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CT Construction Digest Wednesday December 7, 2022

Costs rise for restaurant set to occupy Middletown's former canoe club on Connecticut River 

Cassandra Day

MIDDLETOWN — Interior structural work is set to begin Tuesday on the project to turn the city-owned former Mattabesett Canoe Club into a combination seafood restaurant, brewery, snack shack and more to be operated by the owners of popular Eli Cannon’s Tap Room on Main Street.

The 5,163-square-foot building at Harbor Park is perched on the banks of the Connecticut River, with sweeping views and sometime stunning sunsets as well as the railroad bridge, and Arrigoni Bridge into Portland.

The property is considered an anchor and crucial first step toward Middletown’s 10-plus-year master plan for redevelopment. The city took ownership of the canoe club in 1958, according to assessor’s records, and formerly offered 25-year leases.

The family-style eatery at 80 Harbor Drive will be called Tate’s, after the 3-year-old daughter of Eli Cannon’s co-owners, husband and wife Rocco and Aubrey LaMonica.

Initially expected to be done about a year ago, the delay was in part due to problems building inspectors discovered with the support beams, Common Council Majority Leader Gene Nocera has told The Press.

“We’re ready to put hammer to nail starting this week,” Aubrey LaMonica explained Monday. “It’s going to be worth the wait.”

Both the city and LaMonicas are using the same contractor, Ted Coughlin, owner of Coughlin Service Corp. on Johnson Street, which will provide “continuity” in the project, the co-owner said.

“That extra time that was taken to make sure it was done right was important for what the final project was going to look like,” LaMonica said, “especially because it’s such an old and beautiful building.”

Encountering unforeseen issues are expected with such an aging structure, she explained. “While it’s taken a lot longer than we had hoped and anticipated, it really is going to benefit the final outcome.”

The couple has been patient considering the completed date has been pushed off, Acting Director of Economic and Community Development Bobbye Knoll Peterson said. “This is not a process that they envisioned either. It has been a delay by discovery.”

The original budget of the project, which began over a year ago, was $1 million. In August, costs rose to $1.5 million. Since then, Mayor Ben Florsheim allocated an additional $1 million to be spent, although that could rise, Peterson pointed out.

Funds are also coming from the $55 million infrastructure bond, she noted.

In addition, the LaMonicas have submitted an application for American Rescue Plan Act funds in this second round of funding, which will fund city initiatives.

“We’ve never hidden the fact that the project is going to be more expensive than initially thought,” Peterson added. “This has been sort of a perfect storm for this to be a more expensive project.”

Repairs have been neglected for some time, Peterson explained.

However, she said, when Tate’s is open, it will serve multiple purposes along the waterfront, including a sit-down experience and coffee to go. Or, “if you want to grab a hot dog and walk up and down the boardwalk, you’ll be able to do that there."

"Once the structural issues were uncovered as part of prepping the building for work that needed to be done, we walked down a different path," Peterson said. That maintenance has been deferred for too long, she added.

The building is actually “irreplaceable,” because it’s located in a flood plain, the acting director explained.

In fact, for many years, the canoe club routinely filled with water during the spring freshet and heavy rains. “People have said, ‘why don’t you tear it down?’ If we were to tear that building down, we would never be able to rebuild it because of its location,” Peterson pointed out.

When done, Tate’s is going to be an “excellent place” to enjoy the Connecticut River, she added.

The color scheme, white with black accents, Rocco LaMonica has said, will be subtle and modern.

Already, the roof has been replaced, white exterior stucco applied and painting completed at 80 Harbor Drive. “It gives the outside a freshened look,” Peterson said.

Needed work on the interior, including installing support beams and drywall, wasn’t identified during the engineering process, the acting director said. The LaMonicas will be responsible for cosmetic improvements, “which will paint the picture of what the restaurant will look like,” she added.

A glass-enclosed, visible working brew system, in conjunction with Eli Cannon’s Brewing Collective, which focuses on local craft beer, will be located on the first floor.

A takeout window for The Dragon Shack, the name a nod to Middletown High School students who will be working there, will offer lower-priced food for boardwalk and “boat-up” patrons. Twenty percent of the outdoor stand’s proceeds will be donated each year to the high school senior class.

The Good Neighbors Coffee & Creamery, a partnership with NoRA Cupcake Co. and Perkatory Coffee Roasters, will also be on site.

The restaurant is slated to launch in the spring.

Over the past year, anticipation has been growing for Tate’s to open. “We are just as excited to get this going and do this for the city and people beyond Middletown, and open this space up to something that will be really special to a lot of people,” LaMonica said.

Branford developer proposes 14 duplexes near Route 15 in Woodbridge

Austin Mirmina

WOODBRIDGE — A Branford developer has submitted an application to the Town Plan and Zoning Commission proposing to build more than a dozen duplexes near the Wilbur Cross Parkway.

And although Woodbridge is in dire need of more affordable housing options, the developer has said he's not interested in including those types of dwellings, according to one zoningofficial.

Litchfield Turnpike LLC, based in Branford, has proposed a 14-lot subdivision on Merritt Avenue for the purpose of building a residential development called the Enclave at Woodbridge.

The application proposes to subdivide about 3.5 acres of property at 10 and 14 Merritt Ave. for the purpose of building a residential development. The site is bounded by the Wilbur Cross Parkway to the south, Merritt Avenue to the north and Litchfield Turnpike to the west.

The proposed residential development would contain 14 duplex buildings with 28 dwelling units, plans show. Construction on two of the buildings is underway, with the developer opting to do a “free-split,” which, under state law, allows a division of a parcel to be exempt from the subdivision review process, Zoning Enforcement Officer Kristine Sullivan said.

Despite a lack of affordable housing in Woodbridge, the developer has said that none of the units for the proposed development will be pegged as affordable, according to Sullivan.

Sullivan said Tuesday she asked Litchfield Turnpike's engineer to see whether the developer would consider making affordable housing part of its plans.

"I was told they weren't going to consider it," Sullivan said.

Because the application was submitted as a subdivision, the TPZ can't require the developer to provide affordable housing, Sullivan told the board during Monday's meeting.

"The way your regulations are written ... it’s not something you can mandate to them," she said. "It would be nice if we saw something."

According to Sullivan, Litchfield Turnpike bought another piece of property on Fountain Street and might look to take advantage of the town's "opportunity housing" zoning regulations, which seek to promote greater housing choice in Woodbridge.

"Until he gets this other project underway and done, according to his project engineer, he wasn't go to do anything with that other piece," she said.

Woodbridge has been examining ways to increase its affordable housing to abide with a state law that requires a municipality to provide no less than 10 percent of its total housing stock as affordable housing. As of 2021, the percentage affordable housing in Woodbridge was 1.18 percent, according to the town's recently adopted Affordable Housing Plan.

Some residents have voiced concerns that the new housing development on Merritt Avenue would create difficult driving conditions in the area, with one Facebook user calling the project a "traffic nightmare." But a professional traffic study included in the application found that the development "will not impede or adversely affect traffic operations on the adjacent roadway network."

According to Sullivan, the town will hire a consultant to conduct a peer review on the traffic report included in the developer's proposal.

The application was approved by the town's Inland/Wetlands Agency in June. The TPZ will hold a public hearing on the application at its Jan. 3, 2023, meeting.

Meriden officials seek bids for Cedar Street bridge replacement

Michael Gagne

MERIDEN — The city is moving forward with plans to replace the Cedar Street bridge downtown.

The bridge carries traffic over Harbor Brook between Park and Pratt streets.

Earlier this year, the city received notice from the South Central Regional Council of Governments that it had been awarded a $3.8 million state Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program grant toward the project.

Last month, city officials advertised a request for proposals for the project. A pre-bid meeting will be held at City Hall on Dec. 15. Bidding is scheduled to close at 11 a.m. on Dec. 29, according to the advertised request for proposals.

City Engineer Brian Ennis explained the project is part of the larger ongoing Harbor Brook flood control project.

“The bridge is under-sized to pass the required flood flows, so we are replacing the bridge with a larger structure,” Ennis explained. “We’re going to close the road, completely demolish the existing bridge and put a new one in place.”

The project, Ennis said, is similar to the Cooper Street bridge replacement that was completed early this year. That project, which took nine months to complete, began in April 2021.

“We expect Cedar Street to go a little bit quicker because it’s a smaller structure,” Ennis said.

The existing bridge is around 35 feet long. The new structure will be 50 feet long, Ennis explained. The new bridge will be around six inches higher in elevation, Ennis said.

The width of the bridge and roadway will be unchanged.

“Cedar Street doesn’t get all that much traffic. So there’s no reason to widen it,” the city engineer said.

Ennis explained that during severe storms, water from the brook can over top the bridge.

“What happens during the recent storms we’ve had is that the water hits the existing structure. And It backs up into the Carabetta property up the street,” Ennis said. That backup of standing water leads to flooding in the area.

Widening the culvert underneath the bridge and elevating the structure should alleviate that flooding issue.

“This is going to help some of the residential flooding,” Ennis said.

The city has replaced multiple bridges over the course of the Harbor Brook project, replacing bridges along Bradley Avenue, Coe Avenue, Cooke Avenue and Cooper Street. The effort all saw the installation of relief culverts at Columbus Avenue and the Amtrak Railroad bridge, Ennis said.

“We will be done with bridges once we’re done with Cedar and Center,” Ennis said.

Replacing the aging Center Street bridge is a project several years in the making. That project previously had been scheduled to be completed ahead of Cedar Street.

However, the state Department of Transportation has asked the city and its consultant, WMC Consulting, to redo the bridge’s load rating.

“WMC Consulting is finishing up their revised analysis of the structure. Once that gets submitted to DOT, we should be getting ready to go out [to bid on a contractor] then,” Ennis said.

Ennis explained the state changed its procedure regarding assessing load ratings on planned bridge structures. Under the previous method, the contractor building the bridge would be responsible for providing the load rating. Now that’s part of design, rather than construction, Ennis said.

Ennis explained after bids are reviewed and a contract awarded to the lowest responsible bidder, the Cedar Street bridge work should begin in April and be complete by November.

Ennis said after that project is completed the city can proceed with its planned expansion of the Meriden Green.

“The Cedar Street bridge has to be completed before we can do the Green expansion. We only want to dig it up once,” Ennis said, adding that constructing the new bridge foundations will require excavating the area around that foundation.

Completing the Cedar Street bridge project before starting on the larger Center Street project would also facilitate a smoother transition while that roadway is closed.

Ennis said the Center Street project also involves the moving of underground and overhead utilities, including electric and gas lines, of which the Cedar Street project involves significantly less.

“So we can jump right into construction on Cedar,” Ennis said. Meanwhile, Center Street would likely require an additional nine to 12 months of work because of the utility relocation involved, Ennis explained.

Residents urge city to reject second Norwich business park

Norwich ― After hearing two hours of comments from residents ― mostly opposed to plans for a second business park in Occum ― the City Council-zoning board on Monday continued the public hearing to Dec. 19 on the proposed Business Master Plan District.

The Norwich Community Development Corp., though, is expected to vote at a special meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday to go ahead with the purchase of 384 acres of former farmland, woodland on Canterbury Turnpike, Scotland Road, Lawler Lane and Route 97 that abuts Interstate 395.

NCDC has an agreement to purchase the property for $3.55 million and will finalize a loan agreement for $3.1 million with New York-based Braavos Lending LLC.

The project also is slated to receive a $500,000 planning grant at the state Bond Commission Thursday. NCDC plans to apply for other state and federal grants in 2023 for what is being called Business Park North.

But on Monday, neighbors urged the City Council, which serves as the zoning board in Norwich, to delay or reject the plan as inappropriate for the quiet, rural residential Occum area. The public hearing will continue at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19 at Kelly Middle School auditorium.

NCDC Attorney Mark Block called the property the largest undeveloped assemblage in the city and it provides an opportunity for future development, creation of jobs and increased tax and utility revenues.

Block called the master plan “a concept plan,” with a request to approve the proposed 7,700-foot-long access road off I-395 Exit 18, with roundabouts designed to keep traffic off local residential streets.

The Commission on the City Plan recommended the City Council address six specific conditions: building height, minimum setbacks for buildings from property lines, signage, parking standards, perimeter buffer zones and lighting.

Project engineer Jeff Bord, of Bohler Engineering of West Hartford, said NCDC is asking for maximum building heights of 80 feet, minimum building setbacks from property lines of 20 feet and landscaped buffer zones from residential properties of at least 20 feet with a 4-foot-high berm with a six-foot privacy fence.

Residents said no buffers would block the views of an 80-foot-tall building. Neighbors objected to construction traffic and noise, business park traffic and disruptions to wildlife with the loss of natural habitat. Several speakers doubted the dedicated road could keep traffic off local roads.

Margee Charron, owner of Bubbles to Butterfly Swim School on Route 97 in Occum, which would abut the project, said when the project expands narrow School Street at her site, it will become unsafe for parents of “thousands and thousands” of children coming for swimming lessons.

Charron said she lives on Plain Hill Road, and there is constant Norwich Business Park traffic, including large trucks, using that narrow residential road to get to Stott Avenue into the current business park.

“This is a travesty to the residents,” Charron said. She said she is not opposed to businesses but said the industrial scale of the proposed business park would ruin the rural character of Occum.

Leon Baldwin of Old Canterbury Turnpike said the project should be put to a referendum for Norwich voters to decide. “I am highly against this,” he said.

Several speakers questioned NCDC’s claims that the current business park is nearly full. Some said they drove through the park and saw few cars at some businesses, and vacant buildings. Scotland Road resident and former Alderman Samuel Browning repeated his call to demolish the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium to provide 50 acres of flat developable land.

Lawler Lane resident Sue Jacobson expressed concerns ranging from displacement of wildlife to education costs if more residents move to Norwich to work in the park.

Jacobson also questioned whether the business park would improve the city’s tax base. If the road is built first, as proposed, and no development comes, the city would be left to maintain the road.

“My biggest concern is my taxes,” Jacobson said. “At the last meeting, they said there would be tax breaks that would go over a matter of years for someone that came in here. So really, it will be years in the future before we feel any benefits from this. Hopefully our children will feel the benefit from this, but it’s going to be very difficult for us.”

On Wednesday, NCDC President Kevin Brown said the agency is listening to the concerns of neighbors expressed at the zoning hearing and at a Nov. 9 neighborhood meeting.

“We listened, and we will continue to do everything we can to integrate and solve for these quality of life concerns,” Brown said in a statement, “while we simultaneously make sure that we put Norwich in an advantageous position to attract the type of economic development this city desperately needs.”

A look at what's in store for construction in 2023

Julie Strupp

2022 has been a mixed bag for the U.S. construction industry.

This past year brought skyrocketing inflation and interest rates, but contractors remained optimistic despite the rocky economic conditions.

Inflation was a major concern in 2022, climbing to a 40-year high in June. It was fueled by ongoing supply chain snarls brought on by pandemic stresses as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a result, prices jumped on key construction materials such as cement, diesel and asphalt. The industry also continued to struggle to attract enough workers in an overall tight labor market.

On a more positive note, backlog remained strong — although that metric went negative in October for the first time in more than a year. 

As the new year approaches, the big question on construction leaders’ minds is what’s in store for 2023. Top construction economists say much like in 2022, signals are mixed.

Architecture billings’ positive streak ends

When architects are busy, contractors likely are, too. The Architecture Billing Index from the American Institute of Architects is an indicator of future nonresidential construction spending nine to 12 months down the line. Numbers above 50 on the ABI indicate an increase in billings.

When architects are busy, contractors likely are, too. The Architecture Billing Index from the American Institute of Architects is an indicator of future nonresidential construction spending nine to 12 months down the line. Numbers above 50 on the ABI indicate an increase in billings.

The ABI remained positive in 2022 until October, when it took a sharp downward turn. That could indicate that recession fears and inflation have finally started to manifest in the industry, and may translate to a drop in available construction work in the latter end of next year. 

Nonetheless, Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu said the industry lag means construction will likely stay strong in the coming year regardless of economic conditions.

“For many contractors, 2023 does not stand to be the problematic year, it’s more likely to be in 2024 or 2025 if in fact the economy enters recession in 2023,” Basu said.

Construction backlog remains steady

Inflation has plagued the industry and COVID-19 has continued to impact supply chains, causing materials prices to swing wildly. While lumber and plywood prices were a huge concern at the beginning of the year, that has since eased and cement and diesel costs are now giving contractors grief. That volatility makes it difficult for contractors to plan projects, and it has not been uniform across construction materials.

Simonson expects price hikes and shortages to ease for some products, and to remain volatile for others.

“Cement and concrete products are likely to have continuing shortages as the nation has not added any cement production since 2009 while demand is growing, particularly from infrastructure projects,” Simonson said.

Labor shortages continue

Construction has increasingly struggled to attract enough workers, and upcoming federal spending promises to only strengthen demand. The multiple-year-long federal investment may also help workers view construction as a stable long-term career prospect and encourage them to get into the industry, Basu said.

Labor has been an ongoing challenge in the past year, and while Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed more construction jobs were filled and fewer workers quit in October, the number of open jobs ticked back up in November. 

As the overall jobs market shows signs of weakening, the industry may be able to benefit from more people seeking work. Still, upcoming federal spending promises to keep demand for construction workers high. Simonson expects labor availability to remain the top challenge for most contractors, with high job opening rates and rising wages continuing into the new year. 

Construction input costs rise

Inflation, high wages and other price increases have cut into contractors’ bottom lines in 2022. In the past year input costs — that is, the prices of materials, labor and other project expenses — have not kept up with final costs of a project, or the amount billed to the owner. However, both indicators are trending in a positive direction for contractors. 

The coming year will probably bring selective reductions in materials costs and supply chain bottlenecks, Simonson said, but despite some easing for builders, he still expects that construction input costs are likely to continue rising more than overall consumer prices. Happily for contractors, as bid prices tick up, that indicates owners are willing to pay more.

Though contractors’ profits are squeezed, they should be able to make projects pencil out, according to JLL.

“Though the input-bid spread will eventually be covered, recessionary fears are likely to slow the rate at which costs are passed on,” according to JLL’s 2022 H2 Outlook report. “However, the long duration of many projects — especially larger infrastructure and similar funded by the IIJA — are likely to provide sufficient opportunities for the market to maintain heightened activity levels even with more narrow margins.

As Energy Prices Soar, Avangrid Places Blame on Companies Generating the Electricity

High electric bills have become a fact of life for Connecticut residents, who paid the highest bills in the country outside of Hawaii in 2021, and combined with lingering frustrations over lengthy power outages after recent damaging storms, so is outright public anger at United Illuminating and Eversource.

It was no surprise then, that announcements that electric bills would rise between 40 and 50 percent in January would spark a fresh wave of outrage from Connecticut’s electric customers.  And explanations from the companies and state officials that the hikes are simply passing along the high cost of buying energy haven’t placated customer anger towards the companies.

But Avangrid, the parent company of United Illuminating – which serves 17 towns in the Bridgeport and New Haven areas – said that anger is misplaced, and should be directed at power generators that they say are allowed to operate with too little scrutiny.

Avangrid: Generators should open their books

Catherine Stempien, President and CEO of Avangrid Networks, said the supply rate increases are hitting everyone in New England’s deregulated electricity market, regardless of how their state procures electricity. 

In Maine – where customers of the state’s largest electric company will see their supply rate jump nearly 50 percent in January, on top of an 83 percent increase last January –  the state is responsible. In Connecticut, the utilities participate in an auction overseen by PURA and OCC.

The key issue, she said, is that nobody has real transparency into the generators’ costs. The companies can say that they’re just passing along the cost of fuel, or recovering other costs, and nobody knows if that’s true, she said.

“Our delivery rates are very highly regulated by PURA. Every line item that we have in the books and records is reviewed and challenged by [PURA] staff and intervenors. It’s a very open and transparent process,” Stempien said.

Avangrid pointed to the profits of the five companies that bid to provide standard service through United Illuminating – the supply rate that customers pay if they don’t sign with a third-party supplier. 

NextEra reported more than $4.7 billion in adjusted earnings in the first three quarters of 2022, and more than $2 billion when excluding the profits from its subsidiary utility company Florida Power and Light. Its CFO Kirk Crews told investors that high gas prices have driven demand for new renewables from the company.

Constellation reported adjusted earnings of more than $2 billion for the same period. DTE reported $930 million. And Vistra reported adjusted earnings of more than $2.3 billion, telling investors that their outlook is improving as rates rise in the Northeast and Midwest, and commodity prices like natural gas start to decline.

The biggest of all, global oil trader Vitol, made close to $4.5 billion in the first half of 2022, after earning $4.2 billion in all of 2021, according to a report from Reuters on the finances of the privately-held company.

When utilities owned their own power plants before deregulation in 1998, regulators had the same level of scrutiny over how much they spent on generation, she said.

“Now with the market, nobody has any idea what the actual costs of some of these generators and the fuel suppliers are,” Stempien said. “They just say, that’s the market price, and we’re subject to that.”

Generators push back

Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association – an organization that represents generators in the region and supports competitive markets – said that those companies are all very large with diverse holdings. 

Avangrid, which is part of “massive multinational utility” Iberdrola, is the same way, he said. The difference for them is that they are effectively guaranteed a profit on the distribution side, while none of the companies competing to provide generation are.

Avangrid – which has expanded into offshore wind development in recent years – reported earnings of $749 million for the first three quarters of 2022, up from $609 million for the same period in 2021, and almost as much as the $780 million profit it reported for all of 2021.

“At the top corporate level, all that may be true, and they may be profitable companies overall,” Dolan said. “But that doesn’t mean that the divisions providing generation supply here in New England are seeing the same thing.”

Dolan said that after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, increases in the cost of gas and oil – as well as materials like lithium for batteries and copper – had to be “eaten” by suppliers who were still locked in to prices that had been set in 2021 or earlier when their costs were much lower.

“Now that is starting to be reflected back in the higher standard offer rates,” Dolan said. “But you are still seeing companies who are providing electricity at far below the cost that it takes to produce it. It’s a natural tension within the market.”

Avangrid executive Stempien said some generators could be playing the market, benefiting from the high market prices driven by the price of natural gas – which fuels a majority of the generation in New England. But Stempien said she can’t know for sure without additional transparency.

“I think it’s probably a combination of higher commodity prices and taking advantage of the market,” she said.

Is there a way forward in a deregulated market?

State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, said it’s become clear that Connecticut’s decision at the turn of the century to deregulate and force the utilities to sell their power plants has had unintended consequences. 

It may have saved customers a few cents per kilowatt-hour over the past 25 years, but it’s also loaded them with more risk, exposing them to global market forces through the unregulated supply side of their bill, he said.

“Now, it’s sort of a perfect storm, with a war 5,000 miles away added to the winter reliability issues we’ve had for years now,” Needleman said. “What you have is, what was known to be a possibility in an unregulated market has turned into a reality.”

Dolan said that how standard offer rates are procured is up to the states, and now in Connecticut, the system effectively uses “snapshots in time” to set the rates for six months. There are ways to “smooth” out that volatility by layering in longer time periods.

“That means you’re going to limit how high the price will jump in any one procurement,” Dolan said. “But as prices drop, it also means the price [for customers] isn’t going to drop as quickly. The balance that only policymakers can really address is what level of risk tolerance is appropriate for customers to bear.”

Stempien said she thinks the way forward is a hybrid between vertically-integrated, regulated utilities, and the deregulated market Connecticut has today. The benefits of a vertically-integrated utility, which owns its own generation, is that all of the fixed costs of power plants are tightly regulated, and would act as a hedge against the volatile price swings of natural gas.

Needleman said some of his colleagues have suggested “nationalizing” the utilities, so the state owns them as a public trust. Others have raised the idea of reversing deregulation, going back to vertically-integrated utilities that own both the distribution lines and power plants – all regulated by the state. Needleman isn’t convinced either is feasible.

“How would you do that? Are we going to buy out Eversource’s interest and UI’s interest in the grid?” Needleman questioned. “We’re talking billions and billions of dollars. And, quite frankly, the state doesn’t have a great track record of running that many things.”

Asked what the motivation is for Avangrid, a company on its way to posting record profits for the second consecutive year, to make significant changes to the electric market, Stempien said it’s in their interest as a company headquartered in Connecticut to see the communities they’re a part of succeed. Generators, she said, are “in and out,” while United Illuminating has been in Connecticut for over 100 years.

“It sounds a little corny, but it’s truly what we believe,” Stempien said. “We think the pairing of our interest and being embedded in the community helps make it a win-win for everybody.”

More practically, Stempien said it’s in their interest for customers to be able to afford to pay their bills.

“If we don’t have customers to pay their bills, we don’t exist as a company,” Stempien said. “It’s in our interest to have a robust community in which our employees and our customers can thrive.”

Needleman said he understands the electric companies don’t like “taking it on the chin” for a rate increase that isn’t their fault, but they’re both multinational conglomerates that aren’t seeing their profits drop.

Still, he said he also wants to look at how Connecticut can open more transparency and control into the supply costs of electricity.