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CT Construction Digest Tuesday November 15, 2022

CT-based United Rentals to acquire rival company for $2 billion

Paul Schott

STAMFORD – United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment-rental company, announced Monday that it had agreed to acquire for $2 billion another large company in its industry, Ahern Rentals – a deal that builds on its long history of acquisitions

Through the acquisition of Las Vegas-headquartered Ahern, United will take over the eighth-largest equipment rental company in North America – one with approximately 2,100 employees and 106 locations in 30 states, serving approximately 44,000 customers in the construction and industrial sectors. For the 12 months ending Sept. 30, Ahern Rentals generated $887 million in revenues. 

“Our acquisition of Ahern Rentals supports our strategy to deploy capital to grow the core business and drive shareholder value,” United Chief Executive officer Matthew Flannery said in a statement. “We view ourselves as the ideal owner of these assets within our network, as customers will benefit from the combination of the two organizations moving forward together. We’re leveraging our competencies in larger-scale M&A to augment both our near- and long-term earnings power.”

United officials added in a news release that they expect the acquisition to produce “approximately $40 million of annualized cost synergies within the first 12 to 18 months of closing, primarily in the areas of corporate overhead, operations and cost of rentals due to efficiencies of scale. Additionally, United Rentals expects to realize procurement savings based on the combined spending of both companies.” By the third year after the acquisition, United expects about $60 million of “annual revenue synergies.”
The transaction is expected to close before the end of 2022.

“I’m proud of what we’ve built at Ahern Rentals over nearly seven decades, and I’m extremely pleased that the combination with United Rentals will take the business forward in this next chapter of growth,” Don Ahern, CEO of the family-owned Ahern Rentals, which was founded in 1953, said in a statement. “I want to thank our employees for driving the results that make this transaction possible. This is a strong outcome for both organizations and our customers.”

Among related moves, United said it plans to pause its $1.25 billion share repurchase program “through the initial phase of the integration, consistent with its approach during the integrations of similarly sized general rental transactions.”

Following the announcement of the deal, United shares closed Monday at about $358, up 2.5 percent from their closing total last Friday. 

Since its founding in 1997, United has become a prolific dealmaker. Among other acquisitions, it announced last year that it would pay about $1 billion for General Finance, a provider of mobile storage and modular office space. 

United, which ranked No. 363 on this year’s Fortune 500 list of the largest U.S. corporations, operates with more than 22,000 employees. Its network includes 1,343 rental locations across North America. In Connecticut, it runs a depot a few blocks from its headquarters, as well as sites in Beacon Falls, Bloomfield, Bridgeport, Danbury, New Haven and North Stonington. 

In the first nine months of 2022, United produced revenues of about $8.3 billion, up 20 percent from the same period in 2021. 

The company comprises one of four Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Stamford, alongside Charter Communications, Philip Morris International and Synchrony. It re-committed to its home city by announcing at the beginning of this year a new headquarters lease, running through 2030, at the First Stamford Place complex. 

Judge rejects probation for Fairfield officials charged in fill pile scandal

Daniel Tepfer

BRIDGEPORT — A Superior Court judge Monday denied a special probation program for three former Fairfield town officials and a local developer charged in the five-year scheme to dump tons of contaminated soil on town property.

Following a four-hour hearing, Judge Kevin Russo ruled that the charges against the four individuals for allegedly illegally disposing of hazardous waste and then trying to cover it up are too serious for the accelerated rehabilitation program.

Included in the judge's decision were Scott Bartlett, former Fairfield Public Works superintendent; Brian Carey, the interim public works director and town conservation director; Emmet Hibson, the town’s former human resources director, and Jason Julian, co-owner of Julian Enterprises. 

The judge then ordered them to prepare for trial before Judge Ndidi Moses. No trial date was given.

Later, speaking on behalf of Fairfield First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick, who was unable to attend the hearing because she has COVID-19, Town Attorney James Baldwin said they are grateful for the judge’s ruling.

“The court recognized the significant cost of the (defendant’s) actions to the taxpayers,” Baldwin said.

But while Russo, in his ruling, said he was concerned that the remediation costs for the defendants’ alleged actions is estimated to be between $5 million and $25 million, he said he is more concerned with damage that may have been done to the health of town workers who had to clean up the soil.

Reading from the arrest warrant affidavits, the judge said town employees were told that protective equipment was not necessary and would just cause concern with town residents if they saw it. Carey allegedly told employees that the soil they were handling was as safe as fish eaten from Long Island Sound.

"In my view persuading the bluest of blue-collar workers to expose themselves to a petri dish of contaminated soil with PCBs and other carcinogens is a significant aggravating factor which makes it far too serious for the benefit of the AR program,” the judge said. “It was probably equivalent to having someone jump without a parachute because those folks still don’t know what their future holds health wise."

Under accelerated rehabilitation, a pretrial program for nonviolent offenders, defendants wouldn’t plead guilty to the charges against them but could get up to two years of probation. If they committed no other crimes during that probation the charges against them would be dismissed.

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Tamberlyn Chapman opposed the granting of AR to the five defendants — including Robert Mayer, Fairfield’s former chief fiscal officer, whose own request for AR was continued — arguing that the crimes they allegedly committed are just too serious.

“Contaminated soil was used all over town where children play,” she told the judge. “This soil was also sold to other municipalities including Bridgeport.”

Tracy Babbidge, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection acting deputy commissioner, also objected to the defendants getting the probation program.

“This is one of the more serious cases in the history of the state of Connecticut on solid waste disposal,” she told the judge. “The defendants have placed human health and the environment at risk.”

The lawyers for the defendants all tried to mitigate their clients’ roles in the alleged conspiracy.

“I tried my best to do what I thought was right at the time, maybe there were issues that were not statutorily proper,” said Carey, the only defendant to speak directly to the judge. “I may have overlooked things because I had family issues at the time. I didn’t know it was criminal.”

The defendants are charged with multiple counts of illegally disposing of hazardous waste and conspiring to cover up their actions. In addition, Bartlett is accused of accepting bribes from Julian to allow him to dump contaminated soil on town property. Bartlett is charged in a separate case with larceny for allegedly stealing more than $30,000 from a disabled woman.

Mayer is charged with burglary, larceny and forgery charges in connection with the alleged dumping conspiracy. His application for accelerated rehabilitation was continued to Dec. 20. Robert Grabarek, owner of Osprey Environmental Engineering in Clinton, is awaiting trial in the case.

Last week Joseph Michelangelo, Fairfield’s former director of public works, pleaded guilty to the illegal disposal of PCBs, multiple counts of receiving solid waste at an unpermitted facility, disposal of asbestos without a permit, making false representations and conspiracy.

He faces two years and a day in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 3.

In 2013, Julian Development was hired by the town to manage a pile of debris next to the public works garage with the prohibition that it was to accept no contaminated material there and was to eventually clean out the site.

But over the next three years, the site went from 40,000 cubic yards of material to approximately 120,000 cubic yards, covering nearly three acres. Subsequent tests found the pile contained high levels of PCBs, lead, and other hazardous materials, according to court documents.

Apartments planned along Quinnipiac River in South Meriden

Mary Ellen Godin

MERIDEN — A local developer is seeking city permission to build a 24-unit apartment building at the site of a former garage and warehouse in South Meriden.

LaRosa Family Associates, doing business as Rincon Holdings LLC, has asked the Zoning Board of Appeals for a special exception for property at 33 Main St. The 3.41-

“As part of this proposal, the existing buildings will be razed from the property,” city planning staff stated in the narrative to the ZBA. “Applicant has received Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission approval. This is the second of four approvals needed by applicant to proceed with this development.”

LaRosa is proposing to remove the existing garage and construct three residential buildings. The first two buildings have nine units with 5,398 square feet each, and the unit in the rear will have six units with 3,598 square feet in total along with 48 parking spaces.

The property has been owned by Rincon Holdings since 2005, according to city records. It was purchased for $395,000. LaRosa representatives are listed as principal and agent for Rincon, according to state records. 

Maps show the property has frontage along the Quinnipiac River near Hanover Pond. 

Since the parcel is in the neighborhood commercial development zone, such a plan is permitted by special exception only, according to city staff. However, this zone does not give the ZBA authority over the site plan, which lies with the Planning Commission. The commission will consider the developer’s application for a certificate of approval, and a separate application for a Certificate of Appropriateness.  

The ZBA will discuss the special exception request at a future date, according to meeting minutes.

Montville to build new $2 million water tower

Kevin Arnold

Montville ― The Planning and Zoning Commission has unanimously approved plans for a new $2 million water tower to be built at 50 Cook Drive.

Barry Parfitt, an engineer with Wright-Pierce, the firm subcontracted for this project by the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority, provide an overview of the project and answer questions before the authority approved the plans on Nov. 8.

Parfitt said the only other approval still needed for the project is from the state Department of Public Health. The town engineer and building department, the Uncas Health District and Planning Director Liz Burdick all have approved the project.

The project calls for the construction of a 531,200-gallon glass-fused-to-steel water storage tank. It will be built next to the to the existing 590,000-gallon steel tank built in 1999. The existing tank, which also has antenna for the town’s emergency services, will remain until it can be demolished and a dedicated antenna tower and equipment building can be built on the site.

WPCA Superintendent Derek Albertson explained that an engineering report found that it would be more cost efficient to replace the steel tank tower instead of continuing to maintain it. Alberston said the glass-fused-to-steel technology does not require the exterior to be painted, like the current tank, nor does it require the same level of interior cleaning.

The design of the new tank helps keep the water fresh. With the current steel tank, the town has to use robots to get inside the tank to clean and check on its integrity. He added the new tank will have a 30- to 40-year lifespan.

The project was initially approved for a $2 million state grant but that has been cut in half. Albertson explained the town is now applying for the $1 million grant, which it needs to be approved before the town can seek bids for the project.

Albertson said the project could “easily” cost $2 million to complete due to supply-chain issues. He said the WPCA could finance the remaining cost, thanks to its reserve fund, or the town could opt to finance the project using a 20-year loan at 2% interest. He said it is likely the Town Council and WPCA will purse the loan option.

If all goes as planned, he said construction can begin as early as next spring.

“We’re lucky to be considered for the revolving fund (grant) and very fortunate for this technology,” Albertson said.

During the planning process, Albertson said the town talked with the Mohegan tribe about its water tower, which utilizes the same technology. He said the tribe has had no problems in the 14 years it’s tower has been in use.

Cheshire to hold public hearing on largest-ever apartment complex proposal

Hanna Snyder Gambini

Cheshire’s Planning and Zoning Commission Monday will continue a public hearing and possibly take action on applications related to a proposed multi-unit housing development, which, if approved, would be the town’s largest apartment complex.

Tri-Star Development LLC, and Miller, Napolitano, Wolff LLC, on behalf of owner Eastpointe LLC, are requesting special permits and special development approvals to build 300 apartments throughout nine buildings on 30 acres in the town’s new 100-acre special development district near 691. 

The project, Eastpointe at Stone Bridge Crossing, includes one-, two-, and three-bedroom market-rate apartments with a clubhouse, pool, garage parking, dog park and other amenities.

The development would sit on a new town road called Stone Bridge Court, with the entrance directly across from the 691 on/off ramp.

The Reserve at Stone Bridge Crossing, another 140-unit development, is also under construction in the district.

Also planned for the area are restaurants, a retail plaza, hotel and senior housing units, projects that have not yet begun. 

Economic Development Director Andrew Martelli said Eastpointe at Stone Bridge Crossing is a good proposal from a quality developer, which will bring much-needed housing diversity to Cheshire.

“It checks all the boxes,” Martelli said.

No residents spoke at the last public hearing Oct. 24, and commissioners briefly discussed the location of the school bus stop for students who would live in the complex. That determination will be made later and in conjunction with the school department.

The increase in the number of students living in this development was a consideration in the analysis of the future of Cheshire’s public schools, town officials said.

Voters in a referendum last week approved by a margin of 60% a modernization plan and $166 million for new school construction that would close three old schools and build two new elementary schools. 

The Norton School would be demolished, and a new building, to accommodate nearly double the current student body of 500, would be built on the same site.

Chapman school, in the north end of town, would be closed and a new school built on town-owned land closer to the Eastpointe development. The Darcey School would be closed, and town officials will need to create a reuse plan for that site, which is close to the Waterbury town line. 

This application for the 300 residential units is one of many for the massive mixed-use development, each requiring its own application and approval process.

This proposal has gained Inland Wetland and Town Beautification Committee approval.

Board OKs Parcel B excavation bid


NAUGATUCK – The vacant lot next to the Naugatuck Event Center is expected to be excavated to establish a clean foundation for the eventual transformation of a new transit mixed-use development.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses unanimously approved at its Nov. 1 meeting to award a bid to Red Technologies of Portland in the amount of $213,825 for the excavation and disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and contaminated soil in the vacant lot at Parcel B, the 7.75 acres at the corner of Maple Street and Old Firehouse Road.

“There is approximately 500 tons of soil that has to be excavated and trucked off to an approved location which is very far away,” Public Works Director Jim Stewart said.

Workers will have to excavate and square out 10 feet down into the ground, Stewart said.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said the borough has previously received a $1 million grant from the Department of Economic and Community Development which already has mostly been utilized on Parcels C and B.

“This is going to get us pretty close to the end of that grant and of course we’re going to be seeking more grants in the future but for the most part, this will be covered by the grant,” Hess said.

About $194,000 is remaining left in the DECD grant, Stewart said.

Stewart said the initial low bidder was ACV Enviro but the environmental services organization proposed to take the soil to a location that wasn’t permitted to take the concentration of waste the borough has.

“They were going to take it to a land fill that was approved to take a concentration that we are at but we’re at the very high level of concentration so EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is apparently making us take it to the more expensive location,” Stewart said.

Hess said in the borough’s dealings with Parcel B, remediation falls on the borough and the soil stability and structural geotechnical issues fall on the developer.

“We’ve already removed things from Parcel B. We’ve done a lot of remediation,” Hess said. “We believe that by removing these materials, which are basically PCBs, that everything that has to be removed off site will have been removed.”

Hess said the removal of material doesn’t mean the borough won’t find something else later but all the known PCBs will be removed and any possible remaining PCBs will be a low enough level to allow workers to build over or cap it.

Stewart expects the work would start this winter season and the work can be done as long as the ground isn’t frozen over.

The borough board on July 21, chose Pennrose, a real estate development company with its headquarters in Philadelphia, and the Cloud Company, a Hartford-based firm, to develop Parcel B.

The project will connect the existing downtown area to the TOD project on Parcel B. Parcel B adjoins the Waterbury Branch Line adjacent to the location of the new train platform to be relocated by the state Department of Transportation. The state DOT has allotted funding for the relocation of the Naugatuck train station from Water Street near The Station Restaurant to Parcel B. This also comes after improvements and expansion of service to the Waterbury branch line of the Metro-North Railroad have taken place.