Preston — With the cleanup of the former Norwich Hospital hitting a snag, because more contamination has been discovered, town and Mohegan tribal officials are working to extend the date anticipated for the cleanup to be completed in the agreement between the two parties.
The Preston Redevelopment Agency Wednesday unanimously approved authorizing Chairman Sean Nugent to sign an extension, subject to approval by the Board of Selectmen, which is expected at Thursday’s selectmen meeting. The Mohegan tribe already has approved the extension.
The document already has been extended once, last year to an anticipated cleanup completion date of July 17. But cleanup crews have discovered more extensive coal ash contamination in the ground beneath former roadways through the campus, with some areas containing pockets of contaminated ash beneath layers of clean dirt.
The PRA estimates it needs another $4 million to finish the cleanup, including a $2 million low-interest loan already approved by the state to the town. Town and tribal officials are working with local legislators to seek a $2 million state grant for the remainder of the needed funds.
The cleanup completion extension at this point does not name a new date. Nugent said Wednesday once all parties sign the agreement, the tribe and town will work to obtain the new funds needed and then propose a formal extension agreement with a new completion date.
The formal agreement would need approval at a town meeting, Nugent said.
Nugent said the town has enough funding remaining in the $10 million state grant approved by the state Bond Commission in February 2017, two months before the town and tribe signed the development agreement in which Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment proposed a major mixed use development on the 393-acre former Norwich Hospital property.
While the PRA still hopes to complete the cleanup by the end of 2019 and transfer the property to the tribe shortly afterward, the PRA Wednesday received a request from the tribe Wednesday for permission to use the property May 31 to June 2, 2020 in conjunction with an ATV show.
The request is to use land already disturbed by the cleanup and demolition of former hospital buildings to display 20 to 30 vehicles and for a track that would allow riders to try vehicles for 20 to 25 minutes.
PRA officials will research deed restrictions on the property imposed by the state, including a prohibition on racetracks, to see if the ATV show would be allowed before agreeing to the tribe’s request.
Norwich committee proposes school renovation, consolidation options
Norwich — A draft plan for renovating and consolidating city elementary schools, would keep and expand three current schools and look for land to build a fourth, new school.
The School Facilities Review Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to consider two renovation and expansion options for elementary schools for preschool through fifth grade, with a combined total capacity of about 3,000 students.
The “plan A” narrowed down Wednesday by the committee would keep and expand the Uncas, John Moriarty and John Stanton elementary schools and seek property to build a new school, preferably in the southern, Laurel Hill area of town. The plan would close the Veterans’ Memorial, Wequonnoc, Huntington and Mahan elementary schools.
Huntington School in Norwichtown would house central office staff and other functions, and the current central office building on the Norwichtown Green would be put up for sale. School Business Administrator Athena Nagel said that potentially could allow the school to consolidate central office staff now housed in the Bishop Early Learning Center and elsewhere.
The committee wrangled with a draft plan considered last month and agreed with member Ryan Telford’s assessment that keeping the Veterans’ Memorial School at the end of Crouch Avenue off Laurel Hill-Route 12 would not be viable. Telford argued that the school property has little space for expansion, and even if the city could add a second story, there would be no room for playgrounds, parking and bus traffic.
But if the city could not find a suitable space for a new school, the committee would recommend a “plan B” that would again renovate and expand the Uncas, Moriarty and Stanton schools, while keeping the Wequonnoc and Veterans’ Memorial schools and renovating them as smaller elementary schools.
In either option, Kelly Middle School, which was renovated and expanded recently, would remain the same, and the Teachers’ Memorial Middle School would be renovated and expanded.
The committee in August will finalize plans for other school buildings, such as an idea to place a special education program in the Bishop Early Learning Center, options for the Case Street Early Learning Center, and the Hickory Street School, which now houses a post-high school special education transitional school, and the Huntington School building.
The committee hopes to present its final recommendations at the Board of Education's September meeting.
Manchester picks Parkade makeover partner
The town of Manchester has tentatively tapped a Connecticut pair as partners in redeveloping its long-dormant former Parkade retail site that anchors the town’s Broad Street commercial corridor.
Michael Licamele and Harry Freeman, partners in Manchester Parkade I (MPI), won the recommendation of the town’s redevelopment agency to negotiate a definitive development contract for the 23-acre site.
The partnership envisions, among other things, a mixed-use development, sized between 500,000 square feet and 1 million square feet that will include office space, market-rate housing, retail and entertainment components, officials said. There also is potential for a foreign trade subzone on the site.
The town razed the buildings that once occupied the 23 acres to make way for redevelopment, based on its revised 2013 redevelopment plan for the area.