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CT Construction Digest Monday September 6, 2022

Middletown leaders to mull $20 million water/sewer bond referendum for November ballot

Cassandra Day

MIDDLETOWN — City leaders are poised to consider a $20 million referendum question which would be put to voters on Election Day to supplement $2.75 million in federal recovery dollars going toward essential infrastructure upgrades.

Common Council members are expected to take up the proposed ordinance at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Some of Middletown’s sewer pipes date as far back as 1868 and others as much as 100 years, Water and Sewer Director Joseph Fazzino said.

The most recent, large break, which happened June 10 at the corner of Main and Court streets, necessitated shutting off service to just over a handful of businesses for an hour — averting implications some feared would be much worse.

In January 2019, Middletown Water Department crews worked on a large break in a 10-inch pipe at the intersection of Main and Stack streets. Officials estimated at the time that it was put in the ground in the mid-1860s.

In June 2016, a break in an 18-foot-long pipe, which took 13 hours to repair, shut off service to 800 households on Azalea Drive, between Ridgewood Road and Newfield Street.

In June 2016, a break in an 18-foot-long pipe, which took 13 hours to repair, shut off service to 800 households on Azalea Drive, between Ridgewood Road and Newfield Street.

Right off the top, the city earmarked $2.75 million in American Rescue Act Plan dollars for long overdue water and sewer improvements to help address many years of water main breaches.

ARPA dollars will just “scratch the surface, as it isn’t enough to do what we need to do,” Fazzino said.

A total of $19.9 million in city bonds would pay for the planning, design, acquisition, and construction of water and sewer improvements, the ordinance reads.

ARPA funds will help the design process, Fazzino said, but construction, including the repair or replacement of sewer lines, manholes and connections between the pipes and roads, as well as individual homes, is more expensive.

“We have over 170 million feet of both sewer and water mains,” he added.

Once complete, the life of the project is estimated at between 20 and 30 years, the director noted.

It would be spent on several projects, including improvements to the Johnson and North Main streets pump stations, sanitary improvements to be made in connection with city resurfacing projects, and inflow and infiltration rehabilitation at a number of sub-basins.

The latter would help in the case of overflow due to large rain events, Fazzino said.

Sanitary improvements will help lessen the costs to send Middletown’s sewage to the Mattabassett District treatment plant in Cromwell. The city is billed annually based on the percentage of flow sent to the plant, Fazzino explained. Cleaner water will reduce the price.

The director likened the sewer bond to the road bond, which funds maintenance and other work that is conducted every 20 years.

A portion will be paid from Clean Water Grants and state loans and other sources, the ordinance says.

“It’s going to be an ongoing thing — like your car,” the director explained. “You’re going to have to maintain the car and fix it,” over years of ownership.

The next project, to meet new and ever-changing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations is to remove lead or galvanized pipes — under the Lead and Copper Rule, Fazzino added. “You have to verify there are none in the ground.”

Presently, the office is conducting an audit of pipes to determine if they are contaminated. Ideally, this would be done in test sections instead of digging up a large area, the director added.

If taxpayers approve the referendum Nov. 8, they would see a rise in water rates, however, Fazzino said, he plans to spread out the cost over time so that old debts are paid.

For a list of streets slated for water and sewer improvements, visit bit.ly/3R8P0Pc. For information on the council meeting, visit middletownct.gov.

Shelton’s Constitution Blvd. extension work to start this month

Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — Groundbreaking to extend Constitution Boulevard is on track for September, according to city officials.

Kellie Vazzano, Mayor Mark Lauretti’s administrative assistant, confirmed that plans are in the works for a special event “in the coming weeks” for the road work, even as city officials plan its next informational forum with neighboring property owners on Sept. 14.

This news comes weeks after the discovery of indigenous people’s artifacts on what is known as the Churma property — the site at 55 Blacks Hill Road which was recently condemned by the city. Lauretti said the land has been transferred to the city, with a judge’s decision on final payment to the property owners still in process.

Michael Raber, of Glastonbury-based Raber Associates, said four pieces of “Native American quartz debitage, from possible manufacture/repair of Native American artifacts, were found in two tests close to the east and west edges of Blacks Hill Road.

“They are just small bits of rock, created when larger rocks are struck with stones to create or sharpen stone tools,” he added.

He said additional tests were completed close to each of the initial tests to determine if the finds represented a site of intact Native American activity, or if they were randomly left there at some point.

“There were no further Native American finds,” Raber said. “With no indications of intact potentially significant site areas, no further investigations are required.”

He said these artifacts could have been created by people who stopped in this spot very briefly to do their tool work.

“If there was ever a site here, construction of the road, houses, driveways, garages, left few traces,” Raber said. “They will not be sent to any museum. There is no value to them when it is only a few pieces, as it tells us nothing new and has no intrinsic visual or cultural value like a finished or partly finished tool.”

The areas searched around the initial finds were each within about 400 square feet, Raber added, unless “it was obvious the expansion area was disturbed by the road, other landscape features, or slopes exceeding 15 to 20 percent.”

Raber said he has not worked in Shelton before but based on years of work all over the state he suspects that Native American sites in the city have been reported largely, if not entirely, near the river, along streams, or near wetlands and ponds in the steep uplands during seasonal hunting or out gathering.

Extending the roadway and use of the Mas property has been on the table for years, but Lauretti began the most recent push in April 2021 when he presented preliminary plans for creating the road leading into the city-owned land, which would be developed into a manufacturing corporate park.

Plans for accessing the 70-acre property include extending Constitution Boulevard to reach Route 108. Lauretti said a zone change would be needed, requiring plans to go before zoning at some point.

The Mas property is now vacant. It is mostly wooded with considerable stone ledges and several ponds, including one that is about 600 feet long and 250 to 300 feet wide, and lies between Bridgeport Avenue, Cots Street, Tisi Drive, Sunwood Condos on Nells Rock Road, Regent Drive, Walnut Avenue and Kings Highway. Part of the land abuts the back of the Perry Hill School property.

The city already has tentative agreements with Bigelow Tea and William and Nicole Charney, owners of Shelton-based Advanced Home Audio, which is presently located on Long Hill Cross Road, to purchase land on the Mas property.

The Charneys agreed to pay the city $85,000 per acre, which comes out to $510,000. The aldermen’s approval states the total acreage and payment amount will be determined after the final subdivision of the nearly 70-acre parcel near Constitution Boulevard.

That sale came weeks after Lauretti announced that Bigelow Tea was purchasing 25 acres of the property for an estimated $2.1 million for its future expansion.

$14.1 million investment in Brookfield’s downtown gains steam with sidewalk expansion

Trevor Ballantyne

BROOKFIELD — The Cleveland Browns football logo front-and-center on his hardhat and a Cavaliers symbol to the side, Greg Dembowski took a break Tuesday afternoon to explain the ongoing development in the Four Corners section of the town.

At the corner of Route 7 and Old Federal Road behind him, crews worked to expand sidewalks and construct a pocket park along a line of roadway that will ultimately connect to the Still River Greenway — one of the most-walked trails in the state and one that features the longest footbridge in Connecticut.

Across the street, more crews moved the earth to clear a plot of land set to be the site of a yet-to-be-named future grocery store. All of it is part of a major overhaul to a section of town known as the Four Corners.

“Initially, eight years ago, it was thought about as three phases but it has been so successful, you can see all around you is construction, four projects within eyesight of here are now under construction,” he said.

“It has grown and has been very well-accepted,” he added.

Dembowski is the town’s community development specialist. He moved to Brookfield 36 years ago after leading a career at the Union Carbide Corporation, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company, where he excelled at project management.

After serving as vice chair of the town’s Economic Development Commission, Dembowski would later accept an offer for a full-time position that today finds him overseeing the town’s ongoing, six-phased streetscape project.

Currently in phase three of construction, the ongoing project in Brookfield will see a new “pocket park” connected to pedestrian walkways providing access to the Still River Greenway.

Looking over the the worksite on Tuesday afternoon, Dembowski noted the overall project began at least six years ago; and phases four, five, and six will be completed “over the next couple of years.”

Phase three is expected to cost $1.3 million, with the total cost for all six phases projected, for now, at $14.1 million. The town is contributing $3.1 million with state and federal grants covering the rest — funding that Dembowski said town employees, under his leadership, have been diligently seeking over the past five years.

“Before that, this thing was really kind of stalled, a lot of different things were going on and it just needed to have a focus and a concentration and someone dedicated to getting it through all of the nuances of state and federal money and all of the approvals and getting it off dead-center,” he said.

Around the block, phases four, five, and six, are ongoing with inter-connected construction complimented by ongoing residential and commercial development at the site of the Brookfield Villages, along with projects on Laurel Avenue that will add more than 100 residential units to the area.

Additional work will add sidewalks and move utility poles to enhance the overall aesthetic of the neighborhood.

As Dembowski conferred over the instillation of a set of mailboxes on the phase three site, the town’s former police chief, James “Jay” Purcell, pulled into the parking lot to grab a coffee at the adjacent, newly completed Dunkin’.

“You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet but once it is all done it’s is going to be nice,” Purcell said.

“You bring people in, they patronize business, everyone does well, people will come here and walk and get some exercise.”

New warehouse plan would replace underutilized buildings in Windsor

Hanna Snyder Gambini

Adeveloper is looking to build a 170,000-square-foot industrial building on Day Hill Road where two underutilized professional buildings now stand.

Day Hill Road LLC and Salvatore Campofranco bought two properties at 415 and 425 Day Hill Road from the Real Group II LLC in April 2022 for $1.2 million.

The sites contain one vacant and one mostly vacant building. Agents for the developer said plans also call for the purchase of a vacant adjacent lot at 505 Day Hill Road. The two buildings will be demolished and a 170,300-square-foot warehouse built on the 20-acre site. 

The building will be designed mainly for light logistics or light manufacturing, town officials said.

The application requires site plan and special use permit approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission. 

There is no tenant secured for the building, but the special permit would allow certain uses.

“The special use relates to warehousing and distribution of articles not produced on the premises,” the application reads. “The special use will permit the construction of an industrial building to replace the existing office buildings with little prospect of being leased. The proposed industrial building will be the best use of the property.”

The new building has room for up to four tenants, but could be occupied by anywhere from one to four operations, members of the development team said.

Town Planner Eric Barz said the new build will allow for flexible uses, either light logistics or light manufacturing, and not a larger “e-tailer.”

Barz said town officials want to keep some professional/office presence on Day Hill Road but turn toward mid-sized manufacturing when looking to fill some empty spaces in the corridor.

Groundwork being laid to turn old Torrington mill into apartments


TORRINGTON – The first sign of movement on a plan to convert the former Hotchkiss Bros. mill building on Water Street into 155-unit apartment building complex could happen soon as the city seeks to apply for a $1.5 million grant for brownfield remediation.

The city is applying for the latest round of grant applications for the Municipal Brownfields Grant program to fund the abatement of hazardous materials in the building and selective demotion of the unsalvageable buildings on 199-203 Water St., and 229 Church St.

The grant would speed forward phase one of the redevelopment project on the southerly portion of the property. The first phase is for eight market-rate apartments and 2,500 square feet of commercial space on the ground level.

The additional housing in the city comes as the city hears a proposal to adopt a five-year housing affordability plan, which the state required of each municipality in 2017.

The state considers housing that is affordable when it costs no more than 30% of a household’s income.

The proposed housing affordability plan found that of the 16,700 housing units in the city, 26%, or 4,500 households are “housing cost burdened” as they spent more than 30% of their income on housing. Of the 4,500, more than half are homeowners and the rest are renters.

The problem has become more exasperated as the cost of housing has continued to rise significantly in recent years. From 2017 to 2021, the median home sale price in Torrington rose by $55,000 or 44%. The pandemic has caused rents to spike by 14% in Torrington from 2020 to 2021.

Despite the perception, Torrington has a small number of housing units considered affordable at 1,770 units dedicated to remaining affordable to the 6,760 households that earn 80% of the area median income. That housing includes rental assistance to housing for seniors or the disabled.

“Having an aging housing stock is challenging for folks and I think what we try to do with this plan is point out is that we try to raise awareness around some of the resources that exist to help folks who have aging homes,” Jocelyn Ayer, director of the Litchfield County Center for Housing Opportunities told members of the Torrington Planning and Zoning Commission.

The commission on Aug. 24 gave their approval of the affordable housing plan, finding it consistent with the goals of the city’s Plan of Conservation and Development. The commission recommended the City Council adopt the plan.

The ultimate plan for the Hotchkiss Bros. mill building is to build 155 units but the developers said last year at a presentation to the City Council that the units would be market rate and not affordable housing.

Developers Paul R. Janerico and William R. Deickler of Waters Way are seeking a low-interest rate loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help fund a majority of the $40 million project.

Public projects keep nonresidential construction spending positive, overall sector falls

Joe Bousquin

Nonresidential construction spending ticked up by 0.8% in July, led by publicly funded projects in the highway and public safety categories, but prevailing headwinds will keep private sector development muted, according to an analysis of government spending data released by Associated Builders and Contractors.

Spending on highways and streets was up 4.4% in July, and 4.6% from a year ago, while public safety gained 2.3% but was still down 4.7% over the previous 12 months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While 13 of the 16 nonresidential categories showed gains from last month, the water supply and healthcare categories were the biggest losers, shrinking 0.5% and 1.3%, respectively.

Indeed, the boost in public construction spending helped keep the nonresidential sector in the black for the month, even though overall construction spending fell 0.4%, dragged down by a 1.5% slump in residential spending in July. Public nonresidential spending gained 1.5%, while private nonresidential spending eked out a 0.4% gain.

Dive Insight:

The overall amount of nonresidential spending, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.78 trillion, was still below its pre-pandemic levels, however. Against that backdrop, Anirban Basu, chief economist for ABC, said publicly financed construction was a bright spot for the industry.

“State and local governments are flush with cash, and considerable funding is slated for various forms of infrastructure,” Basu said in a statement. Indeed, sources say $1.2 trillion from last year’s infrastructure act is starting to hit government agencies. That money will be followed by additional construction funds from the recently passed $739 billion Inflation Reduction Act and $52 billion CHIPS Act.  

Construction Spending, Millions of Dollars, Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate, July 2022


July 2022

June 2022

1-month Change

Total Construction













But while public spending is shaping up to be the life boat it was portrayed to be during legislative negotiations, private developers may have a harder path ahead, and overall spending could be impacted as well, Basu said.

“For privately financed construction, circumstances could get worse before they get better,” said Basu, highlighting the Federal Reserve’s commitment to raising interest rates further to fight inflation, continued supply chain snarls and the threat of a global recession. “This is simply not a set of circumstances conducive to rapid nonresidential construction spending growth,” he said.

Controversial Norwich Route 82 roundabouts to be discussed Tuesday

Claire Bessette

Norwich ― The controversial proposed reconstruction of Route 82-West Main Street will dominate Tuesday’s City Council meeting, beginning with a presentation by state officials on the project that would create six roundabouts in a little over a mile stretch.

The DOT is also asking the City Council to approve two resolutions authorizing City Manager John Salomone to sign agreements to have the city take over regular maintenance of the sidewalks, centers of the roundabouts, lights and bus stops, and to convert a short private road into a public street.

Norwich city Comptroller Josh Pothier provided the City Council with estimates of the city’s costs after the project is completed. The city Public Works Department estimated it would cost about $4,000 per year to maintain sidewalks, landscaping and the bike lanes. Costs to replace city electric, water, sewer and gas lines varied. NPU reported the project would accelerate plans to replace electric, gas and sewer lines by 10 to 20 years. Moving electric lines underground would cost $10.6 million, while replacing above-ground lines would cost $2.8 million.

Replacing the 100-year-old, “highly brittle” water lines is most critical, the report said and would cost an estimated $8 million, with the project accelerating the work by five to 10 years.

A staunch opponent of the plan, Republican Mayor Peter Nystrom now sees the standard request from the state Department of Transportation that the city take responsibility for the improvements once completed as a chance to take a strong city stand against the project, and perhaps kill it.

Nystrom called the project “government overreach” and an “experiment,” asking Norwich to be the state’s “guinea pig” for a project with six proposed roundabouts in just over a mile of roadway.

Nystrom is urging residents to attend Tuesday’s council meeting and express their views during public comment. The DOT will give a presentation to the council at 7 p.m., and the council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Kelly Middle School auditorium.

But Democratic Council President Joseph DeLucia said the mayor’s stance is short-sighted. DeLucia acknowledged the economic hardships that would come during construction for the Route 82 businesses but said the long-term safety improvements are critical. The project also would give the city “a beautiful entryway boulevard,” with the potential for public art and rose bushes, the city symbol, at each of the proposed roundabouts.

“I am in favor,” DeLucia said. “In the long run, this will make the road much safer. It’s called ‘Crash Alley’ for a reason. Speeds will be lower, but travel times would be less.”

The DOT has divided the project into two phases. The $20 million first phase runs from Asylum Street to Dunham Street, with planned roundabouts at Asylum Street, Dunham and Osgood streets. The roadway would have one lane in each direction, a median divider to prevent left turns and a 5-foot-wide bicycle lane. Three existing traffic lights would be eliminated.

The $25 million second phase would continue to an area past New London Turnpike with three additional roundabouts and a median divider.

Two resolutions relating to the project are on Tuesday’s council agenda for votes. First is a request for the council to authorize City Manager John Salomone to sign a Project Authorization Letter, agreeing that the city would take over maintenance of certain aspects of the completed project.

A second request is for the city to approve the conversion of the short, private Crane Avenue into a public road. The road is located at the proposed roundabout at Osgood Street and would become the primary entrance into the Westgate Shopping Center on one side, the Goldblatt, Bokoff & Co. accounting office on the other side, and an address at 6 Crane Ave.

DOT project officials gave a presentation to the council Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee Aug. 15 on the requests. DeLucia chairs the committee. He and Democratic Alderman Swaranjit Singh Khalsa voted to pass along a favorable recommendation to approve the two resolutions, while Republican Alderwoman Stacy Gould voted against the recommendation. DeLucia and Khalsa are sponsoring the two resolutions to be considered Tuesday.

The maintenance resolution states: “Upon completion of the construction project Norwich shall assume full responsibility for all liability, maintenance, repairs and rehabilitation of the sidewalk, bicycle lane, bus stop signage, and bus shelter constructed within the project limits as well as full responsibility for all landscaping within the project limits and all lighting within the limits of the project including energy costs, and will be responsible for snow and ice removal on the sidewalk.”

Nystrom said the DOT has not yet responded to the city’s own request that DOT pay to upgrade the Norwich Public Utilities aged water and sewer lines beneath the Route 82 roadway during construction, with the fear that construction could damage the lines and lead to breaks and leaks.

nearly 100-year-old water main broke on June 27 at the Osgood Street intersection, where one roundabout is proposed, closing Route 82 for several hours during repairs.

Nystrom also said the city cannot afford the anticipated hit to the city tax base the project would create by displacing several businesses at the roundabouts intersections and the expected loss of some businesses, as customers shun the area due to construction.

DeLucia acknowledged those hardships but said the city does not need to lose any businesses along Route 82.

“There are 16 vacant properties between Asylum Street and the I-395 on ramp, so there are plenty of opportunities for businesses being displaced to be relocated,” DeLucia said. “I think the city should take a more proactive role in helping the businesses relocate ahead of the construction.”

State Pier project ’transformational for New London’

By Rep. Anthony Nolan

Last week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski held a campaign event in New London to point his finger at the State Pier project, Gov. Ned Lamont, and the CT Port Authority. Like many of the project's critics, he conveniently regurgitated old news, made inaccurate claims, and ignored many of the critical project benefits for Connecticut and the local community, which is the impetus for the state's decision to invest in the long-underutilized port facility in the first place.

Unlike Stefanowski and many of the small but vocal group of critics at his campaign event, I am actually from New London. I hear from residents and businesses regularly about how excited they are to see this type of development in our city and how important it is for our region and our future. Across the state, individuals and organizations that aren't campaigning for office have recognized how transformative this project will be for Connecticut.

State Pier is creating several hundred jobs right now during its construction phase, including for Connecticut's building trades. The activity from workers and visitors is helping boost local small businesses and New London's economy.

Once it’s completed, in the near term, it will serve as a regional hub for a new domestic industry, bringing offshore wind jobs to New London and serving as an anchor to attract other aspects of the industry's supply chain to the region and the state. The projects built out of State Pier by partners Eversource and Ørsted will provide enough clean energy to power more than a million homes, including here in Connecticut, while helping create a healthier future for our state and our environment.

One of the most exciting aspects of the project is that the improvements being made to State Pier, which have been needed for decades, will help make the Port of New London a focal point for Connecticut's maritime economy. The enhanced port terminal will have the ability to serve a broader range of cargo, vessels, and industries than it ever has before, which means more revenue for the state than has been previously realized.

One of Stefanowski's claims is that Eversource is pulling out of the project. This is simply not true. Eversource did announce earlier this year that it is undertaking a strategic review of its offshore wind assets, but that process is ongoing, and no decision has been made yet.

I am in regular contact with members of the Eversource and Ørsted team, and I know that their contribution of more than $77 million to the port's redevelopment remains intact, as well as their $20 million in lease payments. They are fully committed to the transformation underway at State Pier and the community in the long term. You rarely see this level of funding from companies for other port redevelopment projects across the country, while also supporting many local community initiatives and economic development at the same time.

While there have been issues with the project over the last few years, it is easy to see through last week's desperate political move that ignored State Pier's overall merits for New London and the State of Connecticut that have been there since the beginning. This project is transformational for New London and Southeastern Connecticut. It is a shame that a candidate for governor does not recognize that