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Truckers say tolls mean everyone will pay
BY HARRISON CONNERY and PAUL HUGHES
HARTFORD – The ground shook Wednesday afternoon outside the Gov. William A. O’Neill Armory as a 19-cannon salute kicked off Gov. Ned Lamont’s inaugural parade.
As the smoke cleared over Capitol Avenue, red and white signs denouncing the prospect of tolls in Connecticut pierced the otherwise convivial air.
“No tolls, governor, please,” shouted Patrick Sasser, owner of a small trucking company in Stamford and organizer of Say No to CT Tolls.
Though Lamont was close enough to hear the plea and make eye contact with Sasser as the procession passed, his response was drowned out by the din of bagpipes and drums, and possibly the sounds of highway traffic from the viaduct carrying Interstate 84 over and through the heart of downtown Hartford.
Lamont campaigned on bringing back limited highway tolls to Connecticut. The Democrat wants to target out-of-state truck and bus traffic while giving Connecticut motorists and businesses a free pass.
He made no mention of highway tolls when he addressed a joint session of the General Assembly after the short inaugural parade ended.
Members of Say No to CT Tolls showed up early Wednesday morning to stake out a prime spot to protest against the prospect of highway tolls of any kind.
They included Kelly Devanny from Cheshire and Linda Shapiro from Southbury.
“It is not going to be trucks only,” Devanny said.
She and Shapiro said they also doubt toll receipts will be used to support transportation. They said it is a revenue grab.
The two protesters said tolls will just increase the already high costs of living and heavy tax burdens in Connecticut.
“People just can’t take it. I have a good job. I’m a single person, and I’m getting squeezed to death. I can’t afford tolls,” she said.
A recently released DOT report that examined options for reinstituting tolls estimated as much as $1 billion could be raised. The most sweeping scenario envisioned locating 82 electronic tolling gantries every 6.6 miles along all interstate highways and four other major expressways and parkways.
Sasser warned his trucking company and other businesses will end up charging more to pay the additional transportation costs.
“We would probably be forced to pass our cost onto our customers,” he said.
Devanny said she is unsure many of the voters who backed Lamont realize the implications for their pocketbooks and wallets.
“Even if you don’t commute, even if you don’t ever leave your town, it is going cost you money from everything that is trucked in here and brought in here,” she said.
Ninety-four percent of Connecticut’s freight is shipped by truck, according to Joseph R. Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, who said trucking companies typically operate on thin margins.
“A new cost is not something that will just be absorbed by the companies, they will need to adjust their rates and thus everybody pays more for everything,” Sculley said.
The trucking industry employs 58,400 state residents and pays $3.2 billion per year in wages, according to the American Transportation Research Institute.
It also pays $281 million in state and federal taxes. Sculley said that equates to 32 percent of all road taxes even though the trucks account for only five percent of miles traveled in the state.
“There are calls out there to raise $300 million in truck tolls. That’s doubling our tax burden overnight,” he said. ”
That would be an incredible burden not only on our industry but for sure it would result in higher consumer prices.”
Greenwich gets $17M from state for New Leb construction
By Ken Borsuk and Jo Kroeker
GREENWICH — As construction of the new building for New Lebanon School nears completion, Greenwich’s legislative delegation to Hartford presented a $17 million gift to First Selectman Peter Tesei on Tuesday.
The oversized check for $17,469,365 represents a large portion of the state’s share of the costs of the new elementary school building, which carries a $37.3 million price tag. It was presented by state Reps. Michael Bocchino, R-150, Livvy Floren, R-149, and Fred Camillo, R-151, along with state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-36.
The state of Connecticut has agreed to reimburse the town of Greenwich for up to 64 percent of the building’s total cost, which could equal as much as $24 million when the project is completed. So far, the $17 million has been approved by the state.
“This was an extraordinary accomplishment by the delegation,” Tesei said of the state reimbursement. “They had to overcome extreme adversity politically to get this. This is a project that’s really going to change the future of the students living in that district. Greenwich is a diverse community. It has students eligible for free and reduced lunch, and this school educates a large segment of that population.”
Students are slated to move into the new building on Feb. 19, after the winter break. The new larger building will address overcrowded conditions at the old school and racial imbalance in the student body. Enrollment at New Lebanon, which offers an International Baccalaureate magnet program, is open to students across Greenwich.Construction continued Monday with the installation of fixtures underway at the new building for New Lebanon School, school officials said. Work has remained on time and under budget ever since the ground breaking in December 2017.
The new building now boasts an electrical transformer providing permanent power, an elevator, a glass wall surrounding the media center and ceramic wall tile and epoxy flooring in the kitchen area, school officials said.
Building committee members expect the remaining work — finishing the interiors and installing lockers, gym equipment and flooring — to be completed “in the coming weeks.”
Crews have turned to the interiors of the classrooms and bathrooms, and are working from the second floor down to install classroom ceilings, light fixtures, cabinetry and flooring, bathroom partitions, doors, lockers, gym equipment and flooring.
Tuesday’s ceremony at Town Hall was bittersweet for Frantz and Bocchino, who lost their bids for re-election and were making what will likely be their last official appearances as lawmakers.“We brought as much as $24 million back to the town of Greenwich, and that’s money saved for our taxpayers for a brand new school,” said Bocchino, who had advocated for the new building. “You have to hang your hat on that.”
The delegation had faced strong opposition from Gov. Dannel Malloy and Secretary of Policy and Management Ben Barnes.“This was done against the will of the governor and Secretary Barnes,” Frantz said. “They said over our dead body will we spend money for this new school in Greenwich, Connecticut. It fell out of the budget three times. We were working in the wee hours of the morning trying to get this thing done. We were able to work together as a team to be able to put the pressure on them to put it back in.”
They Republican lawmakers did it by building a consensus among Democrats and showing that the school was a priority, Floren said.
“There was nothing in it for the Democrats to vote with us on this,” Camillo said. “A vote against this wouldn’t have hurt them in their districts so this shows that rapport we had with them. No one takes shots. We all work together on things even when we didn’t agree. When they had a chance to do this and stop this, they didn’t take it and they stood with us. We really appreciate that.”Floren added, “Bill Clinton said it all when he said, relationships are key. When you have been in the job, you are bound by experience, trust, respect ... and scar tissue.”
New Lebanon Principal Barbara Riccio announced last week that she will retire effective June 30. An educator for more than 35 years, Riccio has served as the principal of New Lebanon since 2011. She was there for the ground-breaking of the new building in 2017, and Riccio will move in with the students next month for her final months in the Greenwich School District.
W. Hartford OKs $60M convent redo into apartments
West Hartford late Tuesday approved a rescaled, $60 million plan to remake a convent property into 330 living units on the Hartford border.
Following a 2 ½-hour overview of the project by developer Martin Kenny and his team, the Town Council unanimously approved his redevelopment proposal.
Kenny said no start date for construction of One Park Place has been set, but will take 18 to 22 months to complete.
Most of the new 294 apartments will be one bedrooms, with rents starting at $1,500 per month. The rest will be two- and three bedrooms, priced $2,300 to $2,500 per month. A previous developer's plan was for mostly two-bed units in a much larger development that was to be called Arcadia Estates.
One Park Place will offer 294 studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments vs. 310 for Arcadia Also, parking has been shaved to 441 units of surface and covered spaces.
Under both plans, active and retired nuns would occupy apartments in a building in one part of the property, while living units located in a separate building would be leased to market-rate residents.
Design schematics prepared by Hartford's Amenta Emma Architects depict masonry-clad structures, with the newer buildings designed to compliment the historic look of the campus' chapel and older structures. Many of the apartments will have balconies.
Last February, representatives for the Sisters confirmed that Arcadia Crossing had fallen back to square one, and was seeking a new development partner. That is when Kenny's group swooped in.
The Sisters' ownership of the campus dates to 1898.