April 12, 2019

CT Construction Digest Friday April 12, 2019

Developer gains approval for 223 new apartments in New Haven
Mary E. O’Leary
NEW HAVEN — RMS Companies Tuesday had two variances approved for its final project connected to the Hill to Downtown plan.
The firm, run by Randy Salvatore, will build 223 apartments at 9 Tower Parkway on a parking lot off Church Street South and Tower Lane.
The approvals granted by the Board of Zoning Appeals allow for less glass on the facade facing Church Street South and for a canopy over an entrance that will not interfere with streetlights or trees.
This plan brings the number of housing units approved for construction by RMS to 557 within an estimated three-block radius that is a short walk to downtown. Salvatore has said he is calling the whole area City Crossing.
“We are creating a neighborhood connected right to downtown,” the developer said in a recent interview.                              
Salvatore also recently opened The Blake Hotel on High and George streets, a high-end extended-stay boutique hotel with a Michelin-rated chef at the hotel’s restaurant, Hamilton Park.
His first entry into the New Haven market was construction of the Novella, a 135-room apartment building at Chapel and Howe streets.
Salvatore was tagged in 2015 by then-Economic Development Administrator Matthew Nemerson as someone whose actions cement the city’s credibility as a place to build.

Demolition begins on 17-acre Anamet site in Waterbury
WATERBURY — Sprayers soaked a partially collapsed manufacturing building off South Main Street Thursday morning as an clawed excavator pulled away sections of building, striving to complete a demolition already begun by neglect, gravity and weather.The water is meant to keep dust and building materials from blowing off-site during demolition.A contractor hired by the city has begun demolishing buildings on the long-dormant, 17-acre, Anamet manufacturing site. The state has given the city $3 million for its bid to get the site back into use and on the tax rolls.For a long time, Anamet has stood as a symbol of the city’s decline. The site along South Main Street employed hundreds in multiple shifts daily decades ago. Anamet once bragged about being the biggest global manufacturer of flexible metal hose. But it withered along with much of the city’s industrial base, ultimately closing in 2000.Since then, there have been multiple fires. Buildings have begun falling apart due to the ravages of weather coupled with an absence of maintenance. Windows are broken. Graffiti and litter are everywhere. Scrappers stole dozens of metal manhole covers, prompting the city to cover them with hefty cement blocks to avoid injuries. The site has been a magnet for drug activity, and, some neighbors say, prostitution.The city bought the property for $650,000 in 2017, launching the turnaround effort. This week, contractor Manafort Bros. began demolition under a $1.8 million contract. Mayor Neil O’Leary, state lawmakers, city aldermen, state officials and other dignitaries showed up to celebrate this latest phase of redevelopment Thursday.“Reclaiming this scarred land and turning it into a viable site is key for the future economic development and job creation of our city,” Mayor Neil O’Leary said during at the site ceremony Thursday morning.O’Leary credited state and federal agencies, along with federal and state lawmakers for providing the needed resources. O’Leary said redevelopment of polluted and dormant industrial sites, also known as “brownfields,” has been a pillar of his administration since he first took office in 2011.Alderman Victor Lopez Jr. said the project is part of a broader effort to redevelop the South End.Lopez heads the Hispanic Coalition, a group headquartered on nearby East Liberty Street that provides an array of social services. He said residents frequently ask him when the city might demolish the monstrous eyesore.“I’m so excited that now, today, even the residents that are looking out their windows and standing up on their porches right now are seeing that there’s actual work getting done and these buildings are finally coming down,” Lopez said.The Aname is held by 698 South Main Street Inc., a group of local business leaders and officials formed by the city to manage the redevelopment project. Staff from the city’s Waterbury Development Corp. are assisting.The group voted to hire Manafort Bros. to handle the ongoing demolition project for a fee of up to $1.8 million.The plan is to eventually demolish most buildings, leaving up a single, 220,000-square-foot, building for reuse. There is also need to cleanup industrially polluted soils.The city needs another $2 million to complete the job, estimates James Nardozzi, interim CEO of Waterbury Development Corp. He’s applied for another $1 million state grant and will continue seeking other funding sources.Under its contract, Manafort has 150 days, or about five months, to complete its current job. Giving funding limitations, after that work is done, the city will still have to demolish a large powerhouse building and an office building, as well as clear industrially polluted soils under the buildings.

Proposal abandoned: 10 Main St. will not become City HallSUSAN CORICA
BRISTOL - City officials have ruled out a proposal to move City Hall to 10 Main St., at least for now.
A year and a half after it was first proposed, Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu announced the proposal is not moving forward.
“We’ve spent hours doing the due diligence for 10 Main St.,” she said at a City Council meeting. “We’ve spent a lot of time with our staff, a lot of time looking at some of our options, and a lot of time with the financial data.
“We just suspending it because we do have some additional options that might be popping up,” she continued. “So at this will be the last time it appears on the agenda unless we circle back to it in the following months.”
The lessons learned during the due diligence process “can carry us forward as we evaluate other projects, but for right now from a fiscal standpoint I’m not comfortable with it,” she said. “I think we need to sit back and concentrate our energies on downtown and Memorial Boulevard and some others, knowing full well if that building is still available to us when we’ve exhausted other options we can circle back.”
The council is also considered renovating City Hall’s current 111 North Main St. location, building a completely new building, or locating one or more other existing facilities that could accommodate city departments.
The city assessor’s website shows 10 Main St. is owned by Webster Bank and co-owned by D’Amato Construction. The building has 61,472 square feet of living space, sits on 3.35 acres, and is appraised at $1,465,000.
In 2017, Lexington Partners and D’Amato Realty presented 10 Main St. as a possible future home for City Hall to the council and Board of Finance. The proposal would have also involved consolidating the Board of Education, Youth Services, a proposed city cultural center, and other cultural elements into the former Memorial Boulevard School nearby.
At the time there were tentative plans to renovate Memorial Boulevard into a cultural center. The city now has a concrete plan to renovate and reopen the old school into an arts magnet school.
Martin Kenny, developer and owner of Lexington Partners, explained that several months previously D’Amato Realty had taken control of 10 Main St. and has since been working on an array of ideas to develop the unoccupied property.
In his presentation to the council, Kenny said 10 Main St. would be an “iconic” building for City Hall, offering flexible financing options, as well as efficient floor plans, lots of windows, and abundant parking.
According to Kenny, the lease options would have given the city the opportunity to avoid immediate public debt, because the existing City Hall is costing substantial dollars due to deferred maintenance and operations.
At that time Kyle Meccariello, from D’Amato Realty, said the five-floor building was built in 1918, and the city would be able to select the appearance of its exterior and interior.
Zoppo-Sassu was the Democratic candidate for mayor when the proposal first came up. At the time she called it “an interesting idea [that] should be fully discussed and evaluated in terms of what is possible within current city finance and purchasing policies.”

Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewing Millstone decommissioning funds
Benjamin Kail 
Waterford — While Millstone Power Station will remain open for at least another decade following a deal announced by Gov. Ned Lamont last month, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the status of decommissioning funds for the nuclear plant's two operating units.
Millstone owner Dominion Energy recently filed an update on decommissioning funds as part of required biennial reporting to the NRC. As of Dec. 31, 2018, more than $1.37 billion — $672.5 million for Unit 2 and $704.8 million for Unit 3 — was held in external trusts to carry out future decommissioning of the units. The combined funds exceed NRC minimum requirements by almost $404 million, according to Dominion's report.
"The NRC will carefully review the submittal to ensure there is sufficient funding to carry out the decommissioning of the plants," NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said Thursday. Sheehan noted that plant owners must submit updates on decommission funding every two years, while "plants that are within five years of permanent shutdown might submit updates on an annual basis."
While Millstone Unit 1 permanently ceased operations in 1998, Unit 2's operating license with the NRC is active until 2035, and Unit 3's license expires in 2045.
Millstone Unit 1 is undergoing what the NRC classifies as the SAFSTOR method of decommissioning, whereby a nuclear plant is maintained in a condition that allows it to be safely stored and monitored for several years before it is eventually decontaminated to levels that would allow unrestricted use of the site. The time limit for the SAFSTOR process is 60 years, which allows the radioactivity of materials to decrease over time.
"Dominion Energy believes that the amounts (of funds) currently available in the decommissioning trusts and their expected earnings will be sufficient to cover expected decommissioning costs for Millstone," plant spokesman Ken Holt said Thursday.
For all three units combined, about $1.85 billion is held in trust for decommissioning, with an expected total cost of approximately $1.7 billion in 2018 dollars, Holt said.
Holt said he did not have a breakdown of environmental cleanup and demolition costs involved in the decommissioning process but noted that because Units 1 and 2 were constructed so close together, waiting until Unit 2 "shuts down permanently will make demolition of both easier."
According to Dominion, there have been no changes to trust agreements established for nuclear decommissioning since the previous report to the NRC on March 30, 2017.

The solution to our infrastructure problem? The private sector.
 David Stemerman 
There is a sharp divide in Connecticut over Gov. Ned Lamont’s toll proposal, but almost everyone agrees that our transportation infrastructure is failing us, and we need to do something about it while minimizing the cost to Connecticut’s overburdened taxpayers.
Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure has been overwhelmed by decades of increased use and under investment. Interstate 84 was designed for 50,000 vehicles a day and now must contend with almost 200,000. Train travel on the New Haven line to New York City is slower today than in 1970, held back by disrepair. Air service is limited from Bradley in Hartford and non-existent in Southern Connecticut. It adds up to fewer dinners at home, missed kids’ soccer games and less time with our families.
A proposal with bipartisan support to rebuild our transportation infrastructure is to attract private investment through public-private-partnerships. or “P3s." Public-private partnerships have been used all over the country and world to deliver transportation projects at lower cost and reduced risk to taxpayers with improved service through superior design, construction and operation.
Moving accountability to private business can reduce cost and get it done more quickly, a sharp contrast to government’s poor track record with major projects like the infamous “Big Dig” in Boston. Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation is using a P3 to repair and maintain over 500 bridges. The private operator has agreed to a contract that is saving taxpayers $200 million and completing the project in five years — 15 years ahead of the government’s prior schedule.
Private operation can also result in superior customer service. Private operators of Gatwick Airport in London reengineered security lanes to reduce the average wait time very significantly. Better service led to more passengers and more flights. Improvements at Bradley International Airport could lead to service to commercially important destinations like the West Coast.
P3s could play a pivotal role in meeting the goal of shortening train travel times from New York City to Stamford to 30 minutes, New Haven to 60 and Hartford to 90 — the “30-30-30 Plan.” One of the 30-30-30 Plan’s major challenges is replacing several bridges that are past their service life at an estimated cost of over a billion dollars per bridge. Developing a superior project design — such as substituting these extremely expensive movable bridges with less costly high fixed bridges — and executing construction efficiently could save billions of dollars. A customer-oriented operator could offer passengers superior services such as faster express trains, reserved seating and wi-fi, for which it could earn higher ridership and premium-priced tickets.
The fees collected by users of public-private-partnerships pay for the construction of transportation projects that enhance service; they are not diverted into government’s bottomless pit. For example, users of newly constructed highway express lanes in Virginia pay fees to the private operator that built the new lanes. The amount of fees users pay depends on the project and the terms the state sets for the contract, based on its policy goals. In contrast to the proposed plan requiring all vehicles to pay tolls, each driver would have the choice of whether to pay a fee for expedited service. All vehicles would benefit from expanded highway capacity.
Critics of P3 legislation testified in General Assembly hearings that taxpayers would be at risk from corruption or deals that disadvantage the public. Well-designed P3 legislation addresses these fears through objective criteria for project evaluation, a transparent bid process and robust audit and inspection.
Opponents behind closed doors express concerns about job losses for state employees. The reality would be a large increase of work for state employees to support new projects enabled by P3s.
The overall job impact should be very positive. Construction workers that left Connecticut for nearby Massachusetts and New York or more distant Florida and the Carolinas could come home. Real estate values and development would increase in cities and towns improved by faster transportation. Businesses that value proximity to New York and Boston and lower real estate costs would locate in Connecticut.
Governments near and far have harnessed the power of private-public partnerships to rebuild and operate their transportation infrastructure, from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris.
If we want to increase opportunity and improve quality of life to keep our children here and our families together, we must shed steady habits, overcome dated biases and adopt global best practices for public-private partnerships to upgrade our transportation infrastructure for the 21st century.

Grassroots opposition arises to fight electronic tolls, which Gov. Lamont says are necessary to raise revenue to fix roads and bridges

With a rally at the state Capitol set for Saturday and resolutions spreading through towns, opponents across the state are mobilizing against the governor’s plan to bring electronic tolls to state highways.
At least 14 towns have passed nonbinding resolutions against tolls, but Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration says they will have the votes to pass tolls for the first time in more than three decades on Connecticut highways.
Facing a projected state deficit of $1.55 billion for next year and hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to the state’s transportation infrastructure, Lamont has aggressively pitched tolls as an opportunity to raise as much as $800 million annually.
Erecting tolls has long been a controversial and emotional issue that has been repeatedly defeated by the state legislature. But with Lamont’s support and larger majorities gained by Democrats in the legislature in last November’s elections, 2019 was seen by pro-toll advocates as the year that tolls could be approved.
In response, a grassroots network has sprouted up around the state — with more than a dozen towns passing anti-toll resolutions, officials said. Despite the growing opposition, Lamont said that he was not surprised by the resolutions.
"Isn’t it sort of standard operating procedure?'' Lamont asked reporters this week. "You have some activists who put resolutions up at the [representative town meeting] or the town council or whatever it might be.''
In Lamont’s hometown of Greenwich, the representative town meeting — a large body with more than 200 members that oversees town policy — decided not to take a vote this week on the issue.
"Greenwich said no,'' Lamont said. "My hometown said we should not pass this resolution. We need to figure out how we’re going to pay for transportation infrastructure, and let’s not rule anything out. That was their determination, which I appreciate.''
In Middletown, anti-toll advocates were successful in passing a resolution Thursday night to ban tolls. The resolution was strongly opposed by the local Democratic town chairman, Rob Blanchard, who serves as an aide on Lamont’s staff.
Patrick Sasser, a small business entrepreneur who is one of the founders of the anti-toll movement, said that momentum has been growing at dozens of anti-toll rallies from Stamford to Danbury to Groton and New London. He said that resolutions have passed in towns from Enfield to Trumbull to Montville.
"We had one or two anti-toll protests last year, and now we’ve had about 30′' this year, Sasser said. "This has definitely grown by leaps and bounds compared to last year. ... If it gets killed this year, tolls should be a dead issue. It’s another tax on people. It’s not a user fee.''
Sasser said that Lamont should not take much solace in the relatively close vote of 101 to 89 in Greenwich to postpone the toll issue indefinitely.
"He made it sound like the folks in Greenwich are supportive of tolls, but I was there that night and that’s not the case,'' said Sasser, a Stamford resident. "Some of them didn’t want to vote on a state matter. I think the governor is getting a little bit ahead of himself if he thinks the town of Greenwich is in favor of tolls.''
But Lamont said that residents need to face the reality of the state’s crumbling infrastructure.
"You’ve got to pay for the upgrades of your transportation system,'' Lamont said. "Our bridges and roads are dangerous. They’re in gridlock, and we’ve got to do something to make it work. The other ideas out there aren’t really ideas — maybe it’s let’s borrow a little more, let’s put it off a little bit longer. These are not credible ideas. I’m ready to listen to anybody who has a credible idea to do this.''
Lamont and other Democrats have repeatedly rejected the long-running Republican idea of Prioritize Progress, a 30-year, $65 billion borrowing plan to fix the state’s infrastructure. The problem, Lamont says, is that Connecticut taxpayers would pay for 100 percent of the Republican plan, while out-of-state drivers would pay for about 40 percent of the toll costs.
Within the next 30 days, Lamont says he will provide more details on his transportation priorities.
"It’s not new lanes on I-95,'' Lamont said. "But if we can fix two or three of those exit ramps, we can speed up transportation on I-95 dramatically. ... We’re going to lay that out and give you some clarity about how important this is for the state.''
The anti-tolls rally is scheduled at 10 a.m. Saturday outside the state Capitol in Hartford. Former gubernatorial candidate Joe Visconti of West Hartford, an organizer of the event, said that the main speakers will be radio hosts Brad Davis of WDRC, Todd Feinburg of WTIC-AM, Lee Elci of Ledyard, and Steve Noxon of WATR in Waterbury. They will be joined by former East Hartford mayor Susan Kniep and former state lottery leader Frank Farricker, who previously served as the Democratic town chairman in Greenwich.
A statewide poll by Sacred Heart University in Fairfield in March showed 59 percent against tolls and 34.7 percent in favor with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The poll also showed that nearly 55 percent said they would try other roads to avoid the tolls, and 36 percent said they would be more likely to support tolling if it was guaranteed that the money would be placed and secured in a "lock box'' that could be spent only on transportation.
Viewpoints have varied widely across the state among towns. The Council of Small Towns, which represents 110 of the state’s 169 municipalities, has not taken a position on the issue.
Business groups, who typically oppose new taxes and spending, have also been split on the question. The Business Council of Fairfield County and legislative committee of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut have endorsed tolls. Other business groups have declined to take a position. The cost of the proposed tolls, calculated by the state transportation department, for the 41-mile trip from Stamford to New Haven would be $1.40 for off-peak drivers with Connecticut discounts, and $1.80 during the peak period. A 39-mile trip from Hartford to New Haven would be $1.36 at off-peak hours and $1.72 during peak hours. New Haven residents who commute to the state Capitol to work say it would cost them about $825 per year.
While the precise rates for trucks have not been released, state transportation commissioner Joseph J. Giulietti says that trucks would pay approximately four times higher than cars. One estimate said that an out-of-state truck driving the entire length of Connecticut along Interstate 95, from Greenwich to Rhode Island, would cost $53 at peak hours with no discounts.