March 29, 2019

CT Construction Digest Friday March 29, 2019

How bad will traffic be when the I-84 viaduct in Hartford is replaced? Think Waterbury, the state Department of Transportation says

A replacement of the aging I-84 viaduct in Hartford is still at least a decade away, but state transportation planners now say they are confident the $5 billion project is possible without shutting down the highway to traffic passing through the city.
Think Waterbury.
 “It’s a lot like Waterbury where we did offline work, we kept the traffic moving, then we did some widening or built a temporary road and traffic shifted over there and then you went and built in the other area,” Andy Fesenmeyer, a state Department of Transportation project manager, said. “It’s that same theory, we never shut any lanes down in Waterbury.”
The news isn’t so rosy for commuters into Hartford who would have to deal with closed-down ramps and detours on the way to work.“There are serious inconveniences,” Fesenmeyer said. “Let’s call it. We can’t sugarcoat that. There is going to be pain like any construction project.”The state DOT and its consultants are sharing their assessment for the project’s effect on traffic at Thursday’s meeting of the I-84 public advisory committee. Construction on the project is not expected to get underway until the late 2020s, but that is contingent upon securing funding.
The price tag for replacing the 2-mile stretch as it passes through Hartford is now estimated to be $4.3 billion to $5.3 billion, a combination of state and federal funding.
The construction of I-84 cut a swath through the city in the 1960s when highways were the prime consideration. Now, the lowered highway has the potential to reconnect neighborhoods torn apart in a era when there is a strong emphasis on shoring up urban areas and making them walkable and attractive to new residents. In addition to its age, the viaduct is expensive to maintain, costing the state millions of dollars.
The DOT is moving closer to recommending the viaduct be eliminated in favor of a lowered highway, slightly below grade. The other option is to keep repairing the existing viaduct. Another alternative -- burying the highway in a tunnel -- has already been thrown out.
Even though the DOT has been studying the viaduct replacement for six years, the project is still in the early stages.
But one thing is already clear, streets in Hartford could bear the brunt in the construction because some existing ramps will close and temporary detours will be built, changing the way traffic winds its way through the city.
“There are going to be changes to the ramps,” Fesenmeyer said. “If you are on the highway, you’re going to be either here or over here. But the ramps are going to changes in some of the stages [of the project] and that’s going to be bigger impact.”
Fesenmeyer said there will be “accommodations” made for commuters, “but now you may go on another local road that you didn’t use to take. The traffic pattern changes that the city is concerned about, we have to figure that out. And we don’t have that figured out yet.”
“There are a lot of things to look at and try to get a handle on, which we haven’t yet, but we’re comfortable there are ways,” Fesenmeyer said.
For much of the last year or more, the DOT and its consultants have been working with the public advisory committee to determine the best location for a new train and bus station with parking garage, plus a new route for CTfastrak, the state-owned bus line that has a dedicated roadway.
The new train and bus station is needed because plans for lowering I-84 to slightly below garde requires shifting it to the west. Such a dramatic change requires laying a new path of train tracks to the west of the lowered highway. A new use would be found for historic Union Station, built in 1889. Similarly, the CTfastrak also must move, the busway shifting to the south of the new highway. For much of the last two years, the DOT and its consultants have been working with the public advisory committee to determine potential train and bus station locations and routes for the busway. No final decisions have been made, but there is informal consensus that the train station should be located to the north of Asylum Street. The relocated CTfastrak could either use the abandoned train tracks now running into Union Station or new nearby city streets.
The DOT says further focus on those aspects, which would include public hearings on each, isn’t likely until the project goes into its “final design” stage, still a couple of years away.
State transportation planners say the discussion was necessary, as it prepares it final written report on its recommendations for the project, to ensure there were “no fatal flaws.”
“I know it’s going to be hard,” Michael N. Calabrese, a DOT principal engineer on the I-84 project, said. “We were at a thousand feet, and now we have to pull back to 10,000 to write the document.”
The DOT’s report with its recommendation is due early next year and is subject to public hearings and further revision. It must then be signed off by Federal Highway Administration, which could come in later in 2020 or in 2021. If funding is secured, the final designs would come next, and could take 3-5 years. One reason why construction is pushed out to late 2020′s because dozens of properties -- all or some part of them -- must be acquired for the project.
Apartment buildings, such as the Capitol View, and others along Spring Street would be in the path of the replacement project, and would require relocating tenants before demolition. Other buildings include 25 Sigourney St., the abandoned state office building, which the state has unsuccessfully tried to sell.
Both the train tracks and CTfastrak would have to move first because they cross under the viaduct.

Lamont seeks help with tolls, other priorities, in D.C.

Washington – During a quick trip to the nation’s capital, Gov. Ned Lamont met with foreign businessmen, spoke to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao about tolls, and explored expansion of the use of offshore wind energy in Connecticut.
On Wednesday, Lamont attended a gathering hosted by the Organization for International Investment, a group that looks out for the interests of foreign companies doing business in the United States.
Among those attending were executives from Boehringer Ingelheim, a pharmaceutical company whose U.S. operations are located in Ridgefield.
“I urged them to have a bigger footprint in Connecticut,” Lamont said of the companies at the event who do business in the state.
The governor also met with Chao on Wednesday over the issue of tolls, which has bedeviled him back home.
He said they discussed how tolls are established in other parts of the nation, including Indiana and Virginia.
The elusive infrastructure bill promised by President Donald Trump was also part of the conversation
“We talked about if and when that would be like,” Lamont said of the transportation bill, and how the state should fashion its list of federal priority projects if Congress ever approves the legislation.
Another part of the discussion related to the 20 percent in transportation matching funds Connecticut must supply.
On Thursday, Lamont attended an event at the Canadian Embassy hosted by the National Governor’s Association and the embassies of Australia, Canada and Denmark.
The meeting centered on pushing for more use of offshore wind energy though mandates, incentive programs and the removal of regulatory and policy barriers.
Lamont said he met with representatives of Orsted, a Danish company that owns wind areas off the coast of New England. Connecticut has already agreed to purchase offshore wind power from one of those areas.
“Connecticut has less than 1 percent of its energy generated by wind power while Denmark has 40 percent,” Lamont said, referring to the state’s land-based wind area in Colebrook. “I talked (to Orsted) about why wind is an important part of the energy portfolio.”
There’s an effort in the state legislature to increase the amount of offshore wind energy allowed in Connecticut.
Lamont also attended an NGA event aimed at increased recruitment of minority teachers.
“Forty percent of the students in Connecticut are children of color and only 10 percent of the teachers are minorities,” Lamont said.
Black and Hispanic prospective teachers are winnowed out in the teacher certification process, which includes passing teacher-prep exams and clearing other hurdles.
Lamont said there was a discussion about pairing up prospective minority teachers with seasoned educators to learn the ropes. He said he met with “some folks interested in investing money” in those types of projects.
The governor’s visit to Washington D.C. was busy, but brief. He met with Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, but otherwise steered largely clear of Capitol Hill.
“I didn’t even know the governor was in Washington,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said on Wednesday.

‘Tolls monster’ widening divide between Lamont, GOP
Keith M. Phaneuf
The gulf between Gov. Ned Lamont and Republican legislators on tolls grew even wider Thursday.
While administration officials urged compromise, Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said any long-term funding plan that includes the “toll monster” is a non-starter for his caucus.
“I say no tolls — period,” Fasano said during an early afternoon news conference, adding he believes residents staunchly oppose “allowing another taxing beast into our system. … Now you’ve got this beast, which is the tolls monster.”
Fasano was touting Prioritize Progress, the Republican legislators’ alternative plan to finance long-term transportation upgrades without tolls.
Connecticut chiefly finances transportation upgrades using a combination of state and federal dollars. Most of the state money is borrowing through the sales of transportation bonds on Wall Street. Those bonds are repaid using fuel tax receipts and other revenues from the budget’s Special Transportation Fund.
But analysts say Connecticut has invested too lightly in transportation for decades, and the $750 million to $800 million in state bonding it issues annually needs to grow.Lamont has proposed installing electronic tolls, which would boost transportation fund revenues by nearly 40 percent by 2023 or 2024 — and give Connecticut the revenues to support a more aggressive bonding program.The administration estimates as much as 40 percent of toll receipts would be paid by out-of-state motorists.
But the GOP says Connecticut doesn’t have to wait four or five years to expand transportation work — and it doesn’t have to toll anyone.
Republicans want to redirect other bonding — used for school construction, capital programs at state universities and economic development — for transportation.
State funds for transportation construction work would swell from about $800 million per year to $1.4 billion annually under the GOP’s “Prioritize Progress” plan. In contrast, Lamont would essentially keep resources for transportation work constant over the next four or five years until toll receipts arrive.
And Fasano distributed a Department of Transportation analyst’s memo — first disclosed by the CT Mirror on Feb. 27 — that warns the administration’s plan would be too lean over the next four to five years.
The governor’s plan “would have significant impacts on our capital program, severely constricting the number of new projects that advance in the current, and future years,” the DOT wrote.“I didn’t say it,” Fasano said. “DOT said it. This is an alarm they sent out.”
But some transportation advocates have said the Democratic governor and Republican legislators’ respective plans could easily be merged.
For example, some non-transportation bonds could be redirected to ramp up transportation work over the next few years — and then phased out as toll receipts arrive.
But while Fasano said he couldn’t consider any compromise if it involved tolls, Lamont’s chief of staff, Ryan Drajewicz, and budget director, Melissa McCaw, said there is room for middle ground.
“There is a path through this,” said Drajewicz, who attended Fasano’s news conference and addressed reporters immediately afterward. Connecticut’s motorists and businesses want the state’s aging, overcrowded transportation system upgraded and will not accept partisan gridlock, Drajewicz said, urging Fasano to stop holding news conferences and come negotiate with the governor.
 “We’re ready to talk,” he said. “We’re ready to work through this.”
The key, McCaw said, is to develop a compromise built on honest, fiscal principles that allows for key strategic investments in transportation. If Connecticut makes no changes to its transportation building program, or if it follows the GOP plan, the budget’s Special Transportation Fund is at risk of deficits by the mid-2020s and insolvency shortly thereafter, she said, adding it simply needs more resources over the long haul.“If there’s no money to fund the debt service,” McCaw said, “that’s a problem.” The administration is ready to look at any plan that brings long-term stability to state finances, including its transportation program, she said.That plan must make some attempt to restrain overall borrowing, administration officials said. Lamont proposed a “debt diet” in February, arguing that past administrations recommended far too much borrowing for non-transportation programs.

Senate Republicans Lobby Lamont On ‘Prioritize Progress’ Using DOT Memo

Governor willing to end his ‘debt diet’ for transportation
HARTFORD — Top cabinet officials Thursday said Gov. Ned Lamont is willing to break his “debt diet” to borrow more for transportation as a stopgap while Connecticut transitions to highway tolls.
Chief of Staff Ryan Drajewicz and Melissa McCaw, the state budget director, laid out the potential deal after listening to Senate Minority Leader Leonard A. Fasano, R-North Haven, blast Lamont’s plans for transportation spending for 30 minutes.
The prospects for such a compromise appear slim based on the steadfast opposition of the House and Senate GOP caucuses to highways tolls. The dueling news conferences Thursday underscored the wide gulf on highway tolls.
“I say no tolls, period,” Fasano said.
A day earlier House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, reiterated House Republicans remain opposed to tolls.
McCaw and Drajewicz on Thursday continued to present tolls as the only sustainable, long-term revenue source for the Special Transportation Fund.Fasano said Senate Republicans are opposed to unleashing a “toll monster” on Connecticut.
Drajewicz said Lamont is confident that the legislature will vote to authorize an all-electronic tolling system this session, and he shares the governor’s confidence.
The Transportation Committee voted along party lines last week to advance competing tolling bills that House Democrats, Senate Democrats and the governor’s office proposed.
“This where the real back and forth will begin. I am confident that we will be able to win the argument at the end of the day,” Drajewicz said.
Fasano was not conceding the argument Thursday.
He once more highlighted the Republican Party’s Prioritize Progress plan, and Drajewicz and McCaw dismissed the GOP alternative to tolls once again.
House and Senate Republicans propose to dedicate roughly $2 billion in state bonds and anticipated federal funds to finance transportation projects annually for the next 30 years.
The Republican leader criticized Lamont for refusing to issue $250 million in general obligation bonds that last legislature authorized to supplement $750 million in revenue-backed special transportation obligation bonds for 2018 and 2019 fiscal years.
The Prioritize Progress plan relies on a combination of GO and STO bonds going forward. For the first 10 years, the initiative assumes an average of $703 million in GO bonds a year, another $750 million in STO bonds, and slightly more than $730 million in federal funds.
Fasano quoted from an internal memo from the Department of Transportation that said Lamont’s bonding limits would “severely restrict” funding for new projects and require the delay of a number of pending projects. The memo was written Feb. 7, roughly two weeks before Lamont recommended a two-year, $43.1 billion budget plan.
McCaw and Drajewicz argued Connecticut taxpayers will bear the entire cost of the borrowing under the GOP plan, while they said tolls will require out-of-state motorists and heavy trucks contribute to bridge and highway maintenance.
The two cabinet officials said Lamont would be willing to authorize GO bonds to supplement transportation funding for three or four years as part of a larger deal to transition to tolls.
McCaw clarified such bonding would be exempted from Lamont’s self-imposed bonding cap of $960 billion annually that he announced in Feb. 12.
She and Drajewicz also defended Lamont’s decision to halt the planned transfer of sales taxes from car purchases from the general fund to the Special Transportation Fund after Fasano criticized the governor.
The last legislature adopted a schedule to gradually shift 100 percent of those tax receipts over the next five fiscal years. The governor’s two-year budget plan caps that transfer at the current 8 percent rate. It is due to increase to 33 percent in the next fiscal year.
McCaw said the amount of revenue is insufficient to sustain the transportation fund, and the transfers also create a hole in the general fund.
“The car sales tax transfer is not a solution,” she said.
Drajewicz invited Republicans to meet and negotiate a long-term plan for transportation funding.
“This isn’t about right or wrong. If we are talking about the next three to four years versus the next 30, it is the wrong the discussion,” he said. “If what is getting in our way is the ability to meet in the middle for the next four years, we’re all ears. We want to have the conversation, the governor wants to have the conversation about what does the next 30 and 60 years look like. That is what is most important.”

DOT previews Merritt Parkway rehab for New Canaan, Norwalk and Westport
Justin Papp
NORWALK — Representatives from the Connecticut Department of Transportation visited City Hall Wednesday to provide information on a Merritt Parkway rehabilitation project stretching from New Canaan to Westport that could begin summer 2020.
There were a little more than 20 residents who came out for the informational meeting about the project, including state Reps. Lucy Dathan, D- 142, and Tom O’Dea, R-125, followed by a question and answer session.The team of engineers described a 6.1 mile long project, which could take three-quarters of a year to complete, beginning at South Avenue in New Canaan and ending just shy of the Newtown Turnpike Bridge in Westport. The estimated $85 million cost would come 80 percent from federal funds and 20 percent from state funds.
“It’s the eighth and final corridor project along the Merritt Parkway.,” said Michael Cherpak, project manager at the Department of Transportation. The exception, Cherpak said, is the area around the Route 7 and Merritt Parkway interchange in Norwalk, which is an estimated $175 million project still several years from approval.
Along the route, the parkway’s shoulders will be widened by eight feet — four of which will be paved and four of which will be reinforced grass — existing guide rails will be replaced, median barriers will be installed where the width of the road is limited and the roadway will be resurfaced.
During construction, drivers will experience road closures during the day and night, though they will be limited to non-peak hours. There will also be proposed detours, including a roughly 5-mile long redirect around Comstock Hill Road.
“So it’s just important to mention that this is our official state route detour. and that’s because we have to consider height of vehicles, weight of vehicles. we try to use all state routes when we’re assigning an official state route detour,” Cherpak said. “No one would be precluded... to use some sort of other way around.”“At any of these detours we would be in constant coordination through the design process with that municipality and their emergency services people,” Cherpak continued. “We do take these very seriously and we do take a lot of precauion.t
In the area of Norwalk near the Route 7 and Merritt Parkway interchange, the roadways will be resurfaced, the guiderails will be upgraded and the shoulders widened. No major bridge reconstruction or landscaping will be undertaken.
“We call this our area of limited project scope,” said Nicholas Ivanoff, project engineer for the state Department of Transportation. “That’s a major interchange project. It’s goal is to improve system linkage between 7 and 15. and it’s not slated for construction until 2024.”
The portion of Merritt Parkway connecting New Canaan and Westport will be the last of roughly two decades of work to improve the road.Public comment will remain open until April 10.

Westport water main project starting April 1
Aquarion Water Company today announced a water main replacement project beginning April 1 on Franklin Street and Riverside Avenue in Westport.
Additional water main replacements on Railroad Place, Kings Highway North, Iris Lane, Old Hill Road, East Meadow Road and Valley Road will also be completed later in 2019.
The project, which will replace 11,200 feet of water main, is part of an ongoing program to improve Aquarion’s water distribution system and to ensure the highest quality water, the announcement said. The infrastructure upgrades will also help to reduce leaks and water main breaks that can cause service interruptions.
During the project, customers in the area may experience temporary service disruptions or discolored water, the company said. The company recommended customers store water in their refrigerators for drinking and cooking in case these circumstances arise. Customers also should refrain from washing laundry if their water is discolored. Prior to resuming use, customers should run their cold-water faucets until the water appears clear.
“We greatly appreciate residents’ patience during this project,” said Michael Hiltz, Aquarion’s manager of utility programs. “We will work closely with our customers, contractors, and town officials to coordinate the work and minimize any disruptions.”
Due to construction, customers should expect minor traffic delays and possible detours during the working hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Westport, CT-based A.J. Penna & Son will be serving as the contractor for the water main replacement project.
To keep customers informed about scheduled/unscheduled work, Aquarion utilizes a CodeRED notification system to call affected customers. Customers are encouraged to sign up for this free service at
Project updates describing the construction status, schedule for the following week, changes in traffic patterns, and detours will be posted weekly on Thursday evenings at

Learning the ropes: Firefighters prep for bridge work
Lindsay Boyle
New London — Though they’re no strangers to training, city firefighters are flying high this month with an oddly specific purpose: to rescue construction workers should they get stuck under the Gold Star Memorial Bridge.
Chief Tom Curcio said this particular high-angle rope rescue training, put on by the Connecticut Fire Academy and made possible by a federal grant, “is training we haven’t done before.”
“Especially with work on the northbound side starting in 2020, we wanted to make sure our guys would be able to go over the side of the bridge if they had to,” he said.
Contractors with the state Department of Transportation have been working on the southbound side of the bridge since April 2017, when they launched a $26 million project that included steel repairs, concrete deck patching, joint replacement, illumination and paving.
During that time and even before, firefighters have had to rescue workers stuck in inspection or other trucks under the bridge. But they’ve always been able to park a ladder truck on a New London or Groton street and reach the workers that way.
With work on the southbound side almost complete, DOT soon will start on the northbound span.
Because the northbound project is slated to be more extensive and will include reinforcing steel under the bridge, Curcio said workers will be more likely to get stuck somewhere that isn’t accessible by land.
“This is going to be a very useful training for us,” he said.
Firefighters began the seven-day, 56-hour rope rescue course in Roland Hall at the Coast Guard Academy, which houses a gym, pool and other athletic facilities. They started small, dropping from the gym’s catwalk to learn how to lift and lower themselves.
They have since moved to the vacant Crystal Avenue high-rises, where on Thursday — day five of the training — they had strung a 600-foot rope system, complete with pulleys and trolleys, through a metal tripod anchored to a wall on the fourth floor.
In each case, a group at the top secured the tripod so it wouldn't tip forward while a group on the ground set the correct tension on the rope, which was attached to the back of an ambulance.
Then, as one firefighter hoisted himself out the window, both groups worked to send him horizontally across the rope, lower him down to "rescue" another firefighter, lift the pair back up and send them the rest of the way to the ground.
Curcio said while it's unfortunate that people who lived in the high-rises had to vacate because of mold, rodents and poor maintenance, it's good that firefighters can use the buildings for training. While he has done rope rescue training before, he said many younger members of the department had not.
In the coming days, the firefighters will start on the seventh floor of one building, perform a "rescue," then be sent across the rope to the same floor of an adjacent building, which is comparable to having to move from one section of the bridge to another.
“I think I’m going to go myself and watch that,” Curcio said.
The $251,799 grant came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, to which city firefighters regularly apply.
Curcio said the funding, which was boosted by a 10 percent, $25,179 contribution from the city, covers the training, overtime pay for participating firefighters and almost $50,000 in rope rescue equipment the department gets to keep.
Curcio said all of the city’s firefighters are participating, although some won’t make it to all seven days of training for various reasons. Those who do attend all 56 hours can become certified upon completion.
Battalion Chief Jeff Rheaume, who also has been trained in rope rescue, said the training highlights how firefighters do more than fight flames.
"This is not what you think about when you sign up" to be a firefighter, he said. "But it's great for them to be able to practice in this controlled atmosphere."

March 28, 2019

CT Constuction Digest Thursday March 28, 2019

Stamford reps may stop work on West Main Street bridge
Angela Carella
STAMFORD - Just when you thought it was settled, the fate of downtown’s last historic bridge again floats in the air.
Members of the Board of Representatives will vote April 1 on whether an exhaustively debated renovation of the West Main Street bridge, approved in September and already underway, should proceed.
The board’s Operations Committee Tuesday night voted to recommend that the project go forward. But it’s not clear which way representatives will go, given that, six months ago, they barely approved an engineering contract with a 21-19 vote.
The latest sticking point is that representatives believed that Mayor David Martin would come back to them after the engineering firm, Wengell, McDonnell & Costello, finished the $98,000 first phase of its assessment of the scope of work needed to fix the 1888 bridge, and before the $457,000 second phase.
When that didn’t happen, representatives contacted Martin, who said that his office, which has authority over contracts, could proceed to the second phase without board approval. It turns out the firm determined that fixing the bridge will cost $336,000 more than originally anticipated.
The Operations Committee chairman, Rep. Jonathan Jacobson, D-12, put a question to members Tuesday.“Are the projected costs so great that it warrants that we stop?” Jacobson said.
Representatives are concerned that taxpayers will be on the hook for any overruns on the project, which is to be paid for using a $2 million state grant obtained by the Mill River Collaborative, the nonprofit group working with the city to remake Mill River Park, site of the 125-foot iron bridge.
Representatives said the city’s agreement with Wengell, McDonnell & Costello requires that they review the firm’s initial assessment to ensure that cost estimates are correct.
Instead, representatives said, the administration concluded on its own that, though some initial estimates had to be revised, the originals were substantially correct and the project is ready to proceed.
Martin and members of his staff appeared before the Operations Committee Tuesday to smooth things out.
He thinks the agreement “is the best way going forward,” Martin said, but “I give you my word that if you don’t want to proceed, I will honor that.”
He committed to returning to representatives should substantial cost overruns be identified once construction goes out to bid.
“If the budget slips further, what does the city do?” asked Rep. Dennis Mahoney, R-20.
The city has a capital account for bridge replacement with several million dollars in it, though the money is mostly allocated for bridge projects on Cedar Heights Road, Riverbank Road, and elsewhere, Martin said.“The $50 million Stamford police headquarters building is on budget, so I’m hopeful this will come in on budget, but I just don’t know,” Martin said.
If the cost projection for the bridge is too high, the project cannot proceed, he said.
“If it comes in at $20 over, we’re moving ahead. If it’s a million and a half, we’re not,” Martin said. “I can only tell you in good faith that we want to get this project done before the bridge deteriorates further.”
Representatives on this board, and several before it, have spent countless hours debating whether the bridge should be repaired for pedestrians or to carry cars. During the 20-year debate, the bridge has continued to crumble. Engineers fear it could wash away in the next big rainstorm.
“We need to get moving,” City Engineer Lou Casolo said, otherwise “we will have a situation where the bridge will have to close. Or it could collapse.”
As it is, the Engineering Department shuts the bridge during storms.
“That in itself presents a safety problem,” Martin said. “People are scaling the fence when we close the bridge.”
Vehicles were banned 16 years ago, when it was deemed that the bridge cannot carry the weight. Ever since, West Side residents have been concerned that their neighborhood is cut off from downtown.The Mill River Collaborative wants to repair the bridge for pedestrians only, in keeping with the character of the park, and to preserve the historic elements of the 1888 structure.
Rep. Benjamin Lee, D-15, wanted to know what a bare-bones bridge would cost.“Something not pretty that would get people from one place to the next would be cheaper,” Lee said. “Do you have a point where you will abandon the historic preservation aspect of it?”
Martin said the city could not get approval for the project without preserving thebridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rep. Anthony Spadaccini, R-14, asked about the plan’s call for a $213,000 temporary bridge so pedestrians can cross the river during construction, expected to take 18 months.
“Do we absolutely need that?” Spadaccini asked. “I would rather have a bridge built and do without the temporary one.”
Rep. Nina Sherwood, D-8, said eliminating the temporary bridge “would create a hardship for a lot of people.” Many West Side residents use it daily to get to work, grocery stores, and other destinations.
Casolo said building a temporary bridge would still require that the city obtain permits from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, a costly and time-consuming endeavor.
Rep. David Watkins, R-1, wrapped up the discussion saying certain things are apparent.
“We have to replace the bridge,” Watkins said. “This is a way we do it in a relatively brief amount of time.”
If a new, higher estimate should come back to the board, members will have to figure it out, Watkins said.“I don’t see an alternative,” he said.
On the nine-member Operations Committee, Watkins, Lee, Jacobson, Spadaccini, Mahoney and Rep. Terry Adams, D-3, voted for the project to proceed. Sherwood voted no. Rep. John Zelinsky Jr., D-11, abstained, and Rep. Elise Coleman, D-3, did not attend.
The full board is set to vote on the project at 8 p.m. Monday in Legislative Chambers, fourth floor, Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd.

Battle brewing on Derby water tank, neighbors’ lawyer threatens to sue if approved
Michael P. Mayko
DERBY — What appeared to be a slam-dunk for the city could become a battle.
The proposed million-gallon water storage tank to be built on 2.2 acres near Derby’s high school/middle school complex on Chatfield Street could head to Superior Court if approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission
City and fire officials and Griffin Hospital President Patrick Charmel urged the commission to approve the tank and alleviate low water pressure in the area. Similar support was voiced at a January public hearing in New Haven. And last month the tank received approval from the Regional Policy Board of the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority.
“I had sleepless nights worrying about water in that service area,” said Charles Sampson, the city’s former fire chief and current Board of Aldermen president. “There’s terrible water pressure. If we get a good house fire and something else happens, we have a serious problem.”
Andrew Baklik, who is chief of staff to Mayor Richard Dziekan, said rejecting the proposal “would do a disservice to everyone on the west side.”
But on Tuesday night, Gregory Cava, a Roxbury lawyer representing a family who owns 116 Chatfield Street, challenged the proposal, claiming it violates state and Derby zoning laws. He threatened to sue if the proposal were approved.
Several residents, including Ted Anglace, Dorothy, Mary Lou and Nissa Marinelli and Carol Senfield also voiced opposition to the proposed tank location.An alternative site at the corner of Silver Hill Road and Hull Street in Ansonia was suggested.
Keith McLiverty, the city’s treasurer, also urged the Water Authority to make at least a $500,000 donation to the city’s coffers. He said this would make up for the cost the city spent on supplying water lines to the middle school.
The tank, which would begin construction in June if approved, would serve about 13,000 customers in west Derby, Ansonia and Seymour. It was chosen from about 100 possibilities after another proposed sight on Telescope Mountain on Summit Street was rejected by the commission in 2013.
Several commission members, including Ted Estwan, the chairman, Greg Stevens, David Kopjanski and Raul Sanchez suggested the Water Authority consider additional buffering from trees to shield the Chatfield home from both the tank and vehicle headlights. The commission tabled the matter late Tuesday night and continued the public hearing.
Cava said the tank, which would be in what is Coon Hollow Park, does not meet the special exception or accessory use allowances in an area zoned for parks. He said it exceeds the building height limits by at least 6 feet and would violate state law because a separate required hearing on park land reuse was not conducted.
“Anytime you are taking park land and using it for public use” a separate hearing is required, the lawyer said. He said state law requirements comparable replacement land be offered in exchange.
The Water Authority is offering land adjacent to Witek Park as well 1.25 acres of land owned by St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ansonia, which is near the construction site. The church’s land would be purchased by the Water Authority and used as a construction staging area. Once the construction was completed it would be paved and turned over to the city for use as a parking lot for the for the now vacant VARCA building which Derby wants to sell.
“I would wage that after the lawsuits are over and all is said and done, the city is not going to be successfully able to offer this (St. Peter and St. Paul) site as comparable replacement land and this application can’t go anywhere,” Cava said.

Aldi on Route 5 in Wallingford to reopen late next month
Mary Ellen Godin
A crane hoists an air conditioning unit onto the roof of Aldi on Route 5 in Wallingford as construction continues there  on Wednesday.
WALLINGFORD — Aldi will reopen its newly remodeled Route 5 store late next month.
The store, located at 1248 S. Broad St. in the Kohl’s plaza, closed on March 17 to expand from four to five aisles in addition to other changes. It is scheduled to reopen April 25.
The remodeling is part of a $1.9 billion Aldi initiative to expand more than 1,300 stores nationwide by the end of 2020, according to a statement.
Aldi will host a ribbon-cutting at 8:30 a.m. on April 25. Gift cards will be given to the first 100 shoppers, who will also have a chance to enter a contest to win a year’s supply of produce.
The new store layout will provide additional refrigeration space to accommodate more products. Stores will also feature open ceilings, natural lighting and environmentally friendly building materials, according to the statement. The store will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“Our remodeled store layout makes grocery shopping even more efficient,” said Bruce Persohn, South Windsor Division Vice President for Aldi. “Customers can easily navigate the Aldi aisles and find real savings on every trip. We’re eager to reveal the new look of Aldi to Wallingford, where we already have passionate, loyal customers.”
The company wide expansion plan is expected to add 25,000 new jobs in stores, warehouses and offices nationwide by the end of 2022. The retail chain was founded in 1976 and operates more than 1,800 stores in 35 states.Aldi has been in the Kohl’s Plaza since 1997.

Hartford city council greenlights $26M Park-Main St. development
Joe Cooper
The Hartford City Council has unanimously approved a development agreement and ground lease for a long-awaited 108-unit apartment and retail community at the corner of Park and Main streets.
The council on Monday voted 7-0 to allow developers Spinnaker Real Estate Partners, of South Norwalk, and Hartford's Freeman Cos. to build the $26 million facility that would consist of up to 90,000 square feet of residential space, 20,000 square feet of commercial space, a rooftop deck and up to 125 parking spaces, city officials said Tuesday.
For the project to move forward, design plans must still be signed off by city planners and the Planning and Zoning Commission. Construction could kickoff in the fall with an estimated completion date a year later, officials said.
Amid public concern over gentrifying the South Green neighborhood, making the apartments affordable to people in the area has been a focus for Mayor Luke Bronin, whose office negotiated the deal with the developers.
According to a draft agreement, 20 percent of one- and two-bedroom units must be set aside for low- to moderate-income earners, or individuals with incomes between 80 percent to 120 percent of the area median income (AMI).
With most of the city's local affordable housing units going to people at or below the 60 percent AMI threshold, the development ultimately aims to create additional affordable housing options for those ineligible to obtain cheaper units, developers say.
Plans show the two blighted lots, spanning across approximately 1.6 acres and 0.6 acres, will also include as much as 13,000 square feet of amenity space and up to 9,000 square feet for rooftop decks.
A November presentation by the developers, who took over the project in August after bidding on it in March 2018, show space for retail, restaurant and co-working areas.
The project includes no city financing and the lease agreement is marked for 30 years with an option to extend, records show.

Webster stakes $16.7M for Meriden housing
Gregory Seay Webster Bank is pledging $16.7 million in loans, subsidies and tax credits to fund a proposed $31.5 million, 81-unit Meriden mixed-income housing redevelopment on the site of a former newspaper building.
Robin Gallagher, senior vice president for commercial real estate for the Waterbury super-regional lender, said Wednesday Webster leads a financing package for New Jersey-based Michaels Organization's Meriden Housing Development Project at 11 Crown St.
The Connecticut Department of Housing and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority are among the project's financial backers.
According to Webster officials, its financing includes a $10.7 million investment in low-income housing tax credits with the National Equity Fund, and a $750,000 direct subsidy.
The balance of the Crown Street project's financing package includes: $6.4 million of federal low-interest housing tax credits; a $6 million loan from the housing department; $750,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board: and $500,000 in state low-income housing tax credits.
The project has been designated a "transit-oriented development'' due to its eventual proximity to Meriden's train-bus station.
Groundbreaking for the 64 apartments tagged "affordable,'' with some set aside for households transitioning from homelessness, plus 17 market-rate units, is set for this spring on the grounds of the former Record-Journal building, officials said.
Construction and lease-up will take another 24 months.
The development project, Webster said, is part of Meriden's five-year plan to relocate former residents of the Mills housing projects, which were demolished in 2018. Other projects include 24 Colony Street and Meriden Commons I & II.
Webster said its involvement includes a $10.7 million investment in low-income housing tax credits with the National Equity Fund, and a $750,000 direct subsidy.


March 27, 2019

CT Construction Digest Wednesday March 27, 2019

Gov. Lamont heads to Washington for meetings
Gov. Ned Lamont will travel to Washington Wednesday for a series of events, including a meeting with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to discuss Connecticut’s infrastructure needs. The Democratic governor will also attend a meeting hosted by the Organization for International Investment that will be attended by international companies with a presence in Connecticut. He meet with U.S. Rep. John Larson of Connecticut’s 1st District and then will go to a reception at the Danish Ambassador’s residence. Early Thursday, Lamont will attend two events hosted by the National Governors Association: a Global Energy Solutions Summit and a meeting with national education leaders to discuss minority teacher recruitment. A spokesman for the governor said he expects Lamont will return to the state Thursday afternoon.
Candelora, Looney differ on validity of tolls vote

Like an NFL referee, Rep. Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, is throwing a flag, saying that Democrats committed the legislative equivalent of having too many players on the field.
Candelora said Tuesday that Democrats placed one too many senators on the legislator’s Transportation Committee after assigning Sen. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, to the panel after his recent victory in a special election. Legislative rules limit the panel to nine senators, and Slap made 10.
In Candelora’s view, that means that the committee’s approval last week of three bills authorizing the state Department of Transportation to pursue highway tolls are invalid. If they come before the House for a vote, Candelora said he will object.
“I will challenge them,” said Candelora, the deputy minority leader in the House.
Candelora made his complaint in a letter to the House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, and Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven. There were 10 senators on the committee last year, and no one objected.
“We don’t think there is an issue here,” Looney said.
The legislature operates under Mason’s Manual, which effectively says passage by the Senate or House trumps any procedural defect in a bill. Looney said any of the bills can properly come before either chamber.
The Transportation Committee’s deadline for acting on legislation was Monday. Candelora acknowledged that wouldn’t mean tolls were dead as an issue, even if the legislative leaders agreed with his view of the rules.
The Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee has legislation that could be amended as enabling legislation on tolls, he said. That committee’s deadline is not until May 2.
“There certainly is a vehicle out there,” he said.
The Connecticut General Assembly has joint committees of the House and Senate. Under the rules adopted this year, most committees can have a maximum membership of nine senators and 35 representatives.
The exceptions are the Judiciary Committee and the two money committees, Appropriations and Finance.

NTE Energy delivered on promises in North Carolina city
To the editor:
Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Sheridan is correct when he writes ("Killingly Energy Center a boon to clean energy, economic development") that the proposed Killingly Energy Center will have many benefits for the town of Killingly and Connecticut. I should know. I am the Mayor of Kings Mountain, North Carolina, where NTE Energy built and now operates Kings Mountain Energy Center.
The promise of hundreds of construction jobs, cleaner, more reliable energy and millions of dollars in new tax revenue, with no impacts on municipal services, sounded almost too good to be true. But it was true. NTE's Kings Mountain Energy Center began operation last summer and we have seen NTE meet every commitment and promise they made.
The job fair that NTE ran prior to plant construction resulted in hundreds of jobs locally.
The city of Kings Mountain and the state of North Carolina now have a more reliable and cleaner source of energy and is helping displace older, less efficient power generating facilities in the region. And the city of Kings Mountain has indeed seen a sizable, and very much needed, increase in property taxes from the facility helping to support our schools and public safety. And again, all of this has been done with no negative impact to our city's services.
In addition to the jobs created and the cleaner energy for the environment and the tax revenues, NTE has proven to be an outstanding community partner. Through NTE's substantial support for our local charities, their participation in scholarship programs for high school seniors, to their corporate support of local activities, NTE is one of Kings Mountain's premiere corporate citizens.
I can certainly understand how some might be skeptical, but please take my word. NTE's Killingly Energy Center can do for Killingly and Connecticut what Kings Mountain Energy Center has done for my community and the state of North Carolina.
Scott Neisler Mayor, City of Kings Mountain City Hall 101 W Gold Street Kings Mountain, NC

Norwalk approves $1.5 million for redesign in Maritime Theater Replacement Project
Kelly Kultys
NORWALK — The Common Council on Tuesday unanimously approved spending $1.5 million of the state’s funding for redesign work for the Maritime Aquarium Functional Replacement Project.
The approval was one of the first for the city, which is now serving as the authority in charge of contracts for Maritime project-related work and services.
The agreement is with Beyer, Blinder and Belle Architects for the second phase of work to the theater and its additions. The redesign calls for reducing the theater addition footprint by about 1,000 square feet and shifting it to the east slightly to make room an existing sanitary pipe at the site.
It also calls for studying and analyzing certain areas such as “underground piping routes and connections to reduce costs as feasible,” a letter from the architects reads.
The restructured agreement, which the council approved in February, calls for a new budget for the replacement project capped at $40 million, according to a March letter from Alan Lo, the city’s building and facilities manager.
“With the restructuring of the relationship among the city, Connecticut (Department of Transportation) and the Maritime Aquarium, we are working together to evaluate the scope of the functional replacement project and to proceed with the redesign of the project,” Lo said.
As a part of the Walk Bridge replacement, the current Maritime Aquarium IMAX Theater will be demolished to properly realign the railroad tracks, Lo said in a separate February letter to the Land Use and Building Management Committee.
The Common Council approved an agreement for reconstruction of the theater and other parts of the aquarium in May 2018. The agreement stated that the Connecticut Department of Transportation would pay the aquarium $34.5 million to replace the theater and lost exhibit space.
The aquarium’s initial replacement plan calls for building a two-story, 11,939-square-foot addition on the east of the existing main entrance. The space would house a 4D, 178-seat theater, entrance lobby, ticket area and other space. Four-dimensional technology allows theatergoers to feel wind and rain and sense smells.
The aquarium originally planned to build a two-story, 8,748-square-foot addition on the east side of the existing building to house the aquarium’s seals. It would replace the existing tent structure and exhibits along the Norwalk River. A one-story west entry hall with fish tank and 8,241-square-foot mezzanine area would be built along North Water Street
The original agreement allowed the Aquarium to take the lead on this project with a structure that sent funding for the project straight from the state to the Aquarium.However, when the project went out to bid in the fall of 2018, the responses “exceeded the project budget substantially,” Lo said.
“DOT requested the project to be temporarily put on hold in order to provide an opportunity to evaluate the project scope, design criteria, bid results, completeness of the bid package, effectiveness of the bid solicitation process and availability of redesign options to achieve significant cost savings,” Lo wrote.
Because of this and the fact the state DOT determined it was “too complicated” to have all three parties — the state, the city and the aquarium — playing a role, the state asked to restructure the agreement, giving Norwalk full responsibility over holding and managing funds and responsibility all contracts necessary, Lo said.
“The Mayor and city staff agree that a restructuring is in the best interest of the project as the City has greater expertise and experience in completing large construction projects funded by the state,” Lo wrote. “The City will manage the project in close collaboration with the Aquarium and the State.”

Major hotel planned for New Haven’s Route 34
Mary E. O’Leary
NEW HAVEN — After years of trying to find a hotel operator who would locate on Route 34 on the development site where Continuum of Care has its headquarters, Mayor Toni Harp Monday said someone has come forward.
She said Choice Hotel, which represents such brands as Comfort Hotel , Sleep Inn, Clarion and Quality hotels, has indicated its interest to Yves Joseph, founding principal of RJ Development + Advisors LLC.
Joseph, whose partner is Jason Resnick, said he could not comment because the company has signed a confidentiality agreement with a hotel group, but the developer said “we are really, really excited about this.”
Joseph was a vice president for seven years with Centerplan when New Haven signed a land disposition agreement with that company for the development of the block on Route 34 across from Career High School.
A hotel would be the last piece for RJ Development + Advisors LLC as it looks to wrap up the project. In addition to Continuum of Care, there is a Rite Aid pharmacy and the Learning Center, a daycare facility. The child care facility took the place of a restaurant, which was in the original plan
Joseph said it is not unusual for a mixed-use project to be developed in stages. He has been marketing the site since 2014.“It will be special to get a hotel out of the ground,” Joseph commented.
A proposed garage and a medical/commerical building continues to be a potential for the site. Joseph said the garage remains a project for Robert Landino of Centerplan.
City officials said multiple hoteliers ultimately decided not to come to the site because of a neutrality agreement that the operator would have to sign with Unite HERE, which wants to unionize the staff. Harp said apparently Choice Hotels has no problem with that.
Harp thought the potential new hotel would have from 100 to 130 rooms. Acting Economic Development Administrator Michael Piscetelli would only say, “we’re encouraged.”
New Haven has had a shortage of hotels, but several recently have been approved, with The Blake, a new boutique hotel on High and George streets, open for business.
The former Duncan Hotel on Chapel Street is being converted to the Graduate New Haven Hotel, and a Hilton Garden Hotel will be located on the corner of Orange and Elm streets. Another hotel continues to be part of plans for development of the former Coliseum site with Spinnaker Real Estate Partners taking the lead in that development.
While the Graduate New Haven renovations have been progressing, it stalled late last month when the Board of Zoning Appeals denied, without prejudice, a special exception on parking that is being blamed on union interests that were working on a neutrality agreement at that hotel. The company has since sued the BZA over the vote.
The former headquarters of Pirelli Tires on Long Wharf Drive, now owened by Ikea, has been approved for a hotel, as has a site on Elm street owned by developer David Kuperberg, both of which are moving slowly, according to Piscitelli.

March 26, 2019

CT Construction Digest Tuesday March 26, 2019

Republican Lawmakers Rallying Against Tolls VIDEO
On Monday Republican lawmakers took the fight against tolls on the road and tried to rally people to help stop the controversial plan.
“It’s going to hurt all of us. The little economies. The little businesses,” Lisa Graca said.
Graca owns a salon in Watertown and she worries some customers won’t want to pay a fee to drive to her shop.
“When you have a client for 20 or 30 years, all of a sudden you’re going to lose that. You’re going to lose that revenue,” Graca said.
Graca was among the crowd who heard from state Republican lawmakers during an informational forum at Bristol Central High School on Monday.
With three toll bills moving ahead at the Capitol, State Sen. Henri Martin (R-Bristol) and others realized they needed help to put the brakes on the plans.
“We said, you know, let’s take it out to the people. This needs to be a grassroots effort in order to persuade and change the minds of those that may be on the fence,” Martin said.
Legislators explained why they thought the tolls were a bad idea and encouraged a mostly sympathetic crowd to make their voices heard; including by contacting political leaders who are pro-tolls.
There appeared to be a few dozen in the crowd who support tolls and wouldn’t mind the added cost.“Yes, I have no trouble with that,” Paul Morgan of Bristol said.
Those in favor of tolls say they could help pave the way for improved infrastructure and better quality of life.
For union members it’s also about jobs.
“There has to be something done. We have to have a plan for the future. We have a lot of long-term, big projects that have to be built and without a long-term plan or revenue stream, we’re not going to do it,” Nate Brown of the International Union of Operating Engineers, said.
There are three more of these forums planned for April in Danbury, Old Lyme and Enfield.

Republican lawmakers oppose tolls, offer alternative at Bristol forum
BRISTOL - Republican legislators talked tolls with a packed crowd at Bristol Central High School Monday.
Tolls have been a hotly debated topic for several months and the high turnout was reflective of that controversy. In the crowd were local leaders including Plymouth Mayor David Merchant and residents of Bristol and surrounding communities.
The recent budget proposal from Gov. Ned Lamont includes more than 50 toll gantries on all major highways.
Area lawmakers who attended included Reps. Whit Betts, Cara Pavalock-D’Amato and William Petit Jr., and Sens. Gennaro Bizzarro and Henri Martin.
Also included in the discussion were Rep. John Piscopo, who represents Burlington, Harwinton, Litchfield and Thomaston; and Rep. Laura Devlin, who represents Fairfield and Trumbull.
Betts began by welcoming the guests. He encouraged them to reach out to Rep. Chris Ziogas and other members of the Transportation Committee to hear “the other side” from toll advocates.
Devlin then presented an overview of the toll proposal and information from a November 2018 toll study.
“This is a big issue and so we decided to hit the road and come to any community that is looking for us to come,” she said.
Devlin asked audience members to raise their hands, first if they support tolls and then if they oppose them. The vast majority indicated that they oppose tolls. A handful said they were undecided.
“I am not in favor, and 90 percent of my constituents are not in favor,” said Devlin.
Devlin said arguments she has heard against tolls include that they represent a “tax to get to work,” while arguments in favor are that people pay tolls in every other state and that tolls will capture revenue from out-of-state drivers.
Devlin said tolls are intended to discourage people from driving on highways during peak times of 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. and to push them onto side roads or public transportation or into car pools.
The November study estimated that tolls would raise $1.086 billion a year - 60 percent from state residents and 40 percent will come from nonresidents. Tolling would be done every six miles.
The Department of Transportation will also be given control of where the gantries are and what they should cost.
“This is a hugely partisan issue at the Capitol, but not for the people living across the state,” said Devlin. “This will affect everyone.”
Martin said there is $45 billion to fund transportation over 30 years out of the $62 billion that the DOT estimates it needs.
Martin laid out the Republicans’ “prioritize progress” plan that has no tolls and would raise $65 billion over 30 years. It utilizes general obligation bonds, respects the $2 billion state bonding cap, and “takes care of the state’s core investments and priorities.”
“There are a lot of pet programs, pork and political handouts -- we said no to all of that,” said Martin. “This plan also provides steady funding to transportation.”
Ziogas, a Democrat who represents Bristol and was at the forum as a spectator, said he opposes the Republicans’ plan.
“I think Henri Martin did a fine job of demonstrating how this will slash huge portions of the budget,” he said. “Their proposal will cost funding to education, municipal services and programs that provide supports. Their plan will not provide new revenues like tolls will.” 
Audience members were allowed to share their thoughts and question panelists. That occurred after press deadline.

CT Airport Authority sees growth potential beyond Bradley International
Sean Teehan
If Bradley International Airport is Alec Baldwin, the five regional airports overseen by the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) are his less-famous brothers: They don't operate on the same level, but they're still making moves.
"We do have development discussions underway at every airport that we own," said Kevin Dillon, CAA's executive director. "Some are very advanced where there are signed term sheets, and there are others that are still in the discussion phase, but at each one of our airports we have some level of development that we're discussing."
That development ranges from new airplane hangars at three or more CAA airports to the possibility of bringing commercial fights and developing a hotel at Groton-New London Airport. That's in addition to preliminary talks about CAA possibly taking some operational role at Tweed-New Haven Airport.
Efforts to bring CAA's five smaller airports, which collectively recorded a $6.1 million operating loss in fiscal 2018, to their full potential are being informed by market research that's been done on the needs of individual and corporate travelers, Dillon said. All contribute to Dillon's vision for CAA as a statewide network of airports that compliment each other in terms of the services they provide, and are operated to their maximum capacity for aeronautical and non-flight uses.
"If you have one entity operating these significant facilities, you assure yourself of that coordination," Dillon said.
Challenges and opportunities
One of the biggest efforts underway is deciding the future of Tweed-New Haven Airport. Talks between CAA, Tweed's airport authority and the city of New Haven are in their infancy, Dillon said. At the moment, the only agreed-upon principle is that activities at CAA airports and Tweed should be coordinated.
But Dillon sees mutual benefits to some kind of operational partnership or acquisition. For starters, Tweed currently pays outside firms for engineering services CAA could provide for free if an agreement was reached. A merger would also better position Tweed and CAA to approach the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for grants, since only one entity (likely CAA) would be responsible for grant planning, Dillon said.
However, not everybody is on board with a possible merger. Some high-ranking state legislators on both sides of the aisle — namely Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (who represents New Haven) and and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) — have expressed skepticism, noting CAA and Tweed's competing interests.
"The CAA is concerned with Bradley Airport, which wouldn't want competition from Tweed," Looney recently told members of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking to the New Haven Register, Fasano called the idea "fantasy land," and questioned why CAA would want to take over "another entity that doesn't make money."
Public skepticism aside, the CAA/Tweed talks dovetail with continued negotiations with AFCO AvPORTS Management LLC, the Dulles, Va.-based private operator of Tweed. For more than a year, CAA has been considering outsourcing operations management of three of its general aviation airports — Hartford-Brainard, Waterbury-Oxford and Groton-New London — to AvPORTS as a cost-saving measure.
"We don't have a specific timeline," Dillon said of CAA's discussions with AvPORTS. "We're interested in trying to reach an understanding with them as soon as possible."
CAA and AvPORTS have agreed that 16 full-time unionized employees would, under any deal, remain in place. That had been a sticking point in the negotiations.
Meantime, one of the airports that AvPORTS would manage under that deal, Groton-New London, could once again start offering commercial flights, Dillon said.
The 489-acre airport is only about 65 miles away from Bradley, but given its proximity to businesses like Pfizer and Electric Boat, not to mention casinos and the Coast Guard Academy, Dillon sees opportunity in expanding Groton-New London's services to commercial flights.
"We've done a fair amount of market research down there as to what destinations people are looking for, and what companies are likely to utilize at the airport," Dillon said. "It's a matter of convincing an airline to start operations at the airport."
Additionally, CAA is looking into possible hotel development at Groton-New London, Dillon said.
That airport is also among the four with advanced plans to develop airplane hangars on-site. The other three, Hartford-Brainard, Windham and Waterbury-Oxford, already have signed term sheets with developers Hartford Jet Center, Windham Air Services and Atlantic Aviation, respectively.
"At Hartford-Brainard, (there's) a heavy presence of privately owned aircraft," Dillon said. "But some of the hangar development that we're looking at along with Hartford Jet Center would give the potential to handle some smaller corporate jet aircraft."
Hangar development facilities are usually constructed by third parties, which absorb the cost, Dillon said. Once they're up, CAA collects ground rent and fees associated with aircraft parking.
The Waterbury-Oxford hangar development, if greenlighted, would be used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Dillon said. That would make Waterbury-Oxford the only CAA airport outside Bradley that can accept direct flights from foreign countries.
In a recent interview, CAA Board Chairman Tony Sheridan cited the moves Dillon is making with development at both the regionals and Bradley when expressing his optimism for the year ahead for the authority.
"I believe that growth will happen," Sheridan said. "There are a lot of exciting changes (coming)."
Moving forward, identifying and pursuing opportunities for development will remain a key part of CAA's business strategy for its five smaller airports. While they might not have as much space as airports that have opened golf courses on their property, Dillon sees plenty of potential for uses of airport space for things like flight schools, restaurants, and aircraft repair and maintenance facilities.
"At all of our airports — Bradley as well as the five general aviation airports — we do have developable property," Dillon said. "We're constantly out there marketing."

East Windsor casino subject of lawsuit over zoning permit, site plan
Brian Hallenbeck
Having finally secured the last federal approval they needed for their East Windsor casino project, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes on Monday withdrew a lawsuit they and the state of Connecticut had been pursuing against the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The suit sought to compel action on the tribes’ amended gaming agreements with the state, action the Interior Department officially took Monday by publishing notice in the Federal Register of its approval of the Mashantuckets’ amendments. The department had approved the Mohegans’ amendment last year.
Still, a much lesser-known matter on the docket in Superior Court in Hartford will have to be cleared up before casino construction can begin.
In a claim lodged last July, the owner of a retail area located across the street from the casino site appealed the East Windsor Planning and Zoning Commission's approvals of a special permit and a site plan for the project. Oral arguments in the case, which names as defendants the commission and the tribes’ partnership, MMCT Venture, are scheduled for June 5.
Sofia’s Plazas LLC, a family company, alleges that the commission failed to properly notify abutting property owners of a public hearing on the permit application and failed to indicate in a legal notice that alcohol would be served at the casino. The corporation also claims that MMCT’s development agreement with the town constitutes illegal “contract zoning,” defined as a process in which a local government "extracts a performance or promise from the developer in exchange for its agreement to rezone the property ..."
The tribes have agreed to pay the town an estimated $5.5 million a year in property taxes and another $3 million annually in payments aimed at offsetting the casino-related costs the town incurs.
“Although the applicant here did not contract directly with the planning and zoning commission, the enormous financial incentives offered by the applicant colored the processing of the applications at every stage of the proceedings in favor of approval,” Sofia’s Plazas asserts in a court brief.
The plaintiff’s attorney, David Sherwood, plans to depose the former town planner who held office when the approvals were granted.
“Sofia’s Plazas’ primary concern is the adverse effect the casino will have on the ease of access to their property,” Sherwood said by phone Monday.
Robert Maynard, the East Windsor first selectman, called the upcoming deposition “a fishing expedition.”
“It’s not much of a case,” he said. “We’re not too concerned about it.”
Maynard said the Interior Department’s announcement last week that it had approved the Mashantuckets’ gaming amendment took the town by surprise.
“Because it was so sudden, the town and MMCT haven’t conferred yet,” he said. “The ball’s in MMCT’s court.”
MMCT still has to seek a building permit, starting a time-consuming process that will involve a public hearing and the filing of detailed plans for the casino project, according to Maynard.
The 188,000-square-foot casino, dubbed Tribal Winds, and a five-story parking garage will be built on 28 acres off Exit 45 of Interstate 91. The tribes have said it will take 18 to 24 months to finish construction. 

March 25, 2019

CT Construction Digest Monday MArch 25, 2019

Groundbreaking to celebrate Bethel’s Rockwell, Johnson renovations
Julia Perkins
BETHEL — Renovations will begin on Rockwell and Johnson elementary schools next month.
The district will host a groundbreaking to kick off work at 11 a.m. April 11 in the side parking lot of Johnson school. The rain date is April 23.
Pre-construction work has been ongoing for several months to ready the schools for the project.Voters approved the $65.8 million project in October 2017, with a state grant covering 45 percent of eligible costs. The project is under budget, with with Rockwell costing $25.9 million and Johnson costing $39.5 million. A state grant is covering 45 percent of eligible costs of the renovations.

State's gambling future uncertain, despite federal action
Susan Haigh
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The federal government may have finally given the go-ahead to a satellite tribal casino in East Windsor, but that doesn't mean the debate over gambling in Connecticut is settled.
Nearly three months into his term, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont still faces the challenging task of trying to negotiate a wide-ranging gambling agreement that doesn't violate the state's revenue-sharing agreement with the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes but also includes other forms of gambling, such as sports betting.
"I would love to work out something with the tribes," he said. "We're trying our best."
Lamont's public schedule, obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request, shows he met privately at the governor's residence with the Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegans in January and in February with representatives from MGM Resorts, which says it wants to build a casino in Bridgeport and also offer sports betting. The casino company has challenged the constitutionality of a deal that allows only those two tribes to build and operate an off-reservation casino.
The tribes, which formed a company called MMCT, have said they need the casino in East Windsor to help blunt competition from MGM's new casino in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, save jobs at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino, and preserve the funding stream currently provided to the state of Connecticut. On Thursday, the Department of Interior posted a memo saying the proposed amendments to two agreements between the state and tribe had finally been approved after about two years — allowing the planned casino to move forward.
In exchange for exclusive rights to certain forms of gambling, the tribes provide the state 25 percent of slot-machine revenues, which amounts to about $270 million annually.
Lamont, who said he has also met with various sports-betting entities, confirmed to The AP that he hopes to address as many outstanding gambling issues as he can with his closed-door talks, while at the same time taking steps to avoid costly litigation for the state.
The latter could prove challenging. In response to the approval for the East Windsor casino, MGM issued a statement promising to "continue to pursue all legal options, including litigation," challenging the tribes' exclusive gambling rights "and defend our right to compete in Connecticut." The casino company filed a similar lawsuit in 2015, but it was ultimately dismissed.
"Depending on how those negotiations go, we may not see any gaming bills coming out this session," said Rep. Joe Verrengia, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the General Assembly's Public Safety Committee. He said one exception could be legislation creating a Connecticut Gaming Commission, which has received little opposition.
It's still not clear when the Tribal Winds Casino in East Windsor might open. While the two tribes have purchased and cleared the site along I-91 for the $300 million facility, spending about $14 million so far, they still need to obtain financing.
"I can only imagine the difficulties of getting financing" for the project, given MGM's legal threats, Verrengia said.Both tribes are also heavily leveraged. A Feb. 4 credit opinion from Moody's Investors Services noted the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's "high leverage" as a cause for concern, as well as tribe's earnings being concentrated in a "highly competitive region." Besides competition from MGM Springfield, which opened in August 2018, Wynn Resorts Limited is in the process of constructing a large resort casino near Boston that's scheduled to open in June. The same report notes how the Mohegans have a "well-established and large product offering" and that "diversification efforts are underway."
Moody's most recent May 2018 credit opinion of the Mashantucket Pequots notes how the tribe has a "weak liquidity profile" and is currently operating under a forbearance agreement that expires June 30 with senior lenders to restructure billions in debt. Such deals occur when a creditor gives up the right to immediate repayment of a loan by a debtor under certain conditions. The report also says the tribe's earnings have been hurt by a "combination of reduced spending trends by gaming consumers, increased competition, and more aggressive promotional activity."
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Chairman Rodney Butler said the federal approval means construction of the new casino "will move forward" and "preserve much needed jobs and revenue."
Both he and Kevin Brown, the former chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, have said construction would continue through any litigation. The Mohegans did not issue a statement following the Department of the Interior's action.
Meanwhile, there is still a bill before the General Assembly that would create an open casino bidding process, something MGM is supporting but the tribes say would violate their revenue-sharing deal with the state. Bills are also pending concerning sports betting and other forms of gambling. The session adjourns June 5.

Lamont’s shifts on tolls, schools signal collaborative style, steep learning curve
Kaitlyn Krasselt
Ned Lamont has been governor for a little over two months but the list of big issues on his plate is long, and they're coming to a head early in his administration.
Tolls, gambling, casinos, sports betting, marijuana, school district consolidation and more. Everyone knew even before the November election the 2019 legislative session would be busy, filled with ideas to help right the state’s economic problems.
But when the governor amended his stance on school consolidation on Wednesday, it was the second time since taking office in January that he had changed his policy position on a major issue, a notable departure from his predecessor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was known for not budging.
Whether it’s the learning curve of governing or a contrast in style, experts say it’s clear Lamont is doing things differently.
“He’s subject to compromise, he’s subject to listen,” said Gary Rose, chairman of the Department of Government, Politics and Global Studies at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. “Right now though, I think there’s a little bit of oscillation going on and a lot of people are trying to figure out where he is and what he’s about, as opposed to Malloy who was sort of arrogantly connected to his positions.”
When Lamont came out in favor of tolling for all vehicles, it wasn’t the politically expedient thing to do. It angered Republicans who were already skeptical of another Democrat in office and alienated some of his own base, who viewed the move away from his previously stated position of trucks-only tolling as a broken promise. Conversely, his amended stance on school regionalization clarifying his recommendation that school districts simply consider ways to collaborate and share services rather than be forced to consolidate, was popular across party lines and the result of Lamont responding to the ire his original proposal drew.“I do think it has to do with the learning curve and that he probably was not completely aware of how various legislative districts in the state feel about some of his policy proposals,” Rose said. “The modification of his school plan, and his change on tolling, he does seem like he’s listening to a lot of people and I think he’s subject to changing his positions, so I’m starting to wonder ... I do think there is a governor here who is at least not as narrow minded, who is not totally steadfast in his position as his predecessor and is a little more cooperative with opponents.”
Colleen Flanagan Johnson, a senior adviser to Lamont who worked with Malloy during his first year in office, was hesitant to compare the leadership styles of Lamont and Malloy, but conceded “they’re two different people.” She doesn’t remember there being any greater an abundance of big issues during the first months of Malloy’s administration, and added, like any job, there is a learning curve to governing.
“I think that when you have a new administration, you have a new Legislature, even if some of them are returning, whenever there’s a new dynamic, there’s an opportunity to reshape the relationship between the administration and the Legislature,” Johnson said. “And I would venture to say that if you were to write this same story in four years, he will still be governing with this style. It’s just who he is. It’s very authentic to him.”
Legislative leaders have noticed a difference too.“They have different styles and I think being responsive to feedback is a positive thing,” said state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk. “Working with the Legislature we can put out the best product. I don’t want to compare, but I would say that Gov. Lamont has done an excellent job of reaching out and working with legislators and understanding the legislative perspective and how to work together in a collaborative way.”
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, a North Haven Republican, praised the governor’s openness, but added he would like to see a little more direction from the new governor. He said the politics of the Capitol — the backroom deals between legislators to get things done — could put Lamont in an uncomfortable position should legislation pass that he fundamentally disagrees with.
“He’s willing to say let’s talk, and I think that’s good,” Fasano said. “But when I think that’s bad is when there’s a total lack of direction about what will be deemed acceptable and what’s not. You could set bookends where there’s room to talk between them, and we know if we get outside of those. And I don’t see those bookends ... which could be a problem for him. He should weigh in a little more on the bigger pieces of legislation, and he should let people know what he’s thinking. He runs in peril of finding legislation he does not agree with on his desk to be signed.”
Still, Fasano said he has had more conversations with Lamont than the previous governor, and he is optimistic about the working relationship between legislators and the governor. He said Lamont’s amendment to the school consolidation proposal is an accurate representation of the governor’s approach to leadership and willingness to change his position.
“He’s very personable,” Fasano said. “He’s very easy to talk to and he seems open minded on issues. He suggests firm beliefs he has, but an open mind on how to get there. So I can’t tell you more than it’s a different atmosphere than Malloy and I think that’s good. Whether that ends up in some agreement, it’s too early to tell.”

Preferred developer selected for Groton Heights School
Amanda Hutchinson
Groton — In a collaboration between town and city, officials this week announced local tech startup ThayerMahan as the preferred developer for the former Groton Heights School property.
The school, which closed in 2007, is located in the City of Groton at 244 Monument St. The town received a $150,000 grant in December from the state Department of Economic and Community Development for remediation work on the building, including lead and asbestos removal.
According to a news release from the town, ThayerMahan will adapt the existing 27,185 square feet into office and floor space for corporate offices, engineering and assembly, and research and development. The company, currently based on Leonard Drive, develops and deploys undersea surveillance technology to support security, infrastructure and environmental projects.
Chief Operating Officer Richard Hine said Friday the company is "thrilled" to be selected. He said the company had started in a small office near the Mystic train station before moving to the airport business park, and the Groton Heights School property is the next step in its growth in the region.
He said ThayerMahan is working closely with the town, city and especially the Bill Memorial Library, its immediate neighbor at 240 Monument St., to develop good community relationships.
"I think they are a wonderful selection," City Mayor Keith Hedrick said. He commended the company's high-tech work and also its planned reuse of a historic property, highlighting the collaborative effort between the city and the town to redevelop its old school buildings.
Economic and community development manager Paige Bronk said the town received several proposals for the property but ThayerMahan's was very strong, and the fact that it's already a thriving Groton business gave a lot of confidence to the town. He said there are still parts that need to be ironed out, but he expects it to go to the council for its "blessing" in April.
He noted that the Groton Heights property is just the first of several in Groton slated for new development, and this project is an example of how the town can support others going forward.

If elected next time, Stefanowski vows to dismantle any tolls Lamont administration installs
Is the 2022 governor's race already underway? Former candidate for Bob Stefanowski said if he is governor in 2023 he will dismantle tolls in Connecticut.
Stefanowski made the comments on Sunday's Face the State with Dennis House, when asked if he is elected governor, what would he would do if tolling is then in place. Governor Lamont has called for the return of tolls to Connecticut roads and highways.
"I think the next governor, whoever it is, is going to have to make a call on that. I would dismantle it," said Stefanowski when asked if he would call for an end to the toll program if he was elected.
Dennis also asked Stefanowski if he is planning on running again, and he said "four years is a long way off."You can watch the entire interview right here and response from Governor Lamont's chief of staff.