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CT Construction Digest Wednesday July 20, 2022

Connecticut attorney general fines Eversource $1.8 million over accusations utility deceptively marketed natural gas connections

Stephen Singer

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong on Tuesday fined Eversource Energy Inc. $1.8 million, the second state penalty in seven months over alleged deceptive marketing practices related to natural gas connections.

“Eversource misled homeowners to get them to switch to natural gas,” he said in a statement. “These high-pressure tactics are unacceptable coming from any business, much less a regulated utility.”

Eversource will pay $1.6 million to Operation Fuel, which helps low-income ratepayers, and $200,000 to the attorney general’s office for consumer education and enforcement, Tong said.

Eversource spokeswoman Tricia Modifica said the Berlin-based utility is “pleased to resolve this matter in a cooperative and constructive way by providing help to utility customers through Operation Fuel and the attorney general’s consumer education fund.”

The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in December fined Eversource $1.8 million for failing to disclose whether marketing materials for gas connections were paid for by shareholders, ratepayers or both, in violation of Connecticut law.

Tong opened an investigation following a report in August 2021 by columnist Kevin Rennie of The Hartford Courant about notices from Eversource claiming homeowners in South Windsor would be unable to connect to natural gas when their road was resurfaced due to a “paving moratorium.”

Rennie reported that an Eversource representative later said the marketing materials referencing repaving and a cash back offer deadline were sent in error and the utility apologized.

Following its investigation last year, PURA said Eversource made “little, if any, good faith efforts” to achieve compliance “aside from a complete halt to its marketing efforts in this area.” Regulators said Eversource understood its obligation under state law “because nowhere in the record does Eversource demonstrate any instances where it inquired about the meaning of the statute” with PURA.

PURA calculated the fine as $500 for each of the 3,594 people who received marketing materials that did not include required advertising disclosures.

Waterbury-Oxford Airport to get $40 million makeover, set to create 200-plus jobs

Luther Turmelle

A Los Angeles-based business aviation company is preparing for taking off with a multi-phase project development project at Waterbury-Oxford Airport that will created hundreds of construction jobs and 202 permanent aviation jobs.

Clay Lacy Aviation is in the midst of expanding the airport’s footprint, having contractors truck in enough fill to the area near the intersection of Christian Road and Juliano Drive in Oxford. Sometimme before the end of the year, it will be able begin the first phase of construction, said Chris Hand, senior vice president of the company’s Northeast Region.

The first phase will be built on an 11-acre site, according to Hand.

The company already has an aircraft maintenance facility at the airport.

“The goal is to grow nationally, on both coasts and in between,” Hand said. Clay Lacy Aviation has signed a 30-year lease with the Connecticut Airport Authority.

Ultimately, when all three phases are completed, there will be 202 direct or permanent jobs created, he said. An additional 420 construction jobs will created during the three phases.

Clay Lacy Aviation’s annual payroll will be in excess of $32 million.

The first phase of what will ultimately be a $40 million expansion by the company at the airport includes a 40,000 square foot hangar and 5,000 square feet of office space, Hand said. It is expected to be open before the winter of 2023, he said.

“Our clients like to have hangar space lined up before the winter arrives,” Hand said.

The second phase calls for another 40,000 square foot hangar and another 5,000 square feet of office space, which Hand said is expected be ready by the spring or summer of 2024. The third and final of the expansion calls for another 40,000 square foot hangar and an additional 5,000 square feet of office space, which should be ready sometime during the fourth quarter of 2024, he said.

By the time the project is complete, it will cover 15 acres and fuel facility capable of holding 40,000 gallons. The hangars will be heated and offer drive up access to the clients whose private jets are stored there.

Michael Boyd, a Colorado-based airline consultant, said general aviation “is the one growth area out there.”

“This a premier firm and a real home run for that airport,” Boyd said.

By the time the project is complete, it will cover 15 acres and also include a fuel facility capable of holding 40,000 gallons.

In a copy of a company brochure made available to Hearst Connecticut Media this week, is trying to woo tenants for its office and hangar space claiming the facility is 30 percent less expensive than other general aviation airports in the New York metro area.

“New York airports are traditionally at full hangar capacity,” the brochure claims.

Tweed New Haven airport seeks 507 more on-site parking spaces — a 54.7 percent increase

Mark Zaretsky

NEW HAVEN — The operator of Tweed New Haven Regional Airport has applied for city approval to add 507 additional on-site parking spaces, which would raise the parking capacity at Tweed from the current 927 spaces to 1,434 spaces.

Avports, LLC’s application for the 54.7 percent increase in parking capacity would help accommodate the continued growth of Avelo Airlines, which has gone from an initial six Florida destinations last November to 14 destinations today.

The application will be on the City Plan Commission agenda in August, said Tweed New Haven Airport Authority Executive Director Sean Scanlon.

“This is a good problem to have,” Scanlon said. “It’s because this service has been incredibly well-received and we’ve taken this historic approach in order to deal with it.”

“We’ve still never reached capacity,” Scanlon said. “The tools that we’ve put in place so far, Step 1 was the ParkHVN.com website, just getting people to think about parking” as a way to control it, he said.

Tweed considered but later backed away from a proposal to add an off-site parking lot.

“The second step was our Union Station arrangement, which on a typical day we now have 20 or 30 cars parking there, as opposed to here (at the airport,) which does free up some space,” Scanlon said.

The third option — expansion of the on-site capacity — “does create more space but also puts in some waiting capacity,” Scanlon said. “If we create more parking, it actually ends up being less traffic. Our traffic studies actually show that this plan reduces traffic instead of creating more,” he said.

“As Tweed airport continues to add new affordable flights to more destinations, we understand how important it is that we also expand parking options for flyers and take steps to reduce the traffic impact on surrounding neighborhoods — that’s what these changes are all about,” said Jorge Roberts, CEO of Avports.

“These changes will improve on our environmental impact, using filtration systems and state of the art materials in order to ensure that nearby wetlands are better preserved, and that the temporary parking will later be removed to reclaim those grassland areas for airport use,” Roberts said.

But at an airport that is entirely below potential flood elevation, does that increase the chance of eventual flooding?

“That’s what we’re going to City Plan for,” said Scanlon. “We’re also proposing to use permeable pavement with filtration, which is better than traditional asphalt, and we’re working with the city to make sure that we can meet our growing needs in the most sustainable way.”

While maps submitted to the City Plan Commission appear to show that all of the additional parking is on the New Haven side of the airport, which is owned by New Haven but located partially in East Haven, East Haven Town Attorney Michael Luzzi said the town was informed of the application.

“They did notify us as they are required to,” Luzzi said. “We are monitoring the situation. Our town engineer is monitoring the application.”

He declined to comment further.

The East Haven Town Council scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday night to consider hiring an outside attorney to assist its legal staff in reviewing matters related to Tweed expansion. Luzzi also declined to comment on that.

Pedestrian bridge crossing Bethel’s train tracks is among the ways to enhance downtown, experts say

Kendra Baker

BETHEL — Even after praising the way Bethel has developed its downtown, experts say the town could further enhance accessibility for pedestrians.

One recommendation is the construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting the east side of Bethel’s train station and the west side of the tracks.

An over-the-tracks pedestrian bridge, which has been an idea for at least a decade, was one of the topics discussed during and after a recent transit-oriented community walk through downtown Bethel.

The June 30 walk highlighting Bethel’s downtown revitalization efforts was hosted by Desegregate Connecticut as part of the pro-home advocacy group’s ongoing efforts to encourage more housing development around transportation hubs in the state.

“Bethel is a great example of smart, long-term local planning that recognizes it has a huge asset of a train line,” Desegregate Connecticut’s director, Peter Harrison, told Hearst Connecticut Media.

Town Planner Beth Cavagna guided the Bethel audit walk, reviewing different properties, architectural and density-related improvements along the way.

Potential improvement and development areas — like the proposed pedestrian bridge connecting the train station to Diamond Avenue — were also noted during as well as after the walk.

“That pedestrian overhead pass would definitely help with the development of that area,” Bethel’s economic development director, Janice Chrzecijanek, said during a follow-up Desegregate Connecticut virtual workshop last week.

The pedestrian bridge has appeared in several town plans — including in Bethel’s 2020 Plan of Conservation and Development and 2016 Bethel Forward master plan — but hasn’t moved past planning stages.

Chrzecijanek said the estimated cost of the project is around $7 million, and the town has been looking for ways to fund its construction.

“Resources on our side are a little tight, so we’re kind of looking around to figure out how we can apply for grants for that overhead pass,” she said. “But even finding a grant writer is really difficult at this point.”

Another setback has been lack of involvement from agencies needed in order to turn the bridge idea into a reality.

“We would need Metro-North’s cooperation, funding through the state and multi-level approvals,” Cavagna told Hearst Connecticut Media. “We’re still in the planning phases of that.”

Other recommendations

In addition to highlighting the town’s successful transit-oriented development, the audit walk through Bethel was designed to open people’s eyes to potential areas of improvement — such as the need for the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks.

A number of other recommendations were shared during Desegregate Connecticut’s virtual workshop, including the addition of a crosswalk at the entrance of the municipal parking lot on Depot Place.

For Durant Avenue — a corridor between Bethel’s train station and downtown businesses that features homes, trees and lit sidewalks on one side, and industrial development on the other — bike lanes and the addition of sidewalks and landscaping on the industrial side of the street were suggested.

There was also a recommendation to convert some industrial land into multi-family housing.

For Bethel’s main street, Greenwood Avenue, audio crosswalk prompts for the visually impaired were recommended, along with additional benches and trash cans.

In addition to holding businesses accountable for weed removal, repainting of crosswalks were suggested for the area of Barnum Square and School Street.

Gales Ferry residents voice concerns on proposed dredging facility

Kevin Gorden

Ledyard — Roughly 250 residents, mostly from the Gales Ferry area, met face-to-face and virtually with officials who hope to build a dredging material processing facility on a portion of the former Dow Chemical plant property in town.

Several members of the public aired their concerns during the sometimes heated meeting at the Ledyard Middle School Auditorium on Monday night, which occurred after a June 15 meeting on the project was canceled due to an overflow crowd gathered at the Bill Library.

Officials with Cashman Dredging and Marine Contracting out of Quincy, Mass., purchased the 165-acre Dow site along Route 12 in Gales Ferry in May. The proposed dredging operation would use 10 acres of the property. A polystyrene manufacturer, Americas Styrenics, continues to lease 23 acres. The remaining land would be open to other tenants.

Alan Perrault, vice president of Jay Cashman Inc., Cashman's parent company, outlined the proposed dredging facility while he and other project officials took questions during the more than 2½-hour gathering.

Perrault said the proposed Gales Ferry Intermodal Facility would be a perfect complement to Cashman facilities in Staten Island, N.Y., and Quincy, and the site is in a strategic location to support the growing offshore wind and other marine-related industries.

The project's website, galesferryintermodal.com, says the site offers many amenities suitable for the proposed dredging operation including: 850 linear feet of deepwater pier and bulkhead space, rail line access, signalized access to Route 12 leading to interstates 95 and 395, nearby heavy-duty power lines and barge loading and off-loading capabilities. It is the largest industrially zoned parcel of land in Ledyard.

The Gales Ferry facility would process dredged material brought in by barge or scow, store it in 50-foot-tall covered piles, then ship it out by truck or rail to other sites within three to four months. The piles wouldn't be very visible from Route 12, due to the topographical grade, or elevation, of the site. The dredged material would mostly be stabilized aboard the barges by "de-watering" and then mixing it with cement before being offloaded. Any hazardous material would be shipped out of state.

Perrault stressed dredged material comes under strict regulations regarding contamination, is tested frequently and "pre-characterized" to ensure no dangerous material is included.

He said the dredging facility could receive material from the expansion of the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, New London State Pier development of a staging site for off-shore wind components and Cross Sound Ferry operations, among other sources. No contracts have been signed.

Cashman officials said the Gales Ferry development should reverse the tax assessment decreases for the property. According to the Intermodal website, assessments over the past five years for the Route 12 location have decreased 33%, as the previous site owner tore down buildings on the property.

"We believe we can attract quality tenants and create hundreds of job opportunities like we have previously on our other successful redevelopment projects," says a statement on the website.

Residents, though, expressed skepticism about the project. Most concerns were about increased truck traffic on Route 12. Many people said the trucks will be slowing down at the Route 12 intersection with the proposed Gales Ferry site to turn in to the facility. They noted with the traffic from Electric Boat and the casinos, that could cause some problems in the area, especially when school buses are also on the road.

Perrault said the Intermodal project is still in its early stages of development, and the traffic issue is being vetted. However, research done by a consulting firm hired by Cashman indicates the intersection at Route 12 can more than adequately handle the expected truck traffic generated by the project.

"The intersection can handle what we're proposing, but we will be looking further," Perrault said. "Our analysis is accurate, both COVID and pre-COVID. I'm not saying it answers every truck transportation question someone has, as to the speed of the trucks coming in or leaving. But the capacity is there."

He estimated that, at most, 150 trucks per day would be entering and leaving the dredging facility. "That's probably on the high side," he said. "A large percentage of the time it would be below that number. Could be a lot lower than that."

He noted the dredging season in New England's waterways is only between October and February, which also would curtail operations.

In an emailed statement after Monday night's meeting, members of the Gales Ferry Taxing District say they still have many concerns regarding the proposal. They claim the benefits of the project have still not been made clear to residents and that the town will be "burdened with traffic, health hazards, noise, lights, etc."

The group further stated, "The residents of Gales Ferry intend to meet with Cashman, and hear any mitigation strategies.....At this time, there did not seem to be any reasonable answers to the impending roadblocks....There is much concern for Gales Ferry, Montville, and Groton and the future of this area becoming largely industrialized."

Perrault said Cashman will be filing a transfer permit application within the next two weeks with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which will begin a minimum six-month review process. Future meetings with town officials will be pursued as well, along with more public informational meetings.

"This is the beginning of the process," he said. "Contrary to what some people may think, we're being as transparent as we can (about the project). We've answered every question, even though it may not be the answer people want."

Curaleaf proposes cannabis dispensary at former Friendly’s in Manchester

Skyler Frazer

Manchester has received an application from a national, multi-state cannabis operator to open a dispensary at the former Friendly’s restaurant on Buckland Street.

The Planning and Economic Development Department received an application from Curaleaf on July 5 for a retail marijuana dispensary in the former eatery at 240 Buckland St. The cannabis company is asking the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission to approve a special exception to allow a hybrid cannabis dispensary at the 1.05-acre site, which is in a general business zone.

No substantial exterior changes are proposed to the property or 4,322-square-foot building, other than new paint and signage. The parking configuration, which includes 81 standard and four accessible spaces, isn’t proposed to change, either.

Staff are reviewing the application before it heads to the Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration.

According to documents submitted to the town, Curaleaf signed a 10-year lease for the property on March 28. The parcel is owned by Manchester CT Realty Ventures LLC.

The site, down the road from The Shoppes at Buckland Hills mall in Manchester and Evergreen Walk in South Windsor, is near Interstate 84.

In June, dispensary Fine Fettle won town zoning approval for a cannabis retail store at 91 Hale Road.

Waterbury hires contractor for $2.5M to complete demolition at 17.4-acre industrial complex ahead of redevelopment

Michael Puffer

Waterbury officials on Friday signed off on a $2.5 million contract with a demolition company to finish clearing away several dilapidated buildings on an abandoned 17.4-acre industrial site targeted for redevelopment.

Anamet touted itself as the world’s largest producer of flexible metal hose before shuttering its campus off Waterbury’s South Main Street about two decades ago. The sprawling industrial campus that once ran on round-the-clock shifts quickly became a crumbling public safety hazard and an eyesore in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the state.

The city and state have already poured more than $5 million into buying the property at 698 South Main St. and demolishing several buildings. Local taxpayers spent $2.7 million repairing the roof of a 220,000-square-foot building planned for reuse. With this new contract, the city aims to demolish several other buildings remaining onsite. 

Under the contract with the city, Stamford Wrecking will also abate some hazardous building materials inside the 220,000-square-foot industrial building. The contract gives the company 150 days to complete the job once the city issues a notice to proceed.

The hire was approved by the Waterbury Development Corp. Executive Committee on Friday.

The city, in April, advertised a “request for proposals” seeking developers interested in turning the site into a commercial or industrial use capable of generating jobs and tax revenue. Responses were due June 10.

Hyde said a committee formed to vet responses will begin interviews of interested developers in August.

Walsh Group signs with DOT for Windsor Locks train station project 

Hanna Snyder Gambini

Windsor Locks officials are optimistic that long-awaited economic development initiatives are on track now that the state has secured a company to build a new train station downtown.

The state Department of Transportation signed on with The Walsh Group on Friday for the $65 million train station project. 

A municipal study conducted more than 15 years ago suggested that moving the train station downtown would spur massive revitalization efforts.

The state expects a groundbreaking in late August, which should launch other downtown revitalization efforts, Windsor Locks First Selectman Paul Harrington said.

“A lot of economic development happens once developers see that this is a real project,” Harrington said. “Once the dirt starts to fly, I think you’ll start to see real economic development down there.”

Mixed-use residential and commercial projects would be ideal, Harrington said, creating areas where people could live, work and play, with convenient access to public transportation.

The DOT is coordinating the project, but Harrington said both town and state officials are looking to attract serious developers with solid plans that will enhance the downtown area, the local economy and quality of life.

Once committed developers are in place, “That will unlock the treasure chest of money,” such as state Community Challenge and Community Investment Fund grants, Harrington said.

“But the state made it clear they want real plans before making an investment with developers,” Harrington said. “The developer needs to be real, and know that this is not free money, but that they have to invest in the town as well.” 

The town also has money that will support new development and downtown improvements from a municipal Main Street Capital Account or streetscape grants. 

Harrington said he has already started to spread the word that the DOT project is “really happening now,” and he is looking for the right developers.

“We have to be cognizant of the market,” he said. “Retail is hurting, but some areas are booming like health care and service-oriented storefronts like coffee shops or sandwich shops,” Harrington said. 

The DOT has set an 18 to 24 month timeline for the project. Harrington said he hopes development projects can run concurrently. 

Walsh Group is also the DOT’s contractor for the ongoing Mixmaster rehabilitation project in Waterbury. The $212 million project is set to be finished in June 2023.

Middlesex Corp. Reaches Milestone On Housatonic River Crossing in Connecticut


The reconstruction of two adjoining bridges on I-84 over the Housatonic River in Newtown and Southbury, Conn., which began in June 2020 and is scheduled for completion in December 2023, has reached a milestone and is proceeding ahead of schedule.

"The westbound bridge has been completed and we're now in the process of constructing a new crossover that allows us to put east and west bound traffic on a new bridge, so we're halfway through and expect to have the eastbound bridge up by the end of this year," said Christopher Zukowski, project manager of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

Andrew Walter, project manager of Middlesex Corp., Littleton, Mass., the contractor on the job, added, "We completed the westbound bridge and now we're working on the crossover to switch traffic. We're aiming to get the second bridge erected before winter — that's the goal."

The key construction equipment for this portion of the job includes two Link-Belt 348 300-ton cranes and Poseidon sectional barges, Walter said.

Describing the work performed from April 4 to 18, the Rochambeau bridge website reported, "We continued excavating and grading the median for the eastbound crossover, placed temporary drainage lines, placed process aggregate base and cleaned the south side of the new westbound deck of all debris. We placed membrane waterproofing on the south side of the new westbound deck, placed processed aggregate base for the eastbound crossover in the median on both sides of the bridge and began paving the deck and crossovers. We paved the southern half of the Rochambeau Bridge and began paving the median crossover on the Southbury side of the bridge and placed graded compacted aggregate base for the median crossover on the Newtown side."

After the construction of the westbound bridge was completed, traffic is being shifted onto the new bridge while the eastbound bridge is being reconstructed with temporary crossovers being built in a similar manner in the median of I-84.

Work in the river will take place using work trestles and barges, with a minimum 75-ft. channel width for boaters to be maintained at all times, except for major demolition and steel erection work, which requires temporary channel closures and the advanced approval of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard.

"The trestles give us access to the wetland areas," Walter said. "There are two bridges parallel to each other and to demolish one and get across the river, we need the trestles. The barges give us access in the deep water and are the key to making the job work."

Zukowski said there have been no major problems with the job to date.

"There was a shortage of primer associated with the cold applied two part epoxy membrane, so we did a substitution of woven glass membrane, but that affected many CTDOT jobs and we remained on schedule."

Walter added, "The job is running smoothly, thanks to our strong project team and great working relationship with CTDOT."

The project started in June 2020 with completion expected by December 2023. When asked why the project will take more than three years to complete, Walter said, "It is the complete reconstruction of a highway, so it takes that long to complete. There are major shifts of traffic through all project stages. However, because of the flexible access methods provided by the sectional barges, we're ahead of schedule and it's a lot safer for the traveling public to travel freely through the site without regular lane closures."

The budget for the job is $52.87 million and is being financed by CTDOT. CEG