HARTFORD – The summer construction season will soon come to a close without towns and cities receiving $30 million in expected state grants for local road and bridge work.
Gov. Ned Lamont did not put the funding on the agenda for first meeting of the State Bond Commission that the governor has scheduled in two months after canceling meetings in July and August.
The nearly $400 million in new financing lined up for approval at next Tuesday’s special meeting does include nearly $15.5 million for state bridge projects and another $3 million for the rehabilitation of the West Rock Tunnel on Route 15.
The continued holdup of the first $30 million installment under the Town Aid Road program is baffling and frustrating local governments, said Joe DeLong, the executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.
“I just don’t think our municipal leaders understand this,” he said.
The funding is caught up in the larger debate on bringing back highway tolls to Connecticut and the negotiations over a two-year bonding package for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years that the legislature failed to adopt on time.
The governor’s office said that new authorizations for Town Aid Road grants cannot be approved until a bonding bill is passed. Lamont is continuing to clamp down on state borrowing as part of his self-imposed “debt diet” for Connecticut.
Lamont also has been insisting on additional bonding for state transportation projects as a stopgap after he was unable to win legislative approval of a highway tolling bill to support the Special Transportation Fund in the long term. Meanwhile, the administration is also developing a scaled back tolling plan for legislature’s consideration.
Municipalities and local taxpayers are the ones suffering from the delay in releasing Town Aid Road funding while these larger policy debates play out on the state level, DeLong said.
Delaying local road and bridge projects means conditions will further deteriorate, and paving and construction costs will increase, he said. Some cities and towns have opted to proceed on the assumption that TAR grants will eventually be issued, he added.
Historically, the TAR program had been funded with appropriations from the Special Transportation Fund until recent years. Under the TAR program, grant payments are made to the 169 towns, with no requirement for a local match.
The annual allocation is split into two $30 million payments, with installments traditionally being issued in July and January. As the TAR program is now bonded, payments cannot be processed until the bond commission approves the allocations.
Stamford seeks to fix longstanding problems along Greenwich Ave
Lamont proposes ‘skinny bond agenda’ until deal reached
Keith M. Phaneuf
Gov. Ned Lamont kept his promise Tuesday to keep a tight grip on Connecticut’s credit card absent a deal from legislators on a long-term transportation plan.
The administration, which canceled State Bond Commission meetings in June, July and August, released an agenda for the September meeting that recommends nearly $400 million in new financing.
And while that might seem like a lot of money at first glance, nearly all the funding is dedicated for school and road construction, state facility maintenance, job development and clean water projects. What’s missing are the tens of millions of dollars often included on commission agendas under the previous administration for smaller, community-based projects in legislators’ home districts.
The only major initiative not among the traditional bonding areas involves $25 million to assist homeowners with crumbling foundations. This effort has enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support and is aimed at more than 30,000 homeowners spread across the eastern half of the state.
The governor initially recommended that lawmakers authorize no more than $1 billion per year in general obligation, or G.O., bonding, two-thirds of what it issued on average between 2012 and 2019. G.O. bonds are repaid with income tax receipts and other revenues from the budget’s general fund and are used to fund more capital projects not involving transportation.
Lamont also wants to ramp up state investments in transportation, but favors electronic tolling, which would provide hundreds of millions of dollars in receipts that Connecticut could use to pay cash for projects instead of more borrowing.
Lawmakers, to date, have declined to adopt tolls. And since Lamont says Connecticut’s aging, overcrowded highways and rail lines must be repaired, will the state try to put more borrowing on an already maxed-out credit card?
The package includes three items with strong ties to specific communities, none of which involve recreational or entertainment purposes.
There’s $4 million for water and sewer main work near East Main Street in Waterbury to complement a local economic development effort.
Another $2 million would be borrowed to demolish the vacant Crystal Avenue apartments in New London to allow for industrial development near State Pier.And $3 million to renovate and make improvements to the Batchelder School in Hartford to enable it to serve as the home for a regional magnet school.
Trying to reach compromise, Lamont offered earlier this summer to consider as much as as $1.3 billion per year in G.O. bonding — provided legislators would agree to dedicate $100 million of that extra $300 million for state transportation projects.
Democratic legislative leaders have countered that they need $1.3 billion per year in G.O. bonds to meet all of their non-transportation needs. If Lamont wants an extra $100 million for transportation infrastructure, they said, then the G.O. bonding total needs to climb to $1.4 billion.Legislators say not all of the projects for which they seek state bonding involve recreational or leisure programs. Many of the community-based projects, they say, would support private, nonprofit social service groups that work with the disabled and the mentally ill. These bond dollars fund capital repairs the nonprofits otherwise could not afford.
A new, two-year bonding plan was supposed to be in place when the fiscal year began back on July 1, and cities and towns already have been hurt by that delay.While most state aid to municipalities was included in the new, two-year, $43.4 billion state budget enacted in June, Connecticut issues bonds and borrows the funds it distributes in three grants — one of which is the $60 million Town Aid Road [TAR] program.
And half of that grant, or $30 million, was due to communities back in July. Most cities and towns rely on that installment to cover summer road repaving work.
Old Lyme beach associations’ sewer project inching forward
East Lyme — Three Old Lyme beach associations are moving forward on bringing a shared sewer system into their neighborhoods.
On Monday the Miami Beach Association, Old Lyme Shores Beach Association and Old Colony Beach Association went before the East Lyme Inland Wetland Agency to present plans to build a sewer line extending from Old Lyme into East Lyme along Route 156. Old Colony Beach Association’s Water Pollution Control Authority Chair Frank Noe, on behalf of the three associations, submitted an application to the East Lyme agency late last month, seeking permission for that part of the project.
That step is required because the sewer line will run within 100 feet of East Lyme’s Four Mile River.
The application represents the final hurdle the associations must go through with the town of East Lyme, Noe said Tuesday, after the three have signed intermunicipal agreements with East Lyme and another with New London in 2018 to send and treat sewage through those towns.
“No question about it, we are moving forward,” Noe said by phone Tuesday. “The time is now and that’s what we are doing.”
The three private beach associations must install sewer lines in their neighborhoods because the state mandated upgrades to resolve groundwater pollution. The associations' project is further along than the separate town of Old Lyme sewer overhaul planned for its Sound View neighborhood, for which voters recently authorized the town to start bonding.
In the three associations' application to the East Lyme Agency, Noe outlined that the project may begin as soon as 2020 and extend through 2022. This would include all phases of the project, including building a shared pump station on Portland Avenue in the Sound View neighborhood, as well as the force main pipe proposed along Route 156. The town and the associations are presently working out a cost-sharing agreement to pay for the estimated $5 million needed to build the pump station and force main.
At Monday’s meeting, engineer James Otis of Manchester's Fuss & O’Neill — the engineering firm contracted by the three beach associations to design the project — further clarified that the sewer line will not go through the Four Mile River or under it, but will “be built within the pavement of the bridge extending over the river.”
“The proposed sewer through East Lyme will stay within Route 156 and will not have a direct impact on the wetlands and watercourses because it will be located in the pavement in the middle of the road,” Otis said Monday to the agency. “The sewer will pass over the tops of the four 60-inch corrugated metal pipes that constitute the bridge. It will not be routed around the front of the bridge through the water and wetlands. It will not be routed under the culvert.”
Otis said the sewer line will be made of PVC piping and will be pressure treated before construction to prevent leaks or pipe bursts over the river.
“This follows standard practice,” Otis said, mentioning that Old Lyme’s Point O’Woods association completed a similar project in 2008 when it decided, after seven years of planning, to hook into East Lyme’s sewer system by running its own line along Route 156 and the Four Mile River bridge.
Unable to yet take a vote on the application Monday, the Inland Wetland Agency will continue discussing the application at next month’s meeting.
Norwich school board reviews school renovation, consolidation plan
Norwich — The Board of Education on Tuesday voted to accepted the proposed school renovation and consolidation plan.
It calls for renovating three elementary schools and one middle school as new, building one new elementary school, closing and selling five school buildings and reusing two others for offices, adult education and special education programs.
The School Facilities Review Committee adopted the proposal as its final recommendation to the Board of Education and City Council in August and recommended dissolving the committee and establishing a formal school building committee. That committee would work with an architect to come up with cost estimates and seek state approval for partial reimbursement in time to present the plan to Norwich voters in November 2020.
The Board of Education was not required to endorse the report, Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow said, but the board voted 8-1 to accept the report, and then gave a round of applause to the committee for its work. School board members Patricia Staley and board Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso served on the facilities committee.
School Facilities Review Committee Chairman Mark Bettencourt told the school board Tuesday that the committee’s work really is a draft proposal. He said the committee had no money for engineering or architectural studies, so some proposals might need to be adjusted or scrapped if deemed not feasible.
The plan calls for renovating as new the John B. Stanton, John Moriarty and Uncas elementary schools and building a fourth new elementary school, all to house preschool through fifth-grade students. The proposed new school building should accommodate 300 to 600 students.
The Teachers’ Memorial Middle School would be renovated as new for grades six through eight, while the recently renovated Kelly Middle School would remain as is for grades six through eight.
The two current preschool centers, the Bishop School and Deborah Tenant-Zinewicz School on Case Street, would be closed and listed for sale. Bishop also currently houses several school offices and technical departments, which would move to the Samuel Huntington School, which would close as an elementary school. Administrative offices would be consolidated at Huntington, which also would house the Norwich Transition Academy, a vocational program for special education students aged 18 to 21.
The Thomas Mahan elementary would be closed and listed for sale. The building, located off Route 82 in the city’s prime commercial district, is considered valuable for commercial development.
The central office building, the historic 1895 former John Mason School at the Norwichtown Green, also would be closed and listed for sale. The Hickory Street School, which now houses the Norwich Transition Academy, would be listed for sale.
Wequonnoc School in Taftville would close, with the arts and technology magnet school program moving to the renovated Moriarty environmental magnet school. But Wequonnoc would house adult education and the virtual learning program for expelled students.
The status of the Veterans’ Memorial elementary school remains in question in the proposal; whether it closes or is renovated would be contingent upon future enrollment projections.
Hartford Hospital plans 50,000 sq. ft. addition to Seymour St. campus
Hartford Hospital, whose parent company CEO recently hinted at a significant multimillion-dollar expansion, is planning to erect a new building on its sprawling South Green neighborhood campus, city records show.
Hartford’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday approved the hospital's plan to build a 49,550-square-foot addition to the north façade of its existing Bliss Building at 80 Seymour St.
The hospital is sharing few details about the planned expansion, but a brief project outline filed with the Planning and Zoning Commission says the four-story building will house “clinical functions to support the existing Bliss Building,” which is accessible from Hartford Hospital's main entrance and provides access to its intensive-care unit and other services.
The building will support high-tech functions, including advanced MRI imaging and clinical studies.
Bronin said minimal conditions were placed on the project, but one included that 30 percent of the building have a green roof, so patients from neighboring buildings can see some greenery.
It’s unknown how much the project will cost, but newly appointed Hartford HealthCare CEO Jeff Flaks told Hartford Business Journal in August that a “multimillion-dollar construction project” will be announced this fall that will expand Hartford Hospital’s intensive-care capabilities and add more private rooms.
“It’s going to be a substantial project,” Flaks said in an August interview, adding it was too early to share further details.