TORRINGTON — State Reps. Michelle Cook and Maria Horn, D-Torrington, announced Wednesday that Litchfield CountyRegional Fire School in Litchfield is expected to receive $410,000 for soil remediation from the Connecticut Bond Commission, according to a release.
“I would like to thank the Bond Commission and Governor Lamont for supporting this project. This funding is essential in ensuring our new facility and surrounding environment is safe for our firefighters who have sacrificed so much to protect Torrington and Litchfield County residents,” Cook said in a statement. “This is a modern facility, and we hope it will attract a new class of volunteer and career firefighters.”
“Fire schools are a manifestation of our community’s support for our dedicated volunteer and career firefighters,” Horn said in the statement. “These committed individuals ensure our safety, and I’m grateful to the Governor and the Bond Commission for this grant that will help ensure theirs.”
The Burrville Regional Fire School was demolished and a new school rebuilt in its place, the Litchfield County Regional Fire School.
Firefighters officially opened the doors of the $13 million facility in October. It includes a 16,650-square-foot administration, education and vehicle maintenance facility as well as a 5,900-square-foot burn building, training tower and rehab shelter, according to the release. The state Bond Commission approved the project in 2016.
According to the release, in 1999, the Connecticut Fire Academy, which manages Connecticut’s nine regional fire schools, began planning the rebuild of eight fire schools to meet current needs and accommodate future growth. In 2003, the legislature recognized the Stamford Regional Fire School as the ninth fire school needing funding for renovations.
As of 2018, capital improvements have been completed at the New Haven, Hartford, Litchfield and Fairfield regional fire schools.
Construction is underway at the Eastern Connecticut Fire School in Willimantic, but funding has yet to be distributed to the Valley Fire Chiefs Regional Fire School, Middlesex and Wolcott schools, and the Stamford Regional Fire Training School.
East Haven health dept. finds no rats, gives OK for old high school demolition
EAST HAVEN — The East Shore District Health Department found no evidence of rodent activity in the old East Haven High School building and, following a walk-through Thursday, gave the developer converting the building to housing the OK to demolish its 1973 wing.
“We did a walk-through this morning ... with the town and the pest control company and contractor,” said East Shore District Health Director Michael Pascucilla. “Everything ... looked good. I have not seen any signs of rodent activity in the school.
“The building has been given the OK to be demolished,” Pascucilla said.
The go-ahead for demolition came just days after the town’s Building Department, at the Health Department’s request, asked the developer, WinnDevelopment, to hold off temporarily on demolition for the $21.5 million project to convert the 83-year-old former high school building to senior housing.
In any case, “I did get the verbal OK” Thursday morning for demolition to resume,” he said.
Dave Ginsberg, project manager for WinnDevelopment, said that with the hold now removed, “we would begin demolition early next week.”
Ginsberg said WinnDevelopment wants to work with neighbors and “we would gladly pay for a survey” to see how the project may have affected their properties.
Town officials have made it clear that tests by both WinnDevelopment — which has had a subcontractor set 92 traps since January — and the East Shore District Health Department have yet to show evidence of rats.
“They found nothing,” said town Director of Administration and Management Sal Brancati. He said that if it were up to him, he would have demolition begin immediately.
“I told them, ‘Go ahead and do it today,’” he said.
The shutdown came just as demolition on the 1973 wing was about to begin. Demolition had been scheduled to begin Tuesday, Brancati has said.
A subcontractor of the developer, Winn Development of Boston, has set 92 traps since January, said Brancati.
Not one rat has turned up, he said.
Brancati said WinnDevelopment and its subcontractor have “done everything they can possibly do, and they’ve caught no rats. If the people would follow the instructions” from the health department, “the rats would probably go.”
Brancati said he was told by health department Deputy Director Alex Sinotti that “the problem is the bird feeders and garbage cans without lids” and people feeding chickens tehat they keep in chicken coops in the backyards of nearby homes.
Sinotti is on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment.
Town and state officials joined officials from WinnDevelopment last Wednesday to break ground on the “adaptive reuse” project, which will include 70 age-restricted, mixed-income apartments for seniors in front and a community center with meeting space, a theater, gym and a renovated pool in back.
Neighbors attributed what they said was an increase in rats in the neighborhood to construction at the former East Haven High School building, according to WTNH-TV.
Neighbors have noticed an increase in rat activity that has them hurridly patching holes in homes and garages, WTNH said. “They are still trying to get into our home,” neighbor Frank Ettore told WTNH. “They ate a hole alongside of my garage.”
Ettore and others believe the rats are being displaced from the former high school to their neighborhood as the city and WinnDevelopment prepare to renovate most of the old school while demolishing one wing for parking.
Pascucilla told WTNH that a pest inspection in February didn’t find any rat activity inside or outside the building. He recommended that residents make sure they don’t leave out food for stray animals and clean up any food left outside by household pets, which could be attracting pests such as rats.
Maturo called the WTNH allegations, which were repeated in a Hearst Connecticut Media story, “fake news and fake reporting about rats at the high school.”
The problem is “the nut cases who are trying to cause a problem,” he said.
In seeking to shut the project down, the East Shore District Health Department is “listening to the same nut cases” who spoke to WTNH, Maturo said.
“Let the fake news do some reporting to find out what’s really going on,” Maturo said. “The rats have not been coming from the schools. There is no food in that school. The basement is spotless. I’ve been in there.”
Maturo announced Tuesday that he will not seek the Republican Town Committee’s endorsement to seek a 10th term for mayor — but would not rule out the possibility of seeking another term as an independent.
Work on the project to convert the old high school — which is being rebranded “The Tyler” — to housing has been going on since March, with several apartments already framed-out within the shell of the old school.
Prior to the arrival of WinnDevelopment, the vacant old high school building, which for many years was used only for storage by the town and the Board of Education and to house a teen center, Biddy Basketball and the town pool, was “an albatross around us,” Maturo said last week.
He said he was thrilled that it will once again bring in tax revenue to the town.
The high school building was built in 1936 under the Works Project Administration, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt “New Deal,” said WinnDevelopment Senior Vice President Adam Stein.
The main building, completed in 1936, was designed by prominent New Haven architect R. W. Foote in the Colonial Revival style. That portion of the building, as well an addition built in 1964, will house the planned apartments.
The apartments will be available to residents aged 55 and up.
The conversion of the 104,871-square-foot building will include new windows, curtain walls and doors, exterior masonry re-pointing and repair and numerous site improvements. The 1973 addition to the building will be demolished to allow for creation of 55 of the 86 planned parking spaces.
The town, meanwhile, will use the income and operational savings from WinnDevelopment’s redevelopment of the front of the property to help finance renovation of the rear, which ultimately will have a new Town Council chamber, a new home for the East Haven Historical Society, a theater and a refurbished gym and town pool, Maturo has said.
Old Lyme looking to schedule Sound View sewer project referendum
Old Lyme — While looking to avoid the possibility of losing funding, and to follow an administrative order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, town officials are inching ever nearer to installing a shared community sewer system in its Sound View neighborhood.
The move would allow those homes to abandon their cesspools and septic systems.
Besides recently receiving approval from DEEP for its proposed “Coastal Wastewater Management Plan,” which details installing a gravity-fed sewer system within the Sound View neighborhood and a neighborhood north of Route 156 known as "Miscellaneous Town Area B" by connecting to New London’s wastewater treatment facility, town officials also have discussed scheduling an upcoming referendum to approve town bonding to finance the $7.44 million project.
If approved at referendum, the project design then would be slated for late 2019 or potentially 2020, with construction estimated for 2020 through 2023.
With a referendum tentatively scheduled for Aug. 13, both the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance have discussed signing resolutions authorizing town bonding in their recent meetings. The resolutions are expected to be signed in July, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said Monday in an interview with The Day, and are needed before proceeding with the referendum.
Though the referendum calls for resident approval allowing the town to borrow money through federal-state Clean Water Funds to finance the project through both loans and grants, only residents of impacted neighborhoods — and not all town taxpayers — will be responsible for paying the $7.44 million through a sewer connection fee, Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) Chairman Rich Prendergast said by email Thursday.
In an effort to lock down what that fee would look like for those future ratepayers, the WPCA also recently approved a charging formula at its June 11 meeting.
The formula, Prendergast said, will charge each equivalent dwelling unit, or a median-sized home, in Sound View and the Miscellaneous Town Area B an estimated $31,007 to cover the project's capital costs.
Homeowners could pay the estimated $31,007 cost, comprised of a betterment fee and a facility connection fee, in a full one-time payment, or they could finance it over 20 years at a 2 percent loan, which equates to two payments of $944 per year, Prendergast said.
Annually, homeowners also would pay an estimated $430 operations and maintenance fee.
In addition to the capital cost and the annual maintenance fee, homeowners also would be responsible for the plumbing cost to install the line from the house to the curb. According to WPCA presentations detailing the project, each foot of piping could cost between $50 and $100.
After initially working for years to form a plan to install its own independent sewer system to service the town's beach communities in an effort to adhere to the town's "sewer avoidance program," Reemsnyder said the town turned to its current sewer plan with nearby towns — entitled "Coastal Wastewater Management Plan" — once it realized DEEP likely would not approve the independent plan, and further studies proved it would be costly.
As part of its plan, the town also is seeking to combine its sewer project with another separate and ongoing project among the Miami Beach Association, Old Lyme Shores Beach Association and Old Colony Beach Club Association — all of which are chartered beach neighborhoods and considered separate municipalities from the town — by sharing one pump station and one force main. That station would service and pump wastewater from each of the beach neighborhoods to East Lyme, through Waterford and then to New London for treatment.
By sharing one pump station and force main, residents from each neighborhood will save money by splitting the costs needed to build and maintain the pump station, among other fees, Reemsnyder said.
Prendergast said that town ratepayers using the system— which will include those living Sound View and the Miscellaneous Town Area B — would pay an estimated 30 percent of those costs and that they have already been factored into the $7.44 million needed to finance the project.
Should the beach associations build the pump station before the town is ready to move forward, Reemsnyder said the town’s ratepayers then will pay their share when their neighborhoods tie into the station.
The town approved last fall a leasing agreement for the three beach associations to locate the pump station on town property in the Sound View neighborhood area, Reemsnyder said, but the associations are now considering a different location for the pump station on private property on Portland Avenue.
The three beach associations, further along in their sewer projects compared to the town, already have completed studies, drafted intermunicipal agreements with adjacent towns for both sewage capacity and wastewater treatment at the New London plant, and have approved the borrowing of millions of dollars to pay for their projects, according to The Day's previous reporting.
Reemsnyder and Prendergast both said that the WPCA and town officials still are working out details on whether the town will sign separate agreements with East Lyme, Waterford and New London, or if the town could gain sewage capacity through the agreements already drafted by the three beach associations.
The Old Lyme WPCA is planning a public information and question-and-answer session to detail septic system use, the scope of the project area, costs and benefits of the system and a timeline of the project. It will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Town Hall.