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CT Construction Digest Wednesday February 26, 2020

Lamont, town and city officials, agree on bonding for roads
Ken Dixon 
HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday afternoon emerged from his Capitol office with representatives of town and city lobbying organizations, after a meeting where they agreed on getting $625 million in spring road-maintenance and municipal aid money approved by late next week.
“We’re pushing the legislature right now to get the ($1.5-billion) bond bill done by March 6,” Lamont said after the closed-door meeting. “If they can’t get the whole thing done by March 6, we have a special letter that went out to at least get the town road aid done by the 6th.”
At a minimum, Lamont wants the $625 million available to be allocated when the State Bond Commission meets in mid-March. He said that while the entire annual $1.5-billion legislation is close to being approved by legislative leaders, Lamont wants the road aid at the ready.The funding had been literally held hostage during the long-delayed discussion for the last nine months on trucks-only highway tolling. But now that Lamont’s toll proposal collapsed, he and leaders of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Council of Small Towns said expediting the annual funding is crucial to start to imminent spring and summer road-repair season.
Michael Freda, the North Haven first selectman who is the current president of the CCM, said the meeting with Lamont was productive. “These are critically important issues for municipalities,” Freda said. “Many of us have had maintenance projects that needed to be done that we could not afford to delay from a public safety standpoint. This was a good example today of a very efficient, positive meeting.”
“This is absolutely critical to making sure that our towns can go out to bid for projects that need to begin in the spring,” said Betsy Gara, executive director of COST.
Lamont said he and his budget staff is still contemplating where they will subtract about $200 million a year in expenses that would have been offset by tolling the largest trucks that will continue to travel through Connecticut without paying. In fact, out-of-state trucks contribute about $40 million in taxes and fees, that amounts to about $17,000 per truck.
Lamont told reporters that a now-failed Republican plan to finance his 10-year, $19-billion infrastructure proposal would have added another $700 million in long-term borrowing onto the backs of taxpayers. The current legislation will include $200 million in borrowing for highway and bridge work.
“We’re going to go over the bond bill in some detail before the Bond Commission meeting, we’ve got $1.5-billion in new allocations, so we’re going to be able to take care of the key needs,” Lamont said. “Borrowing money on the backs of taxpayers to pay for transportation was, let’s say, less than optimal...as opposed to having large tractor trailers, most of which come out of state to pay for it. That said, the legislature decided not to act. I’m going to act. We’re going to fix our transportation plan in a methodical way and I’m going to do it out of bonding.”

Developer says Hartford’s DoNo project could break ground in April
Joe Cooper
he Stamford developer of Hartford’s four Downtown North (DoNo) parcels on Tuesday said construction could begin on the mixed-use project sometime in April.
Randy Salvatore, founder and CEO of RMS Cos., said his development firm last week filed a site plan with the city of Hartford for “Parcel C” along Main Street, which aims to build about 270 apartment units, ground-level retail and a parking garage with 330 spaces on surface parking lots surrounding Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
Plans for the first phase of development, estimated at $46 million, have grown by about 30 or so residential units in recent weeks, city officials say. The quasi-public Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) has pledged $12 million towards RMS' first-phase development.
“If all goes well with our approval process, I would expect that within the next six to eight weeks that you will start to see some activity on the site and we will be full blown into construction with the idea that this first phase of about 270 apartments would be delivered in about 18 months,” Salvatore said Tuesday morning at real estate promoter CREW CT’s breakfast-forum on planned development in downtown Hartford at the G. Fox Building.
Erin Howard, the city’s director of economic development, who also participated on CREW CT’s panel Tuesday, said the site plans submitted by Salvatore will now be considered for approval by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. A new rendering of the DoNo project will be available sometime next week, Howard said.
In an effort to meet residential market demands, Salvatore said living spaces at the estimated $200-million DoNo development -- housing up to 1,000 new apartments when the entire project is completed in the next six or so years -- will be “highly amenitized” with luxury features unseen in Hartford or across the state. In particular, Salvatore last month said he is committed to bringing a grocery store to “Parcel B” in the second phase of the development.
“Because of the fact that this building is on the other side of [Interstate] 84, I recognize that we need to provide a reason for residents to go across 84 and to live in this development,” he said. “That is so critical to residents today, particularly in urban areas, they are looking for everything that you can imagine.”
Salvatore, which the city selected as its preferred developer for the DoNo parcels, began to move forward with the project last summer after a Superior Court judge discharged the liens on the parcels around Dunkin’ Donuts Park. RMS has recently been at the site conducting inspections and other due-diligence work, city officials say.
Under Mayor Luke Bronin’s leadership, the Stamford developer, who broke into downtown when he bought and redeveloped downtown’s Hartford’s historic Goodwin Hotel in recent years, said he views Hartford as a “development friendly” city that encourages community feedback and collaboration.
“They understand the process and what it takes in order for development to happen,” he said. “You need to get community buy-in to get community input in order to develop a successful project.”
He continued: “That process, that we have gone through, been at it for the past few years … has been an amazing process and the result has been a project that is a lot better than what originally I envisioned for it … .”

Old Mystic bridge closure may be permanent
Joe Wojtas
Mystic — After 10 years of unsuccessful efforts to repair and reopen the closed North Stonington Road bridge, it appears it will stay closed permanently.
That’s because the town of Stonington, which tentatively had appropriated money for its $318,000 share of the work over the past years, has decided not to do so in the proposed 2020-21 budget due to other capital project needs. The money was removed from the budget in past years after Groton failed to appropriate its share.
Meanwhile, the town of Groton, which has appropriated money in two years Stonington did not, does plan to include its $318,000 share for the bridge in Town Manager John Burt’s proposed 2020-21 budget.
The bridge was closed in 2010 after a March flood damaged the small span that connects the two towns and frequently was used by the Old Mystic Fire Department North Stonington Road station to respond to calls. A previous project to repair the bridge was stopped when the contractor doing the work discovered the damage was much more extensive than thought by the engineering firm that designed the work. The two towns since have been unable to agree in the same years to appropriate the money needed to gain state funding for the remaining 50% of the project.
Burt said Tuesday that he decided to include funding in the 2020-21 budget because he has been “receiving many calls/comments/emails from residents asking about the bridge in the last few months, many more than I have in the last couple of years."
“I think people realize the state funding portion of the project won’t be there forever. People have also expressed concerns about delays for the trucks from Old Mystic Fire to get around without the bridge. The route they have to take without the bridge includes a sharp angle,” he said.
Stonington First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough said Tuesday that last spring the Board of Finance, of which she was a member at the time, had agreed that would be the last time it would allocate money for the bridge because of other projects that would be coming up in the 2020-21 and beyond.
Chesebrough’s proposed budget includes $15,000 to close the bridge permanently.
She added that in past years, the town has been able to use some of its undesignated fund surplus to help pay for additional capital improvements but the town can’t do that this year without endangering its bond rating.
Chesebrough’s decision came as 100 Old Mystic residents submitted a petition this week to the finance board calling on it to restore the funding to fix the bridge.
“If Stonington officials think that our lack of complaints over the years equaled a lack of concern or interest, they would be mistaken. Instead, we have had confidence, so far misplaced, over these past 10 years since the bridge was damaged by flooding that the two towns would work together to get this done. Instead, we’ve seen a see-saw of financial commitment and withdrawal,” the petition letter states.
“It’s hard to understand just what is going on, especially when the state DOT has consistently been willing over the years to fund one-half the project, offering an estimated $600,000. But we are told Groton officials are concerned the state might decide not to fund half the project in the future, which realistically would mean it would never be done. This may be a last chance,” the letter added.
The residents also warned Stonington officials that the letter is “to serve notice that Stonington and its officials would share responsibility should there be unnecessarily serious damage, injury or loss of life if fire trucks are delayed in reaching us because of the closed bridge. To us, the closed bridge is more than an inconvenience and an eyesore. We expect officials of both towns to take this seriously, because we certainly do.”
Chesebrough said she felt it was time for the town to make a final decision on the bridge instead of going back and forth each year. She said residents could ask the Board of Finance to restore money for the bridge at the April 9 public hearing on the budget.
Chesebrough said she understands the frustration of residents who live near the bridge and feel it is a safety hazard, as well as the longtime concerns of Old Mystic Fire Chief Ken Richards, who said the closure delays his department's response to calls, greatly increases the distance to a fire hydrant in the area around the bridge and creates a safety hazard for his trucks trying to turn onto Route 27 near the Old Mystic General store. But she said she is trying to balance all of the pressing needs facing the town.
She added that later this year, she expects the town will have to ask residents to approve up to a $10 million bond to fund needed upgrades to the towns’ sewer system and treatment plants.
She said she already has eliminated $2.5 million in capital improvement projects and expects the finance board to cut up to another $2 million.
Other projects being considered for capital improvement funding include $1.5 million for sidewalks throughout town, including along Route 1 in Pawcatuck; $180,000 in new police cruisers, and $60,000 to partly pay for installing dashboard cameras in cruisers; $1 million in sewer system upgrades; $100,000 for a climate change program; $200,000 for repairs to West Broad Street School, and numerous repairs, including $2.6 million for heating and air conditioning units, at the middle and high schools.
A total of $377,500 also is in the proposed capital budget to pay to replace the Lantern Hill Road bridge. Chesebrough said that work is needed because if the road has to be closed, there would be a lengthy detour for emergency vehicles.