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CT Construction Digest Thursday April 8, 2021

Winsted Water Works unveils $6 million improvement plan

Emily M. Olson

WINSTED — A $6 million improvement project for Winsted Water Works could begin later this year, and will be paid entirely with user fees, officials said.

Sewer commission member Bill Hester and public works Director Jim Rollins said the project is a three-phase plan to replace 4,000 feet of aging or obsolete water mains and upgrade two water storage tanks.

The project, Hester said, would be financed using the state Department of Public Health’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which is provided to help towns improve their water systems. Towns can borrow the money at 2 percent interest and repay it over a 25-year period.

Winsted Finance Director Bruce Stratford said the loan for the project involves no public money. “The payments for the loan come from the users,” he said. “The finance department receives (the company’s) money, and pays the bills for Winsted Water Works.”

The water company could try to fund the project using its rates directly, but it would take years to accumulate the full amount, according to Stratford.

“When there are large projects that require more than what the annual revenues can provide, (the company) can go to sources for long-term financing,” he said. “It was done with the water filtration plant that was built 20 years ago. Winsted Water Works recently paid that off, so they have no outstanding debt.

“Projects that total more than $6 million have been accepted by the (state’s) revolving loan fund for financing, and this one has been approved,” Stratford said.

The next step is to hold a referendum to have it approved by residents.

“Winsted Water Works is coming to (the town) to let (them) know that taxpayers need to authorize that borrowing,” Stratford said. “The payments will be paid from the revenues collected from water customers.”

Hester said the town’s many water mains are between 60 and 120 years old.

“Replacing these mains, replacing 4,000 linear feet, will maintain water quality and pressure for users including emergency services,” he said.

The water mains to be replaced are on Case Avenue, Thibault Street and Greenwood Avenue, and Holabird Avenue from Whiting Street to Florence Street. For the second and third parts of the project, the tank at Wallens Hill is too big and in need of repair. Instead, the company plans to install a 500,000-gallon tank to replace the 1.5 million-gallon structure. At Crystal Lake, an existing tank needs to be repaired.

Stratford said it was important to have residents approve the improvement project.

“People with wells might ask, ‘Why do I care?’,” he said. “It’s because the water company provides to all businesses in town. It will help our water and sewer resources.”

In two weeks, the Water and Sewer Commission will ask the Board of Selectmen to set a hearing date and referendum and invite people to attend a program to learn about the project.

Hester said the water main project likely will start in fall and resume next spring, and that the company hopes to time its work during road improvement projects in the area that are expected to start this year.

Rollins said the company has not yet decided on a start date. “This fall, we would start either behind Town Hall, or on Holabird Avenue,” he said.

“This whole project will help with flushing (water mains),” Hester said. “Everything wears out, and we have to replace it. It’s going to do wonders with the quality of our water.”

Photos of existing structures and deterioration, along with maps covering the projects, can be seen on the Winchester Water Sewer Commission website at www.townofwinchester.org/water-sewer-commission.

Lamont comes to New London to tout economic development

Greg Smith  

New London — The parking lot of the 137-unit apartment complex known as The Docks served as an appropriate backdrop Wednesday for a visit by Gov. Ned Lamont.

The governor was here to show his commitment to building economic growth in southeastern Connecticut, and New London took center stage.

Workers in the parking lot were busy unloading and unwrapping new appliances for the apartments expected to open in June. Finish work is ongoing inside and out. There were warning beeps of trucks backing up and buzzing of power tools in the distance.

Pennsylvania-based A.R. Building Co., which developed the complex at the corner of Bank and Howard streets, is investing more than $150 million on housing developments in the area — three in New London and another in Groton.

The site, formerly known as Parcel J, would have been silent three or four years ago, said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.

“Even though we have a little background noise, I consider that a good thing,” he said, crediting Mayor Michael Passero and Economic Development Director Felix Reyes with helping to drive economic success in the city.

“We could be doing ribbon-cutting for months, in terms of just the activity going on here,” Courtney said. “No city deserves it more. As (state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme) said, the bones have always been there. We all know it, those who’ve been around here. New London was always this close to getting that sort of vital cycle of growth and now we’re really seeing it happen.”

Passero, crediting Lamont for continued support during the pandemic, noted the list of state-supported projects in the pipeline is long: a $200 million State Pier upgrade project, a $100 million National Coast Guard Museum, a $20 million state-funded pedestrian bridge.

There are two school construction projects underway, a recently approved $30 million community recreation complex, ongoing upgrades to the waterfront by Cross Sound Ferry and a $25 million industrial marine complex being pitched by Mohawk Northeast.

“This is just a great opportunity for us to show off everything going in the city of New London,” Passero said.

Courtney and others said offshore wind is likely to be a big factor in the local economy in the future, especially considering President Joe Biden's administration is aggressively accelerating the permitting process for offshore wind turbines.

“Wind power is going to be one of the big investments,” Lamont said. “Connecticut for once is not late to the game. We’re first in line. We’re going to have our pier ready to go and we’re going to make sure wind power is a big piece of our state’s future.”

Courtney called the shift to wind power as a renewable energy source is “a multi-generational change in terms of how America is going to power its economy and New London is going to be right at the center of that.”

The project at State Pier, through a partnership with joint venture partners Ørsted and Eversource, awaits permit approval for the bulk of the work to be conducted at the pier.

Amazon’s Bezos endorses higher corporate taxes for infrastructure

Kevin Freking AP

WASHINGTON — Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos endorsed President Joe Biden’s focus on building up the country’s infrastructure Tuesday and said the company even supports a corporate tax rate hike to help pay for it.

Bezos’ statement, posted on the company’s website, was notable because it came after Biden singled out the company for criticism about how much it pays in federal taxes when he recently unveiled his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal.

Biden has proposed hiking the U.S. corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% to help pay for his plan, an idea that Republican leaders are panning as harmful to economic growth. Democrats will surely cite support from individual companies to undercut that argument.

“We recognize this investment will require concessions from all sides — both on the specifics of what’s included as well as how it gets paid for (we’re supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate),” Bezos wrote. “We look forward to Congress and the Administration coming together to find the right, balanced solution that maintains or enhances U.S. competitiveness.”

Bezos was careful not to endorse a specific plan. Rather, he said “we support the Biden Administration’s focus on making bold investments in American infrastructure.”

The company would benefit from the investments made in roads, bridges, airports and broadband. Business groups have joined in the call for more public works investment by the federal government, but they have generally balked at Biden’s call for raising the corporate income tax, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce describing Biden’s proposal as “dangerously misguided when it comes to how to pay for infrastructure.”

Along with partially undoing the corporate tax cut put in place during President Donald Trump’s administration, Biden also wants to set a minimum U.S. tax on overseas corporate income, and to make it harder for companies to shift earnings offshore.

Amazon has long been criticized for paying virtually no federal taxes in the U.S. for years even as it built an e-commerce empire that currently has a market value of $1.6 trillion.

That has changed slightly in recent years as the Seattle company has become more profitable. Last year, it reported paying $1.7 billion in federal taxes on its U.S. income of $20.2 billion, working out to an effective tax rate of about 8%.