July 12, 2019

CT Construction Digest Friday July 12, 2019

Crews working to get derailed train cars back on tracks in Bristol
BRISTOL - Crews late Thursday were working to get a third train car back onto the tracks after six of them derailed early Wednesday.
Crews could also be seen putting new tracks down Thursday in the area of the derailment. Deputy Fire Chief John Ziogas said he expects it will likely take a total of three to five days to get the six train cars back upright and onto the tracks before they can be taken away.
No injuries were reported when six cars of a seven-car Pan Am Railways freight train toppled over around 6 a.m. Wednesday in the area of the overpass on Mellen Street. The cars tipped over and settled in the area of Hooker Court.
Mellen Street was initially closed Wednesday before re-opening later in the morning. It was closed again Thursday morning while crews were doing work on the train overpass.
The cause of the derailment is being investigated by Pan Am officials.
A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday the agency had not launched an investigation into the derailment but was gathering information. The spokesman said the NTSB would announce on its Twitter account whether it gets involved. That had not happened as of late Thursday afternoon.

The Parks and Recreation Department wants to complete a renovation of the pool at Page Park
BRISTOL – The Parks and Recreation Department is eying a complete renovation of the pool at Page Park, as well as additional improvements in the park that will total $3 million.
Joshua Medeiros, superintendent of Parks and Recreation, said the current pool was installed in the 1950s and it needs an “overhaul” to be safe and accessible. The city approved $3 million for the pool renovation project last year and $500,000 of the funding will also come from the Page Park Trust.
Medeiros said the construction documents for the improvements are going out next week. He hopes to close on the project in August and have it approved by the City Council at their Aug. 13 meeting. The renovation work is expected to take a year to complete, with Medeiros hoping to have it re-open by May 2020.
“We will be doing a complete renovation to make the pool ADA compliant,” he said. “We’ll also be gutting the inside, putting in a new lobby space and new locker rooms. It will also have new features including zero depth entry points, and water spray machines.”
Additionally, the Parks and Recreation Department is looking at repainting, repairing and resurfacing the lower basketball court at the park. This, he said, will probably happen within a year but it will take significantly less time to do the work. He estimated that the company they hire can probably finish the basketball court improvements within two to three days.
Medeiros said that the Page Park Pavilion, which is currently being used as a space for many local programs, may also be renovated with the goal of it becoming a rental space.
“We want to fix the floors, put in new lighting and put in a new oven and fridge,” said Medeiros. “There are currently not a lot of places in Bristol which people can rent out for events and this is a phenomenal space, with the deck overlooking the pond. It could be used for weddings, birthday parties and graduation parties.”
People will also likely see the maintenance bay and storage area, which Medeiros called “the green monster,” fully refurbished with a new paintjob.
“It looks horrible now,” he said.
Medeiros said that he also hopes to create a site specific master plan for Page Park improvements as well as a $150,000 city-wide master plan.
“Back in 2004, a site specific master plan was created for Rockwell Park and a lot of improvements were made that year,” he said. “We are now looking at several challenges with Page Park that we have identified, including parking and drainage coming off the hill. We are looking to hire a firm to develop a plan for addressing these concerns.”
As part of developing the master plan, Medeiros hopes to discuss setting up public meetings, surveys and focus groups. He hopes that this process will start this fall, but encourages residents with concerns to email him now at joshmedeiros@bristolct.gov. Those who do will be put on an email list for further updates.

Lamont threats resemble GOP plan
Red Jahncke
Governor Ned Lamont is threatening to implement Republicans’ debt-financed transportation proposal, “Prioritize Progress,” if General Assembly Democrats don’t approve his tolls-funded transportation initiative. So the team captain tells his squad that if they don’t follow his lead, he’ll defect to the opposing team? Strange.
The CT Mirror reported June 26 that Lamont is threatening to reduce non-transportation borrowing and increase transportation borrowing, if the General Assembly doesn’t approve tolls.
To all Republicans and many Democrats in the Assembly and to the legions of Connecticut residents opposed to tolls, that’s a “make-my-day” threat, as in Clint Eastwood’s famous words in the movie "Dirty Harry."
The Mirror reported that Lamont would “consider shifting more borrowing capacity away from non-transportation initiatives to support Connecticut’s highways, bridges and rails. Lamont said, ‘We cannot afford to do a lot of these other items if we put all that money into transportation.’”
Why are so many people opposed to tolls? Because anyone who’s followed the tolls saga and who knows anything about the state’s finances understands that toll receipts would never be used for transportation. While toll receipts themselves would be deposited in the Special Transportation Fund (per federal law), an equal amount of other funds that are supposed to go to the STF would not be deposited.
That’s exactly what Lamont is doing right now. He is diverting into the General Fund the car sales tax revenue that his Democrat predecessor, Dannel P. Malloy, dedicated to the STF. He promises not to divert these funds after the two years of the current budget – in 2022 and beyond. Yeah, sure.
Lamont seems manifestly oblivious to the contradiction between what he’s promising and what he is doing, between the transportation plan he thinks he is advocating and the plan he is accidently endorsing.
Not only is Lamont endorsing the GOP’s plan for transportation, but the very concept embodied in its name: if we have a transportation crisis, as everyone agrees we do, then transportation should be prioritized. Borrowing for other items should be reduced drastically, and bonding for highways and rails should be increased dramatically.
Moreover, we should address it immediately with bonding right now, rather than waiting five years for tolls receipts to materialize (and, in the meantime, using up the state’s remaining borrowing capacity to fund spending on “other items”).
The Hartford Courant reported that Democrat leaders in the Assembly are scheduling a legislative session on July 22 to approve an annual package of bonded debt to be issued to pay for municipal construction projects (aka “other items”), something the Assembly should have passed during the regular session, but didn’t.
Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D-New Haven) is quoted as saying that this year “money in the bond package would likely be set aside ‘in large pots’ for cities and towns in various categories ‘rather than cluttering up the bill with a lot of specific earmarks.’”
The likely reason is to enable Lamont and Democrat leaders to conduct business in secret, namely to threaten to withhold approval of projects in districts of Democrats opposed to tolls, and to carry out the threat if they don’t capitulate. If projects were earmarked, it would be easy to compare a legislator’s vote on tolls to the fate of earmarked projects in his or her district, leading inevitably to pointed questioning. Obviously, Lamont, Looney, House Speaker Joseph Aresimowicz (D-Hamden) and other Democrat leaders don’t want to face such questions.
Assembly Democrats opposed to tolls should join Republicans in rejecting the “large-pots” approach in order to escape the squeeze play planned to corral their votes for Lamont’s ill-considered tolls plan.
The overall picture offers delicious irony. Lamont is threatening to implement GOP policy in order to force some Democrats to vote for Democrat policy.

Bigger public buy-in may resolve trash-plant redevelopment stalemate
Matt Pilon
onnecticut taxpayers may take on more financial risk than originally anticipated when it comes to a $300-million-plus overhaul of an aging waste energy plant in Hartford’s South Meadows.
Under an agreement inked this week between the state’s selected developer, Sacyr Rooney, and the quasi-public Materials Innovation Recycling Authority (MIRA), which oversees the Mid-Connecticut plant and related facilities, MIRA agreed to finance the waste-to-energy portion of the project entirely on its own -- a cost estimated at between $120 million and $140 million.
Meanwhile, Sacyr Rooney has agreed that it would privately finance a mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) facility intended to remove organics and other recoverable materials out of the Mid-Connecticut plant’s inbound waste stream, trucked in from more than 50 municipalities and other customers.
Cost estimates for the MBT facility are less solid, MIRA President Thomas Kirk said Thursday, but he guessed it could be “close to the same range” as the waste-to-energy plant investment.
However, that doesn’t appear to be a dealbreaker for DEEP, which had encouraged project bids that covered much of the costs, but left open the door for an unspecified amount of MIRA-issued bonds.
DEEP has been pressuring MIRA and Sacyr Rooney to come to terms on a deal since they missed a contract deadline nearly 11 months ago.
Amid the delays, the plant suffered a major equipment failure late last year that led to an approximately four-month outage. A legislative attempt to force MIRA to sign a contract came soon after, but the bill died in the legislature.
“The bottom line is this agreement is the best way to get this facility renovated and meet environmental improvements DEEP has prioritized,” Sawyer said.
“It demonstrates a shared commitment to moving forward with the project,” he said. “It’s a public demonstration that the logjam has been broken and they are both sincere about negotiations.”
A major sticking point for MIRA’s board of directors has been concerns that any contract reached provides adequate public oversight of the operations and protections for its customers.
Kirk said the memorandum addresses those concerns. If the project moves forward, MIRA would have more oversight over Sacyr Rooney than some had originally envisioned.
“Initially, there was a gap between what the counterparties believed to be sufficient supervision and control,” he said.
Sacyr Rooney would operate the waste-to-energy plant, receiving a flat fee and taking on some operating risk, Kirk said.
More public borrowings, even those backed by a dedicated revenue stream from the facilities, present a greater risk to taxpayers, but Kirk said that it was assumed from the beginning that there would be at least some public money involved.
Sacyr Rooney’s operating experience and expertise in diverting recyclables and unwanted materials from the waste stream will be a key asset, in addition to their financial commitment, he said.
“It was always about finding a qualified experienced partner, a contractor to be able to apply new technologies, increasing diversion, and upgrading a publicly owned facility to serve a public need,” he said.