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CT Construction Digest Friday November 11, 2022

Fairfield to replace section of sewer line for $6.25M

Andy Tsubasa Field

FAIRFIELD — The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a proposal to replace a section of sewer line that carries about two-thirds of the town’s sewage to its wastewater treatment plant.

The town's engineers estimate the project to cost $6.25 million, which include the construction, design services and inspections. Fairfield's share is $5.5 million, which will use $3.5 million from the Water Pollution Control Authority's reserve balance and $2 million in bonding. The remaining $750,000 will be funded using a state grant transferred from similar work on another part of the line. 

The project would replace about 311 feet of 33-inch pipes with 36-inch pipes along the Ash Creek embankment near the Fairfield Metro Center development. Selectman Tom Flynn said the project would address aging infrastructure and help accommodate the town's growth.

Construction started in September on the long-awaited multi-use development by the Fairfield Metro station. That project is expected to add 357 apartments, a 118-room hotel, 70,000 square feet of office space and 40,000 square feet of retail space. “With the growth in our development and with age, these things need to be maintained,” Flynn said. 

The main sewer lines leading to the treatment plant were constructed sometime between the late 1940s and early '50s, said Bill Hurley, Fairfield's engineering manager. The town’s engineers say the project will reduce sewage overflows. They estimate the project will take up to 16 months to complete.

The $3.5 million Fairfield will pay from the Water Pollution Control Authority, will leave about $6.6 million in the reserve account, Jared Schmitt, the town’s chief fiscal officer, said during Wednesday's selectmen meeting. Town officials said the WPCA is developing a plan that includes how the department plans to fund projects and how it would seek grants from the state or federal government.

But in Wednesday’s meeting, Flynn questioned why staff proposed to spend WPCA reserve funds before developing a financial plan. “We have been spending out of this fund for the past year,” Flynn said. “I just want to make sure we have a cohesive financial strategy for this and know where we’re heading.”

During the meeting, Flynn asked staff about postponing a decision on the project by two weeks. But Hurley expressed concerns with extending the project’s timeline. Flynn agreed to vote in favor of the proposal, but said he wouldn’t approve future projects from the WPCA without the financial plan. “We’re in an environment of higher interest rates. So this is going to start costing more money,” Flynn said.

Manchester residents vote in favor of $39 million new library

MANCHESTER — Local residents, who have made their Main Street library one of the busiest in Connecticut, voted by a wide margin Tuesday to spend $39 million for a new, much larger facility.

With voter turnout of 55.8 percent, ballots showed 11,511 to 6,670 in favor of issuing bonds for a 75,000-square-foot library downtown at the site of the Webster Bank branch. The bank has agreed to sell the parcel at Maple and Main streets and open a new, smaller branch at another site, town officials have said.

Construction may begin sometime next year after designs are approved, and the building could be completed as soon as in 2024, town General Manager Steve Stephanou said Wednesday. So far, the state has committed $6.5 million to the project and the town is applying for other funding, including the state’s Community Investment Fund, Stephanou said. The town board of directors also may decide to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to further lower the cost to taxpayers, he said.

Parking spaces at the bank lot and the nearby public parking lot total about 150, compared with 25 spaces at the existing library, and the proposed building would be about three times the size of the current 26,135-square-foot Mary Cheney Library. The library was last expanded in 1962 and has not kept pace with a steady increase in local use, town officials have said.

Circulation of books, e-books and other materials is second-highest in the state, behind only Greenwich, according to Connecticut State Library figures for the last fiscal year. The Manchester library also has had the highest circulation of children’s materials in the state for the past three fiscal years.

Besides parking and lack of interior space, current building deficiencies include no handicapped access to the upper stacks, paucity of public computers — 0.29 per 1,000 people compared with a state average of 1.17 — and no quiet study areas. Also, at 0.67 square feet per capita, local library space is well below the statewide average of 1.1 square feet.

In considering sites for a new library, town staff and consultants prioritized a downtown location with mass transit access that would serve Manchester's lower-income neighborhoods. Town staffers looked at the Tong Building and adjacent Forest Street parking lot across the street from the Webster Bank parcel and also considered the site of the Whiton branch library at 100 N. Main St. Concerns about all of the sites included acquisition costs, but the wide Webster parcel was deemed best, accommodating the proposed building, parking and space for outdoor activities, along with the central location.

The road to a new or expanded library has been long. In 2012, voters rejected a proposed $12.5 million upgrade to the Main Street library, in part because the expansion encroached on the adjacent Center Memorial Park. The issue was then set aside while town leaders focused on modernizing and consolidating schools.

Last year, a task force that studied the town’s library needs concluded that expanding the existing building was not feasible, nor was using one of several vacant school buildings. Instead, the task force report commissioned by the board of directors said the town should build a new library “with adequate parking, flexible space design for multipurpose uses, private and group meeting and work spaces and sustainable ‘green’ design with efficient building systems.”

Cost of Winsted water, sewer projects increases by $1.3 million

Emily M. Olson

WINSTED — Budgeted costs for improvements to the town's water and sewer systems, to be paid by rate increases approved in March, have increased by $1.3 million, according to public works Director Jim Rollins.

Rollins presented a explanation of the cost increases and the need to borrow the funds to the Board of Selectmen this week. The Water and Sewer Commission, which manages customer rates and uses its revenue to maintain the sewer plant and make necessary improvements, initially asked to borrow $6.2 million. 

The improvements include replacing water storage tanks on Wallens Hill and at Crystal Lake, and the replacement of water mains on Holabird Avenue and adjacent streets served by the sewer plant. 

"Proposals for the sewer plant projects have come in a little over budget," Rollins told selectmen. "We don't have all the bid estimates. ... We're going to need more than we originally asked to borrow. 

"All the money is being paid back through sewer fees, which are separate from the town's general fund. We had authorization to spend up to $5.2 million and we are over budget," he said. "We are expecting new bid results on Nov. 15, and we'll analyze those to see if and how much we need to increase our borrowing authority for these projects. We're here to get the Board of Selectmen up to speed."

To pay for the improvements, customer rate increases will be phased in over the next five years and will apply to a customer’s quarterly base rate, fixtures and a grinder pump maintenance fee.

The Water and Sewer Commission said in March that a customer paying a $68 charge per quarter would see an increase to $136 per quarter, with the increase to be phased in over five years. The fixture service costs, now levied with a $12 per count charge, will increase to $24 per count, also to be phased in over five years. Those rates will be evaluated after the commission reviews the increased costs. 

Before the meeting, Selectwoman Candy Perez said the sewer commission is asking the board to back its loan. They are a separate entity, she said, with a separate budget. "I want to be clear that you're making this request, not the town," she said. "I know (the commission) works hard. I just want it to be clear."

Rollins said the overall cost of the project would likely increase from $6.2 million to $7.5 million. "The numbers we used when we applied for bonding were based on engineer's costs from 2019-20," he said. "Because it takes a long time to get to the point of construction, the engineer's costs were lower. We're working with the finance director and the town clerk's office to get those increased numbers in for bids. Once we get the bids in, which are due by Nov. 15, they're only good for 60 days."

As an example, Rollins said a water main replacement on Case Avenue reflected an increase of $40,000. "We had to redo that, because we're replacing pipes that are likely from the early 1900s," he said. "The records were sketchy." A water main on Holabird Avenue also will have a change. "It needs to be extended," Rollins said. 

Meanwhile, bids for the two water tank projects are ready. "We hope to start site work and designs this winter, and hit the ground come springtime and have (the tanks) ready by next winter," Rollins said. 

Sally’s Apizza coming to Newington as part of large-scale mixed-use development on Berlin Turnpike

Andrew Larson

A Framingham, Mass. developer is proposing a 24-acre mixed-use development on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, next to existing Best Buy and Raymour & Flanagan stores.

Grossman Development plans to build 78,000 square feet of retail space, along with 269 luxury residential units, the company said. 

A company linked to Grossman Development, Meadow Commons Owner LLC, acquired 10 acres of vacant land at 3313-3333 Berlin Turnpike from Rocky River Realty Co. for $2.79 million in a deal that closed July 8.

The project, called Meadow Commons, spans 24 acres.

Grossman announced that it has leases with an unnamed national grocer, which will anchor the property, along with Sally’s Apizza, Shake Shack, cookie shop Crumbl and PJ’s Coffee. There is a Stew Leonard’s store less than a third of a mile from the site. 

The housing is being developed by Criterion Development and will feature a fitness center, indoor garden and clubhouse. The first retail store is expected to open late Summer of 2023.

The developer, under the name HJG-PC Newington Investor LLC, received zoning approvals in May 2021. Construction is already underway.

“Meadow Commons is a reflection of our overall strategy to focus on experiential and essential retail, curating the best of local dining and services with coveted national brands in a grocery-anchored setting,” said Jeremy Grossman, principal of Grossman Development Group. “This is a prime site combining new housing with fresh retail concepts to create synergies and a fantastic consumer experience.”