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CT Construction Digest Wednesday January 11, 2023

Winsted voters approve borrowing additional $2.3 million for water projects

Emily M. Olson

WINSTED — Voters have chosen to approve borrowing an additional $2.3 million to supplement a $6.2 million project for new water mains and improved water storage tanks on Wallens Hill Road and Crystal Lake.

A referendum saw 209 votes in favor of the additional borrowing versus 170 votes against. 

The projects first were proposed in 2021 by the Water and Sewer Commission. Costs to replace a water storage tank on Wallens Hill Road, and build a second tank at Crystal Lake, have increased since the projects first were proposed.

The commission in March 2022 received approval from the Board of Selectmen to borrow $6.2 million for the project, which includes replacement of an aging water storage tank on Wallens Hill, construction of a second, smaller storage tank at Crystal Lake and replacing 4,000 feet of water mains on streets served by the water and sewer plant. 

The commission is borrowing the money from the state Department of Public Health’s Drinking Water Revolving Fund to pay for the project, which will be paid back over a 20-year schedule.

To pay for the improvements, customer rate increases will be phased in over the next five years and will apply to a customer’s quarterly base rate, fixtures and a grinder pump maintenance fee. The loans will be paid back using those fees. 

In November, Director of Public Works Jim Rollins presented selectmen with an explanation of the cost increases and the need to borrow more funds.

The original $6.2 million, he said, was based on estimates the commission developed more than three years ago. Since then, the cost for materials has gone up, and the project costs have increased by more than 35 percent, for a total of $8.5 million.

Wilton receives $1.4M to prevent flooding at high school sports fields

J.D. Freda

WILTON — The town was awarded $1.425 million to cover the design and construction costs of a storm mitigation system for the high school sports complex, Department of Public Works head Frank Smeriglio said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., helped advocate for the funds, which were awarded through a Congressional Member-Directed Community Project Grant.

"We are extremely appreciative to Congressman Himes and his staff for their efforts leading to this award," First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said in a statement.

Smeriglio said the town will work with Boston-based athletic vendor Stantec for the design phase, although the price has not yet been finalized. Once the design for the project is complete, the contract for construction on the high school complex will go out to bid.

The total will be used strictly to address storm mitigation in and around the high school complex, according to Smeriglio.

The need was first determined after Hurricane Ida severely damaged the turf football field and then-newly unveiled track worth nearly $1 million.

In September 2021, the Board of Selectmen set aside $300,000 to clean up the severe stormwater flooding and infill displacement on Veterans Memorial Stadium at Wilton High School.

Smeriglio first presented the recommendations for the storm mitigation system to the selectmen in April 2022. The DPW director said Friday the project will be completed in coordination with the Parks and Recreation Department and its director, Steve Pierce.

"Member-Directed Community Project Grants are highly competitive. We have successfully leveraged the program by receiving awards two years in a row," Vanderslice said in a statement. "We have aggressively focused on grants as a means of improving or creating new infrastructure while limiting the growth of property taxes. Since September 2018, we have been awarded approximately $26 million of such grants."

Cost to convert office building into Wallingford PD could be more than $34.3M

Kate Ramunni

WALLINGFORD — The Police Station Steering Committee on Tuesday approved the amount of money it will ask the Town Council to bond to renovate an office building into a police headquarters, but it won't be the total amount the project will cost.

The committee, at a special meeting, approved a motion to ask the council to bond $34,357,000 to renovate the building last used to house 3M offices into a new police station at 100 Barnes Road. It's likely the committee will make its presentation to the council at the council's meeting Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall Council Chambers.

The committee has been working on plans for the new station since the town bought the property in July 2021 for $1.76 million. It hired Downes Construction of New Britain to act as construction manager for the project and Jacunski Humes of Berlin as the architect. Representatives from both companies were at Tuesday's meeting to discuss the final numbers that the committee will bring to the council.

The $34,357,000 figure includes both hard and soft construction costs, as well as $3 million for the property purchase and design fees, said Town Engineer Alison Kapushinski, who chairs the committee. It does not include the cost of communication equipment, she said, because it has not yet been decided whether the new station will have a rooftop antenna or an antenna in a standalone tower. 

The committee has been grappling with that issue for months. Initially, it was told that the tower wouldn't be necessary, but now it looks like it may be, which would add to the cost of the project. The question of whether the antenna can be mounted on the roof depends upon the design specifications of the roof as to the weight it can handle. 

The radio equipment and tower is expected to run from $1 million to $1.5 million, Kapushinski said, which is not included in the $34,357,000 total.

Mayor William Dickinson Jr. said he is hesitant to bring that to the council right now because the committee still doesn’t have a solid number. “I hesitate to vote on it until we have hard amounts,” he said. “Right now I have no confidence” in the amount quoted from the vendor, he said. 

The project is made up of several different areas, including hard costs, soft costs and contingencies. The hard costs are the costs associated with the renovation of the physical structure, such as steel and construction materials. Soft costs include the costs to furnish the building, and the contingency is in essence funds that are used for unanticipated costs that crop up during the work.

The hard costs for the project are $27,627,467, said Jeffrey Anderson, vice president of preconstruction. Downes went out to bid for different aspects of the construction, and almost all of those contracts are being awarded to the low bidders, Anderson said. One contract for the integrated technology system hasn't yet been finalized, Anderson said, and they continue to vet the ability of the low bidder to be able to complete the project. To be on the safe side, Anderson said, the amount included in the bond request for that contract is equal to the bid of the second lowest bidder to assure there is enough money included in the bond to complete the work. If the low bidder is awarded the contract, Anderson said, the difference between the amount of the low bid and the second lowest bid will be returned to the town.

The rest of the money will go toward soft costs and contingency. Downes Construction is not involved in the awarding of contracts for the soft costs, such as furniture and shelving. That will be done by the committee, Kapushinski said.

Affordable housing developers close to approval for conversion of West Hartford Inn into 44 apartments

Michael Puffer

A proposal by affordable housing developers to convert and expand the West Hartford Inn into 44 apartments is nearing approval. 

A site plan submitted by WHI Camelot LLC can be approved by Town Planner Todd Dumais once the town’s Design Review Advisory Committee finishes its review, which is expected as early as the committee’s scheduled meeting Thursday.

WHI Camelot lists Honeycomb as its principal in its state business filing. WHI Camelot’s listed business address in the Weatogue section of Simsbury is shared by affordable housing developer Vesta Corp. Vesta and Honeycomb have partnered previously.

The plan submitted by WHI Camelot calls for “adaptive reuse” of the existing four-story hotel and new construction over the footprint of an attached restaurant. The 0.67-acre West Hartford Inn property at 900 Farmington Ave. is located just off the northeast corner of downtown West Hartford.

Nearly 80% of apartments will be affordable and the proposal meets the standards of the states 8-30g affordable housing law, according to WHI Camelot’s site plan narrative, which anticipates government financing for the project. The redevelopment will provide modern features and amenities, new landscaping and parking in an updated building envelope, creating curb appeal compatible with the surrounding neighborhood, according to the application.

It will also provide opportunity in an area without adequate affordable housing, according to the application.

“The lack of affordable housing options in this part of West Hartford has left few opportunities for residents and families to gain access to affordable housing proximate to the center,” the application said. “With an array of amenities, jobs and educational resources, this section of West hartford provides ample opportunities for residents to thrive.”

The apartments will have “resilient” flooring with wood appearance and modern, open kitchen/living rooms, along with “crisp, clean finishes in the bathrooms,” according to the plan. The apartment community will contain a fitness center, community room and computer rooms, in addition to shared laundry rooms.

The location affords access to bus transportation, the Trout Brook Walking Trail and a short walk to downtown shopping, according to the plan.

WHI Camelot’s plan said it has a purchase agreement with the current owner, Lisaraj LLC.

Lisaraj paid $1.49 million for the property in 2012.