization to go out to bid, the town plans to advertise the project this week. The Permanent School Building Committee then will hire a construction firm, and construction on the approximately 155,000-square-foot building is expected to begin by late March, with an anticipated completion date of June 2020.
According to a presentation of the design plans last month, the middle school will feature a makerspace and engineering labs for science, technology, engineering and math; art, graphic arts and audio/video production space; a black-box theater; and a movement studio, fitness room and gymnasium. Outside, there are plans for a full-size athletic field, smaller field and softball field.

Bridgeport’s East Side train station plans halted
Jordan Grice
Plans for a new East Side train station in Bridgeport have been derailed.
In a letter to the Council on Environmental Quality, the state Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it was tabling the long-awaited project which would have produced the third Bridgeport rail station between Seaview Avenue and Pembroke Street.CTDOT has since determined that it is not in a financial position to undertake the proposed project, and has decided to defer the project in CTDOT's Capital Plan 2019-2023” the letter read, confirming that the state ultimately could not afford to make the project happen in the next few years.The price tag to build the Barnum Avenue Railroad Station was around $300 million, a spike from its original estimate of $48 million. The increase was required, in part, to accommodate Metro North and Amtrak trains.
There are two train stations in the state that have access to both Metro-North and Amtrak trains —Stamford and New Haven. The proposed Bridgeport station would have been the third and a mid-way point for a local and express railway service.
Proponents of the new train station were surprised to hear the DOT opted out of the project.
“To be honest, I feel blindsided by this,” said State Rep. Christopher Rosario, D-Bridgeport, who said he had been talking with Gov. Ned Lamont and Lieutenant Gov. Susan Bysiewicz about the potentially new station.
“As of 48 hours ago, we were planning on doing a visit of the site, so that’s kind of surprising that the Department of Transportation decided to move so quickly on that, considering the current commissioner championing rails and this project make a lot of sense for Fairfield County,” Rosario added.
An email sent to Hearst Connecticut Media from Rosario said that the Bridgeport Delegation is seeking a meeting with Lamont and the DOT Commissioner.
The project was first announced by former Governor Dannel P. Malloy in 2014, to many in the CTDOT’s surprise. It had sparked interest in then-Mayor Bill Finch’s administration and local business leaders and carried over into the second Ganim era, as an economic driver that would lure new development to the East Side.
Despite the DOT’s decision to table the project, Bridgeport officials said they have no intention of letting it fall by the wayside.

“It’s critical to the long-term future and the economic sustainability of the city,” said Lynn Haig, director of Bridgeport planning and zoning. “We can grow significantly more with the train station than we can without one.”
In the past, city officials have weighed the options of incorporating private investors into the station’s funding. Haig said that effort has continued in recent months as they look to finance the project through public and private partnerships.
Though developers haven’t rallied to contribute to that cause, the potential for a new station has been a marketing chip to attract interested parties, Haig said.
On multiple occasions, officials have talked about the importance of adding the Barnum Station to spruce up the East Side and East End development.
“We’re exploring every source,” Haig said. “That doesn’t mean that the DOT may never contribute money towards it, but we are looking to bring additional revenue to the table so it’s not such a large contribution that the state has to make in the end.”
There are no plans to scale down the project, she added.
From a regional perspective, development of the Barnum Avenue Railroad Station was a plus, according to Matt Fulda, Executive Director of the state Metro Council of Governments.
“We think this is an important project for the city of Bridgeport and for the region in terms of access of the train station at a different level and some development around the train station that doesn’t exist currently,” he said.
Gov. Lamont’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Carrington architects win bidding for Wendell Cross project in Waterbury
WATERBURY – The architecture firm that designed the Carrington Elementary School building, completed in 2013, is a committee’s top choice to lead Wendell Cross Elementary School’s redesign from a traditional elementary school building to a pre-K-to-8 school.
Farmington-based firm Friar Architecture, Inc. is the one a selection committee chose from six bidders vying for the project, City Finance Director Michael LeBlanc wrote in a letter dated Jan. 22.
LeBlanc’s letter outlined three different options for the project – each with a different cost.
Design costs for the first option, addition and renovations to the existing Wendell Cross building, would be $1,237,114. Demolition and new construction, the second option, would cost $1,376,418. The third option, which calls for demolition and new construction with 10 additional classrooms, would cost $1,394,018. The city had received approval from the state Department of Administrative Services to receive a 78.6 percent state reimbursement on a project that would renovate and expand the existing Wendell Cross structure at an expected total cost of $46.2 million.
One of the stipulations for receiving that state reimbursement is that ground must be broken on the project by this October.
Officials have floated a possible change in scope for the Wendell Cross project, citing a need for additional classroom space to have the full capacity to serve the number of students who live within the Wendell Cross neighborhood. Whether a change in the project’s scope would impact the city’s reimbursement from the state hasn’t been answered.
A 10-member selection committee that included four Board of Education members chose Friar Architecture from a pool of six bids after the city advertised a request for proposals last November.
The selection committee identified two finalists from the responses. Those finalists were asked to return for second interviews and to provide concept drawings and project cost estimates for three different project scopes. The committee voted unanimously for Friar, LeBlanc wrote.
Representatives from Friar Architecture, along with city and school officials, are expected to be available to field questions from the Board of Education tonight when the board convenes at Waterbury Arts Magnet School.
Representatives are also expected to attend the Board of Aldermen’s Feb. 11 meeting.

The contract, if approved by the Board of Education, would need aldermen to sign off on final approval. Further details on the proposed contract were not available on Wednesday.
The Carrington project, on which Friar Architecture had worked, was finished in 2013. That project cost a total of $37 million, according to previous Republican-American reports.
Mayor Neil M. O’Leary said the selection of Friar Architecture “seems to make sense,” describing the Carrington project as having been as complicated as the Wendell Cross project in the works, as it also involved demolition and construction.
Board of Education member Jason Van Stone also spoke favorably about selecting the firm, saying, “Friar has done good work for us in the past.”