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CT Construction Digest Thursday October 7, 2021

New Britain's Downes Construction Company adds several new hires

Ciara Hooks

NEW BRITAIN – Downes Construction Company announced Wednesday morning the addition of several new employees.

Antonio “Tony” DeMelo will be project executive; Lawrence Glynn will be chief estimator; Jeff Gutsfeld will be vice president of Business Development; and Joseph “J” Lucas will be project manager.

“We are excited to be able to add such valuable new members to our team,” said Dave Patrick, president of Downes Construction Company.

DeMelo has over 30 years of experience in the construction industry.

Glynn has over 26 years of experience in the industry.

Gutsfeld has spent over 35 years in the Connecticut and Rhode Island marketplace.

Lucas has been in the architecture, engineering and construction industry for nine years.

“He has recently completed the new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. campus in Hartford,” Patrick said of Lucas.

Located at 200 Stanley Street in New Britain, Downes Construction Company provides a full range of construction-related services, from project planning to construction.

The sixth phase of Brookfield's streetscape project expected to cost $3.8 million. The town is looking to the state for help.

Currie Engel

BROOKFIELD — The Board of Selectman unanimously agreed to sign a letter of support for a state grant that would cover 94 percent of a new phase in the streetscape project — the highest state grant ask of any streetscape phase thus far— during a regular meeting Monday.

The sixth phase would extend the Still River Greenway to the north, with granite curbing on Laurel Hill Road and Station Road, including around 4,000 feet of sidewalk and two retaining walls.

It will be the most expensive phase of the project and comes with a $3.8 million price tag, according to documents presented at the meeting. With the grant, however, the town would only pay $205,000, or 6 percent. A state Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program (LoTCIP) grant would cover remaining costs.

The addition of a sixth phase bumps the total project cost from around $11 million to around $14.7 million, of which the town is covering less than $3.1 million, or 21 percent.

During the meeting, First Selectman Steve Dunn said that this element has always been a part of the overall plan, which has been discussed for more than a decade.

“What we’ve been doing is breaking up this project — the whole project — into manageable phases,” Dunn said of the new phase. “Phase 6 has always been on the books.”

“So, there’s no surprise here,” said Selectman Sue Slater during the meeting. “I just want everyone to realize that.”

If the grant is awarded, the plans for phase 6 will be brought before the Board of Finance and residents for final approval.

Dunn said he expects the town to receive a reply from the state by January of next year, and hopes to get an engineering design bid out by February.

Dunn said he expects the project to take about three months once construction begins. The projected timeline slots construction to take place anywhere from May of 2023 to November.

The state usually approves Brookfield’s LoTCIP grants, according to Dunn, and he expects approval on this one, as well.

“We say we’re going to do the project, and we actually do the project, and we do it quickly,” Dunn said of the town’s follow-through with state grants. “We have every belief that we will be approved for this LoTCIP grant.”

This phase is the only one that will affect homeowners whose property touches the border of the streetscape. As such, the town must get approval from about six property owners to put sidewalk in.

“We want to get everybody involved, we want to get everyone’s input and buy-in,” Dunn added.

Project updates

Phases one and two of the streetscape were completed in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Due to a six-month state approval delay and an 8-to-12-week materials order timeline, construction on phase 3, which was slotted to start this summer, has been stalled so as not to have the road repaving ocurring during the winter months, according to Dunn.

This third phase is designed to provide critical pedestrian sidewalks along a 700 to 800 foot stretch between Federal Road and Old Route 7.

“They sat on it so long we can’t do it this year,” Dunn said of the state’s approval delay.

Construction for the fourth phase of the project, which is now the second most costly phase at $3.6 million, has been slotted to start in the spring of 2023, pending state approvals. A LoTCIP grant aims to cover 87 percent of the cost, with the town paying $450,000.

The fifth phase was supposed to start this past summer but continues to be put on hold as the town tries to coordinate construction with a new grocery store.

“Phase V is fully approved, designed and ready to go from the town side. Since this phase includes the intersection where the entrance to the new supermarket is going, we have to coordinate with both the state and the developer of the supermarket site to do this portion of the streetscape,” Dunn said.

Amazon appealing denial of development permit in Wallingford

Lauren Takores

WALLINGFORD — Amazon is appealing the Planning and Zoning Commission’s denial of a special permit to develop the property at 5 Research Parkway into a warehouse and distribution center.

Amazon and the property development manager, Montante Construction, filed Sept. 30 in New Haven Superior Court, asking that the denial be overturned and included a request for “other relief,” according to court documents.

Montante, a Buffalo, New York-based developer, applied in January for a special permit to build a 219,000-square-foot, 17-dock Amazon delivery station building and parking lot on the former Bristol-Myers Squibb site.

The commission denied the permit application at its Sept. 13 meeting in a 3-to-2 vote.

Amazon stated in its filing that it believes the commission acted “illegally, arbitrarily and in abuse of its discretion.”

The court documents state that the commission’s denial “was not based upon substantial evidence,” but rather concerns about whether the Office of the State Traffic Administration  would allow proposed traffic improvements, the fact that OSTA approval had not been obtained, and the fact that “Amazon did not exist when the surrounding road network was created,” court documents stated.

OSTA has exclusive jurisdiction over proposed developments that may generate enough traffic to substantially affect state highways, but does not undertake its formal review of applications until local planning and zoning commissions grant land use approval.

During the Sept. 13 meeting, commission member Jeff Kohan said that when the zoning regulations were adopted, Amazon didn't exist, delivery stations didn't exist, and that the regulations were "not designed to handle Amazon delivery traffic."

Commission members cited a third-party peer review traffic study that ranked the intersections around the Interstate 91 exit 15 ramps and the Research Parkway and Route 68 intersection with the second-lowest grades possible, meaning the predicted traffic patterns had an adverse impact on drivers.

Amazon’s traffic consultant, BL Cos., concluded that although the proposed development “would result in some loss in the levels of service” at these intersections, the impacts could be mitigated through revisions to traffic signal timing, pavement markings and lane modifications. The consultant reached its conclusions after conducting a traffic study.  

Changes made, plan denied

The commission opened the public hearing on the Amazon plan April 12, but discussion began May 10. After three hours of discussion, the commission decided to continue talks June 14.

During the June meeting, the hearing was continued again, after more than four hours of discussion. The public hearing closed July 12.

The plaintiff’s representatives made “extensive changes” to the proposal to address the concerns raised by commission members, town officials and the public, court documents state — including reducing the number of parking spaces, adding landscaping, modifying access to parking areas, installing a sound barrier and changing an existing entrance/exit to emergency access only.

The commission held off voting on the plan in August because not enough members attended the meeting, and the special permit denial came Sept. 13.

Amazon said in its court filings that the town-hired traffic peer reviewer raised issues that are within OSTA’s authority, not the commission’s, and that the traffic analysis by BL Cos. with respect to peak holiday traffic found “acceptable levels of service at all nearby intersections other than a single off-ramp from Interstate 91.”

Amazon noted in its court filings that its interests “differ from those of the general public.” Many residents of the neighboring residential area and members of the public who attended the public hearings spoke against the proposal, saying it would affect their quality of life.

The commission rejected an application in January 2019 that would have allowed warehouses covering 1 million square feet to be built at the property. The Amazon plan is roughly 80 percent of that size.

The distribution center and warehouse would have been the third Amazon facility in town. Amazon operates a sortation center nearby at 29 Research Parkway, while Amazon Logistics operates a warehouse and distribution center on South Cherry Street.

Groton Days Inn slated to be converted into apartments

Kimberly Drelich

Groton — A developer plans to convert the Days Inn & Suites building on Gold Star Highway into a 60-unit apartment complex.

The hotel building, constructed in the early 1990s and bounded by Gold Star Highway (Route 184) and Kings Highway, is located near the Groton Inn and Suites, Five Guys restaurant and Ramada hotel, and is across the road from the Stop & Shop plaza, Walmart and Hilton Garden Inn, according to the application approved last month by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The plan is to convert the Days Inn "extended stay" suites to apartments, remodel the interior and improve the site, the application states.

Jonathan Kerendian, owner of Blue Rock Property Group of Long Island, N.Y., the project developer, said in a recent phone interview that with the coronavirus pandemic, the Days Inn was not having the same occupancy numbers that it used to, and the former owner felt it was time to sell.

Rather than have the building sit largely unused, Blue Rock Property Group saw an opportunity to convert the 60-unit hotel building into an apartment complex, particularly with growth at Electric Boat, Pfizer and the Naval Submarine Base and a shortage of housing in the area, Kerendian said.

“Just everything fit the criteria to convert this into something nice,” he said.

Kerendian said the property is in a great location — close to workplaces, shopping and the highway. He said there is a big demand for a New York City-style apartment complex, and the vision is a luxury-style apartment building with amenities that workers in the area would appreciate.

He said the amenities will include a business center and play area where people can work or hang out and play pool, a gym and on-site laundry. The building also will have a doorman.

The façade of the building will remain largely the same, but the developer plans to add outdoor amenities, including a picnic area, playground and green space for tenants.

There is also an existing swimming pool, which Blue Rock Property Group is in talks to possibly enclose to make it a year-round amenity, he said.

The units will be one-bedroom apartments, with an estimated rental price of $1,100 a month, Kerendian said. The projected timeline for completion of the project and having the units rented out is December 2022, he said.

Bruce Lofgren, a town planner, said the next step, now that the plan was approved, is to work on improving pedestrian connections, which the Planning and Zoning Commission discussed at the meeting last month.

“There is an existing crosswalk that runs from Five Guys north across Route 184 to the Walmart Plaza. However, there is no crosswalk across Kings Highway along the southern side of Route 184,” Lofgren said. “The Planning Department is planning to work with the state DOT to see if it may be possible to add a crosswalk from Five Guys across Kings Highway to better connect the site with the existing crosswalk that runs across Route 184 to Walmart.”

Yale New Haven plans major outpatient center at Meriden Mall site

Zachary Vasile

Yale New Haven Health said it plans to transform the former Macy’s storefront at the Meriden Mall into a major outpatient center.

Yale New Haven officials said the 179,258-square-foot former Macy’s store in the mall’s southern wing will be used to provide advanced ambulatory care for patients through collaborations with Smilow Cancer Hospital, the Yale New Haven Heart and Vascular Center and Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. 

The site will also offer blood draw and radiology services.

It was announced earlier this week that Yale New Haven Health purchased the former vacant  Macy’s store at 460 Lewis Ave., just off of Interstate 691. 

A purchase price was not disclosed. Yale also declined to say how much it was investing in the project. 

“This is a great opportunity to bring services to an ever-increasing number of patients we serve from the central Connecticut region,” said Cynthia Sparer, the health system’s chief ambulatory officer. “Using the successful blueprint Yale New Haven Heath established with the creation of our Shoreline Medical Center in Guilford, Park Avenue Medical Center in Trumbull and the Devine Street Medical Center in North Haven, we will bring the community advanced treatment options that are easily accessible and offer all of the benefits associated with Yale New Haven Health.”

The facility’s services will also “complement and support” physicians already in the community, hospital officials added, allowing them closer access to specialty care as well as testing services.

Yale New Haven plans to start construction work at the site in early 2022, with services coming online over the following 18 to 24 months. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

Yale New Haven’s push northward into Meriden puts the planned outpatient center essentially in the backyard of Hartford HealthCare, which owns Meriden’s Midstate Medical Center. Yale New Haven and Hartford HealthCare are the largest and second-largest health systems in the state, respectively, and are already competing aggressively for market share in Fairfield County.

Construction industry leaders urge House to pass infrastructure bill

Julie Strupp

The House of Representatives has not yet voted on the $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), due to opposition from Republicans and disputes among members of the Democratic party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had first promised to bring it to the floor on Sept. 27.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said his party will aim to pass both IIJA and a major reconciliation package by the end of October, CNBC reported, when major transportation funding programs will expire. 

CNN reported Monday that several Republicans who were formerly on board are now rethinking their support, saying it's clear the infrastructure bill is linked to the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. That package would expand a variety of social programs, tackle climate change and also add further investments in infrastructure.

Democrats are trying to move the bills in tandem to assuage progressives in their party who won't vote for the infrastructure bill without the larger economic package. Centrists Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are holding up the infrastructure bill in order to negotiate a smaller reconciliation package, which they say is too costly. 

The 2,700-page Senate bill contains $550 billion in new infrastructure spending over the next five years, and represents the largest new federal investment in the country's streets, bridges and highways in decades. It includes $110 billion for improvements to roads and bridges, and $66 billion for passenger and freight rail projects. IIJA passed the Senate on Aug. 10.

Besides funding, a major impediment to construction projects is permitting delays. Permit reviews can involve up to 30 statutes and a dozen departments and agencies, and a helpful but little-discussed element inside the bill called One Federal Decision (OFD) aims to streamline and shorten the process from up to 10 years to two years, The Hill reported. However, it’s not clear if OFD will end up in the final version of the bill.

Construction industry leaders vary on their stance regarding details of the bill, but broadly voiced support for it and frustration about the delay.

"While other countries are making investments in their future, we are letting politics steal this opportunity to move forward. It does not have to be this way. This comprehensive bill would bring relief to communities facing strained power grids, aging bridges, leaking water pipes, and spotty broadband," said Tom Smith, executive director, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in a press release

"We urge the House to pass this bipartisan, commonsense legislation today to create jobs, make goods and services move more quickly and reliably, and make American communities more climate-resilient. Our infrastructure bill has come due, and now is the time to act."

According to an American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Sept. 24 newsline statement, "ARTBA and allies are working to reinforce support with Republican offices by highlighting the economic benefits each state would see through the IIJA's enactment and dispelling falsehoods about the bill’s contents and process."

Associated Builders and Contractors generally supports the infrastructure bill but expressed concern about the reconciliation package.

"ABC continues to monitor any new developments on the bipartisan infrastructure deal and update members accordingly, and we do remain concerned with the president's insistence on tying the bipartisan negotiated bill to the partisan reconciliation package," said Kristen Swearingen, ABC vice president of legislative and political affairs. 

"ABC is continuing to meet with members of Congress and urge them to oppose dangerous tax hikes and costly labor policies that have been proposed for inclusion in reconciliation."

Ground officially breaks on new retail, luxury apartment development in downtown New Britain

Ciara Hooks

NEW BRITAIN – It was an exciting and groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon, literally, for both Jasko Development and the City of New Britain. The duo hosted the unveiling of the architectural rendering for The Brit, a brand-new mixed-use development downtown.

“This development, this project, is going to be nothing short of transformative for downtown,” said Jack Benjamin, director of planning and development at Jasko. “I look out in the crowd today and there are a lot of faces around who have waited and worked for years if not decades to see something like this materialize.”

This will be just the second project of this magnitude to be done in the past 40 or 50 years.

“The first new ground up construction that we had was Columbus Commons,” Mayor Erin Stewart said. “To do a project of this magnitude takes somebody who has a unique vision to be able to see it through because it is really difficult to find someone who says, ‘yeah, I’m going to demolish that block and build new from the ground up.’”

Jasko Development took possession of the property about eight months ago. At the end of August Jasko began demolition of the former Burritt Bank and Jasko and the city officially broke ground at the site Tuesday. Work will begin on the new development in the next two weeks.

“We expect to be completed hopefully this time next year if everything moves quickly, that’s weather permitting,” said Avner Krohn, chairman and CEO of Jasko Development.

Krohn brought up a few associates to help with the unveiling of the rendering.

“I want to thank my wife, she puts up with a very crazy developer,” he said with a laugh. “Without our in-house team at Jasko, like our design team, this project doesn’t happen. We need a great team to put it all together and come to fruition. I want to thank our lender Ion Bank; I want to thank our equity because without them the team this project never happens.”

This is Jasko Development’s fifth project in downtown.

“It’s by far the largest and clearly the most significant project that they’ve done to date,” said Gerry Amodio, executive director, New Britain Downtown District. “And we’re all pretty familiar with the quality that they do, promises kept, product provided in the time they say it is and a staff that I call my friends and family at Jasko. “

The Brit will be six stories consisting of retail space on the first floor and 107 luxury apartments above.

“I know (Krohn’s) not from the city, but the way he treats his projects you would think that he was,” Stewart said. “He invests smartly here, too, with the projects that he’s already done like the Andrews building. He’s increased the quality of the housing that we have available here and I think that’s important while keeping it affordable. I know it says luxury apartments but it’s going to be market rate; I don’t want that to discourage people.”

Krohn says they chose to name the building The Brit to pay homage to the city and to have a young flare, which gears toward the 25 to 35 year old crowd they project will move into the building.

“I think it’s an awesome vibe it’s going to create,” Stewart said.

Democrats begin to narrow their differences on Biden's agenda bill

Sean Sullivan, Seung Min Kim and Marianna Sotomayor, The Washington Post

HOWELL, Mich. - Democrats in a flurry of private talks are beginning to narrow their differences over the size of President Joe Biden's sweeping safety-net bill, as liberals signal they are open to sizable concessions on the scope of what could be the most far-reaching social legislation in years.

The discussions, which remain highly fluid, suggest that Democratic leaders are pushing to move beyond a series of angry intraparty standoffs and focus instead on whether they can coalesce around a scaled-down package. The outcome of the talks will also decide the future of a bipartisan infrastructure bill that has been held hostage in the fight.

In a virtual meeting with about a dozen liberal Democrats on Monday, Biden suggested a package in the range of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion for the safety-net bill, according to people with knowledge of the private discussion - significantly lower than his initial goal of $3.5 trillion.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., leader of the influential Congressional Progressive Caucus, countered with a range of $2.5 trillion to $2.9 trillion, according to three of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The gap between Biden's maximum and Jayapal's minimum marks a striking narrowing of differences from just last week.

Biden signaled another potential compromise when asked by reporters whether he would sign the bill if it includes the Hyde Amendment, a provision banning the use of federal funds for abortions, as some centrists want. "I'd sign it either way," said Biden, a position likely to anger liberals.

While immersed in behind-the-scenes negotiations, Biden was also trying to build support publicly for his plans. In a speech at a union training facility here Tuesday, he downplayed the politics surrounding his agenda and sought to emphasize the ways he said it would improve Americans' lives.

"I want to set one thing straight: These bills are not about left versus right, or moderate versus progressive, or anything that pits Americans against one another," Biden said. "These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They're about opportunity versus decay. They're about leading the world or continue to let the world pass us by."

It is still unclear whether Democratic centrists, including Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, would agree to a figure in the range discussed by Biden and the liberal House members, but the president has been in frequent contact with them in recent days and suggested he knows what they would accept. Meanwhile, influential liberals such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have continued to lobby for the $3.5 trillion figure.

Asked about Manchin after his speech, Biden said, "It sure sounds like he's moving. I hope that's the case." Manchin on Tuesday did not rule out a bill in the range $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion, CNN reported.

But Manchin, asked about that Tuesday evening, reiterated his preference for a figure of $1.5 trillion. "I think everybody knows I'm at one-five," he said. "I've always been at one-five." He declined to say whether he would be willing to entertain a higher number.

Beyond the numbers, the Democrats' newly pragmatic tone suggests many in the party are concluding that, whatever their differences, the collapse of Biden's agenda would be an overriding calamity. Operatives in both parties say the Democrats are likely to lose the House next year, and it's unclear when they would next have the ability to enact some of their longtime goals.

But despite the flurry of talks, Democrats still face a daunting task and the prospect of more derailments.

Even if they reach an agreement on the size of a social spending bill, they must figure out precisely how to scale back the legislation, which includes expanded Medicare benefits, universal prekindergarten and free community college. That bill would then probably be paired with the bipartisan $1 trillion traditional-infrastructure package favored by centrists.

In his private discussions with lawmakers in recent days, Biden has raised the idea of means-testing some programs, meaning only people below a certain income level would qualify. Under questioning from reporters Tuesday, Biden suggested that some provisions would probably be means-tested as part of a compromise.

At Monday's meeting, Jayapal advocated a different approach - keeping all the major elements of the safety net package but letting some expire sooner to cut costs, according to two people with knowledge of the discussion.

Some Democrats are betting that programs like free community college or universal prekindergarten care would be popular enough if enacted that it would be politically easy to renew them.

Jayapal has also been pushing to keep the spending number on the high end. She told Biden in Monday's closed-door meeting that even the $3.5 trillion figure, which now seems certain to shrink, was a major compromise from liberals' initial goals.

Democratic leaders say the range of $1.9 trillion to $2.2 trillion proposed by Biden for the social spending package could be acceptable to Manchin and Sinema, the two holdout senators from the party's moderate wing who wield enormous influence in an evenly divided Senate.

Still, Manchin has stressed the potential impact on the nation's debt despite Biden's assurances that the bill would be paid for, and Sinema, who has been negotiating directly with the White House, has declined to publicly state her demands.

Biden's decision to hold long meetings early this week with House moderates and liberals, but not with Sinema or Manchin, signal a desire to build a consensus among Democrats beyond those two, said one White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategy.

If successful, that could build pressure on Manchin and Sinema to fall in line or risk being seen as the only roadblocks in the way of a historic triumph for the party.

Biden has shown flashes of irritation in recent days about the hesitancy of the two moderates in embracing his agenda. "I was able to close the deal on 99 percent of my party," Biden said Monday. "I need 50 votes in the Senate. I have 48." The only holdouts, he added pointedly, are "two. Two people."

Jayapal called Monday's meeting "very productive" and added, "Progressives fought to get the full Biden agenda back on track, and now we are beginning negotiations to deliver it to working people, families and our communities."

The president spoke Tuesday at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 training facility, in a battleground area won narrowly by President Donald Trump but represented by a centrist Democrat, Rep. Elissa Slotkin. Pro-Trump protesters gathered nearby, prompting an apparent reference from Biden and a reminder from the president of his electoral victory.

Biden's travel strategy is guided in part by a desire to show that his plans are popular in swing areas represented by at-risk Democrats, according to the White House official.

He touted the infrastructure plan's investments in roads and bridges Tuesday, as well as the social safety net's provisions to underwrite the costs of education.

The president spoke against the backdrop of construction equipment, including one yellow excavator with a "Build Back Better" sign draped over the front. A large American flag hung from a tall crane.

Behind the scenes, Biden is diving deeper into the talks with Democratic lawmakers.

On Tuesday morning, he met virtually with House Democrats who represent competitive swing districts. In that session, he stressed that all eyes are on the party to carry out its promises and said he would work for the rest of his presidency to enact any items that are cut from the current package, according to officials familiar with the conversation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks.

The Democratic "front-liners" - that is, vulnerable members - had a message for Biden, too, said the officials: The party needs to start thinking about how to sell the expansive spending package to voters in a way that emphasizes its economic benefits but doesn't overplay expectations.

And as the Democratic lawmakers raised a litany of policy priorities with Biden - such as climate change, Medicaid expansion, prescription drug prices and the child tax credit - they stressed that they needed both pillars of the president's domestic agenda passed to shore up their reelection bids.

With even the party's liberals now accepting that the social spending package must shrink significantly from $3.5 trillion, Biden and the lawmakers he's been meeting with have been more vigorously exploring options for paring it back.

The president in particular brought up the notion of limiting who qualifies for certain benefits such as free community college, according to people familiar with the Monday and Tuesday discussions. Biden did not appear to take a position for or against doing so but raised the idea, these people said.

Biden said Tuesday that his meeting with moderate Democrats went well and that they are on the same page with him. But in some ways, relations between the White House and the centrists have appeared to worsen lately.

Notably, Biden drew anger from some moderates last week by effectively siding with liberals who refused to vote for the infrastructure bill unless a deal was reached first on the social spending plan.

The warming relationship between Biden and the left, on the other hand, was evident during Monday's conversation, the people with knowledge of the discussion said. Biden told the liberal lawmakers they were some of his biggest supporters, adding that he had seen them praise his agenda on television news programs.

Some liberals returned the compliment. "I have trust in the president's judgment to come up with a fair compromise that's going to move the agenda forward," said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who participated in Monday's meeting.

City’s East Main Street project hits another snag, costs soar


WATERBURY — A two-year effort to rebuild a quarter-mile section of downtown East Main Street is nearly done, but not without one more boost in costs.

The city originally hired Milone & MacBroom to a $543,000 contract providing construction oversight. After three subsequent amendments adding time and tasks to the contract, the city is paying the company – now called SLR International Corp. – $666,599.

Waterbury Development Corp. is now asking the Board of Aldermen to allow another increase, this time for $181,948. That would bring construction oversight costs on the project to $848,548, 56% more than the original contract. The board is expected to vote on the request at its Oct. 12 meeting.

City officials blame much of the increase on surprise delays and unexpected work that came up after the street was opened, exposing century-old utility pipes in locations other than were pictured on city utility maps.

Dayton Construction was paid $2.7 million for a yearlong project to replace and repair water and sewer utilities under East Main Street between the city Green and police headquarters. Oxford-based Guerrera Construction then was brought in under a $2.9 million contract to rebuild the street and sidewalks. The job also requires new lighting, seating, bus shelters and trash receptacles.

Guerrera has until Nov. 11 to “substantially complete” its work under its contract with the city. Officials expect roads and sidewalks to be done in this time. Lights, seating, bus shelters and other tasks will take longer due to supply-chain delays, officials say. Guerrera has until Jan. 19, 2022, to finish completely.

The Milone & MacBroom (SLR) contract last was changed in October 2020, adding $100,000. At the time, a former WDC head blamed the increase on COVID-19 related delays, added work, and inaccurate and outdated maps of underground utilities.

Thomas Hyde, current head of WDC, said Tuesday it was known at the time that increase would not be enough. The extra $100,000 approved in October 2020 was drawn from the city’s water department, Hyde noted.

He said agency staff counted on that to carry the project until the state came through with $3.2 million in grant support for the East Main Street project. Officials didn’t want to rely more heavily on water department funds than was necessary, Hyde said.

State authorization of the $3.2 million transportation grant for the project was confirmed in April. Hyde said the $100,000 approved in 2020 is only running out now, prompting the current request.

“With the last amendment, we had funding up until this point,” Hyde said, adding this last infusion of cash will be enough to provide oversight through the end of construction.