CT Construction Digest Wednesday March 30, 2022
NASHVILLE, TN – During the second general session of the 2022 Annual Convention, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) presented Ric Suzio of York Hill Trap Rock Quarry Co., Inc with the 2022 Barry K. Wendt Commitment Award.
“Ric Suzio, of York Hill Trap Rock Quarry, is most deserving as the recipient of the 2022 Barry K. Wendt Memorial Commitment Award. With his personality, leadership skills and dedication to the industry’s success, Ric embodies the characteristics that this award was created for,” said NSSGA President & CEO Michael Johnson. “Throughout his career, he has shown an ability to tackle difficult issues and a willingness to take on new challenges, which is to be commended.”
Having spent 32 years at his family’s business, Ric is currently the Vice President for York Hill Trap Rock Quarry. He participates in the NSSGA Government & Regulatory Affairs Committee and was a past Young Leader Council Chair. For over a decade, Ric has chaired the Legislative Committee of the Connecticut Construction Industries Association.
During this time, he established the association as a respected resource. Ric additionally has a long history of community service having served as Chairman of the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of Meriden and is a Hall of Fame Member. Ric also received the Greater Meriden Chamber of Commerce Community Partner Award and currently serves on the board of the Meriden Historical Society and the Meriden Economic Development Board.
The award, a memorial to Wendt, was presented by the Manufacturers & Services Division Chairman, Kevin Gokie of Astec Industries. Kristi Wendt, the daughter of Barry, attended the ceremony and spoke about her father’s legacy on the aggregates industry.
The NSSGA’s Manufacturers and Services Division established the award in 1998 to annually recognize an individual in the industry who exhibits the dedication exemplified by Barry Wendt, both in commitment to the industry and the community in which they live.
NSSGA is the leading advocate for the aggregates industry. Its members – stone, sand and gravel producers and the equipment manufacturers and service providers who support them – produce the essential raw materials found in homes, buildings, roads, bridges and public works projects, NSSGA represents more than 90 percent of the crushed stone and 70 percent of the sand and gravel produced annually in the United States. Learn more at www.nssga.org
DANBURY — The city’s roughly $208 million plan to manage its overcrowded school system with improvements and new construction cleared another hurdle after a sparsely attended public hearing this week.
Only two people — Mayor Dean Esposito and school board chairwoman Rachel Chaleski — spoke during Monday night’s public hearing to discuss the largest city spending package in local memory.
“It’s the largest number that we’ve ever seen,” said Esposito. “Overall, I think it’s a solid number that can give us what we need to provide for the project ... We’re talking about three schools. Three entire schools.”
While the public hearing lasted just five minutes, the ensuing council committee discussion lasted more than an hour, with council members asking intricate and basic questions of the city finance director, corporation council, and public works director. Ultimately, the committees unanimously voted to send the spending package to City Council.
At the April meeting, the council will set a June referendum date, at which time the public will vote on the project and spending package.
“At face value, yes, it’s a lot of money, and I think we’re being very up front and honest,” said City Council President Vinny DiGilio during an interview Tuesday.
In the mayor’s view, the issue is clear-cut and has been presented several times to residents, so he said the public is well aware of how the money will be spent. He said he feels confident residents will approve the spending package, despite its size.
“Our future mayors will be out there, and our future representatives, and the people know that education is a good investment,” he said. “In the big picture did we want input? Of course we do, but I think it shows we have the support out there amongst the community.”
Finance Director David St. Hilaire said he didn’t read much into the lack of voices at the public hearing. The pandemic has changed the way people interact with local government, and he has heard that residents have made their questions and comments known to Esposito and Superintendent Kevin Walston.
“For one thing, people are generally supportive of school projects so long as they’re done in a responsible way,” he added.
The numbers for the career academy aren’t yet final due to ongoing negotiations.
With a $164 million deal on the table for the purchase and development of the career academy at the former Cartus Corp. headquarters, Esposito said the final estimates from appraisers could be in as early as next week.
The city hopes to secure 80 percent reimbursement on the career academy project, and around 63 percent reimbursement on the remaining $43.9 million in other school-related projects. State Rep. David Arconti, D-Danbury, is working on securing the funding estimates, which should be available by the end of the legislative session in May.
If the state reimburses at its full rate — 80 percent and 63 percent — the city can expect to only shoulder nearly $50 million of the total $208 million.
“Fifty million is still a huge number,” DiGilio said, “but you’re getting a lot of value from that $50 million.”
Spending big bucks
With such a big price tag on education expenditures, council members at Monday night’s committee meeting sought clarity on capital and operational budget effects.
Councilman Irving Fox, 1st Ward, said it would be important to be aware of the operational budget effects during Monday’s meeting.
“I think it is top of mind, it is something that has been discussed and is continually discussed,” said DiGilio. “We know it’s going to cost more money to operate more facilities.”
Other council members asked about what to expect from state reimbursement, what the final estimates on the career academy project and land purchase would be, and how other funding might be used to offset or pay into the spending package.
St. Hilaire said the city has worked with an outside firm to map out finances, bond schedules and mill-rate projections, evaluating the factors that go into the project cost.
St. Hilaire called the package an “incredible commitment” to Danbury’s schools.
“Over the last 20 years, we’ve spent about $200 million on Board of Education projects — capital projects — and we’re doing it all in one package here,” he said.
While a new school may mean an increase in taxes over time due to additional operational costs, DiGilio said constituents seem willing.
“If there’s value in what’s being provided, people don’t mind their money going toward making a better community, making a better quality of life and providing for children and residents,” he said.
GREENWICH — Backlash against bumpouts was a major point of contention at Monday night’s public hearing on the proposed 2022-23 municipal budget.
During the nearly four-hour public hearing before the Board of Estimate & Taxation, several of the 78 speakers targeted the proposed $2.8 million allocation for bumpout improvements at Greenwich Avenue and Arch Street for criticism.
“It’s difficult for pedestrians to navigate the bumpouts, especially with plantings, which decrease visibility for oncoming traffic,” said Debra Kolman, a District 10 member of the Representative Town Meeting. “Bicyclists take their lives in their hands when they try to navigate and compete with vehicles for narrower lanes.”
Expanding the bumpouts has the support of First Selectman Fred Camillo and the town Department of Public Works, but even the completion of a bumpout last year at Greenwich Avenue and Elm Street came under criticism.
“Kill the bumpouts and put that money toward more vital projects,” RTM District 11 member Laura Darrin said.
RTM Budget Overview Committee Chair Lucia Jansen noted that both the school budget and the town capital project budget came in above the BET guidelines.
“We must first fund what we really need before we start spending on things that are nice to have,” RTM Finance Committee Chair Brooks Harris said, noting that he was speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the committee. “We need to be more disciplined in how we evaluate spending and break out the highest priority items.”
Many speakers offered support for the school projects.
“As we all know, our school facilities are in need of significant renovation, but year after year (the BET) cuts or defers for BOE capital projects,” RTM District 4 member Lucy von Brachel said. “Meanwhile, we spend a growing fortune on preventable crises and repairs. This is not sustainable nor is it fiscally prudent.”
Town resident Clare Kilgallen added, “Stop the years of delay on Julian Curtiss and Old Greenwich and move them forward with Central. … The town’s rainy day fund stands at tens of millions of dollars, hasn’t been materially impacted during the COVID times and the austerity that some propose does not comport with the desired majority of the community.”
The hearing was the public’s last opportunity to weigh in before the BET holds its vote on the budget. The vote had been set for a meeting Thursday, but it has been postponed to 9 a.m. April 19 at Town Hall due to scheduling problems for BET members.
Old Greenwich, Byram projects
Many other speakers focused on proposed public safety and beautification projects, including one with strong support that would add sidewalks along Shore Road in Old Greenwich.
Old Greenwich Liz Johnson, who has ridden her bike in the neighborhood for 34 years, said it’s dangerous not to have a sidewalk in the area, with increased development nearby in Stamford and more delivery trucks.
“Shore Road has evolved into a toxic blend of joggers, pedestrians often with baby carriages, dog walkers, children who often must walk along the road alongside speeding cars, distracted drivers, ubiquitous online delivery trucks, heavy construction vehicles, moving vans, public buses, cement mixers and huge 18-wheeler trucks,” Johnson said.
Old Greenwich resident Kaitlin Schnepf shared her experience of walking her 6-month-old child in a stroller to get him to fall asleep.
“Walking on Shore Road is absolutely terrifying,” Schnepf said. “It is very scary. The traffic is non-stop, and there’s been multiple incidents in which the stroller was almost hit.”
There was also strong support for a $300,000 allocation for Byram pedestrian safety and intersection improvements.
“Since I moved to Greenwich I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it, except one,” said Nicholas Wiltse, who moved to Byram in January. “That’s that Delavan Avenue where my house is in Byram is unsafe, and every single day I am in genuine fear walking down it. Cars go up and down Delavan using it, even though it is a residential street, as little more than an expressway to the highway.”
The planned improvements are longstanding priorities for the Byram Neighborhood Association, which said the problems have worsened due to development in Port Chester, N.Y.
“No parent should fear death when taking their child out to play,” BNA member Brian O’Connor told the BET. Crossing Delavan Avenue or Mill Street means “taking your life into your hands,” he said.
“We have sought help from Town Hall for more than a decade,” O’Connor said. “In that time people have been hit by cars, have come close to being hit by cars and had their property destroyed. … The first selectman’s office wants this project to proceed. It’s on you to make that happen.”
Plans for Glenville
Town resident Abbe Large was one of several speakers in favor of the proposed $500,000 allocation for beautification in Glenville, including lighting improvements.
The project would be completed alongside separate traffic and pedestrian improvements in Glenville’s main corridor, she said, and ultimately the town would have to fund only $250,000 of the project.
“The timing for inclusion in this year’s budget is essential,” Large said. “The roadways will be open for the Glenville corridor project, and this is a unique time to place underground conduits, wiring and lights in a cost-efficient manner. Once the construction is complete, we have lost the opportunity to place historic lighting, to improve pedestrian safety and walkability, and help define and energize the central business district and aid in traffic calming. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Glenville.”
The proposed allocation also had the support of town Director of Planning and Zoning Katie DeLuca, who noted the years of work that have gone into Glenville improvements.
“We are at the finish line, and we just need this little bit to push us over,” DeLuca said. “It would be a shame if it didn’t do through at this time.”
Groton — The Town Council voted late Tuesday to discontinue "all efforts to pursue a municipal host fee agreement" with data center developer NE Edge LLC, "for properties generally located between Hazelnut Hill Road and Flanders Road, south of I-95, with prejudice.”
Town Councilors Portia Bordelon, Aundré Bumgardner, Melinda Cassiere, Bruce Jones and Juan Melendez Jr., the town mayor, were in favor of the motion, while Councilor Rachael Franco opposed, and Councilors David McBride, Juliette Parker and Scott Westervelt abstained.
Bumgardner said he "heard a resounding no from the public" and made a motion that added the verbiage “with prejudice," which he said meant “indefinitely” or “for good.”
According to the Town Council’s rules, an item can come back to the council if six members agree to it within the next year, Town Manager John Burt said. Another motion, which did not pass, was similar but likely would have required only five councilors to bring it back to the council.
Councilors discussed at length how to proceed and made several motions before the final motion passed. At times, they sharply disagreed with one another and there were calls for order and decorum. Some councilors said they wanted more time to review information and to make sure the resolution was properly worded.
A potential resolution prepared for Tuesday's meeting had referenced that the council determined that "351 Flanders Road and surrounding properties are not a suitable location for a data center," but Burt said the town on Tuesday received correspondence from the property owner's attorney questioning whether the council can determine a certain property is not suitable for a particular use when that's typically under the Planning and Zoning Commission's purview. Burt said there wasn't time to have a full review by the town's attorneys, but they said it would be safer to use a resolution without mentioning the property use.
NE Edge, under manager Thomas Quinn, had requested a municipal host fee agreement with the town, which is the first step before a developer seeks land use approvals and sets the criteria for the data center proposal and how much revenue the town would receive in lieu of taxes.
NE Edge sent a memorandum Friday that requested the town withdraw the current agreement that was under consideration and instead allow NE Edge time to reach out to neighbors and hold a public meeting next month, then submit a revised proposal. NE Edge said it agreed to a list of changes, including removing a third proposed data center building and instead distributing its footprint into the two remaining planned buildings; increasing the amount of land to be donated to the town; and paying an additional annual fee in year five that would benefit Ella T. Grasso Technical and Robert E. Fitch high schools. NE Edge said it would pay an annual fee of $3.5 million, plus escalation, to the town.
Melendez said Friday that he received the memorandum but the council was proceeding with Tuesday's already scheduled meeting to vote on whether to end negotiations with NE Edge.
The town has an existing host fee agreement with Gotspace Data Partners LLC for land off Route 117.
The state passed legislation last year to urge data centers to locate in Connecticut by providing 20- to 30-year tax incentives if the data center developer or owner makes the required investment.
Randy Salvatore’s ambitious push to add about 1,000 downtown Hartford apartments has run into a string of supply chain woes, but the Stamford-based developer said he is still on track to begin leasing apartments in late spring.
Salvatore said he will begin advertising apartment availability for the first 270-unit building of his North Crossing project — located next to Dunkin’ Donuts Park — on May 1.
About half of the building’s apartments will be ready for occupancy in June, Salvatore said. The first tenants will arrive as construction carries on in other parts of the roughly 300,000-square-foot building.
Salvatore’s company — RMS Cos. — has an agreement with the city to develop several vacant parcels around Dunkin’ Donuts Park, with a target of 1,000 apartments.
The project began on a vacant, 3-acre property at 1212 Main St., just to the south of the stadium in 2020. A 332-space garage was completed last September.
The first, partially-completed six- and seven-story apartment building wraps around Trumbull Street to Main Street and then down Morgan Street. The building front faces downtown Hartford’s high-rise office towers. The I-84 and I-91 interchanges are a block to the southeast.
As of March 17, much of the building exterior was still without siding. Many windows were missing. The central area, near the intersection of Morgan and Main streets was further along, with glass in all windows and exterior walls mostly covered in siding.
Salvatore said his contractors faced delays in cabinetry, electrical supplies, roofing insulation, interior doors, appliances and more. Even so, they’ve been rolling with the supply-chain punches, shifting tasks as materials become available to keep the project’s first phase within a few weeks of its original schedule and within its $50 million budget, he said.
“We were waiting for windows for a long time, getting partial shipments,” Salvatore said. “It’s just juggling things. We had issues with a lot of different things like that: electrical, plumbing and the elevator. Nothing held up the end dates but there was a lot more logistical planning.”
Salvatore said most of the amenity spaces should be at or near completion when the first tenants arrive. There will be a game room, fitness center, rooftop lounge, outdoor amphitheater-style cinema and more. The rooftop lounge will offer a view of the neighboring ballfield with everything but the batter’s box visible.
The new apartment building will host a mix of efficiency, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units with upscale finishes, including quartz countertops, luxury vinyl tile flooring and walk-in showers.
Phase two of North Crossing will see 550 apartments and a 530-space garage built on a vacant 5-acre lot at 1139 Main St., just to the west of the first building across the intersection of Main and Trumbull streets.
Salvatore said he recently began speaking with city officials to fine-tune designs. He anticipates gaining site plan approval in time to launch construction in late spring or early summer.
Phase two will be split into multiple parts, with construction of a garage and 237-unit apartment building beginning in summer and lasting about 18 months at an estimated $60 million cost, Salvatore said. A second building containing the remaining units would be built at some later point, Salvatore said.
Future development will follow, using a site at 150 Windsor St., which formerly hosted a data center, and at a vacant parcel at 1261 Main St. The scale and design of those future projects have not been determined, Salvatore said.
Salvatore is also lining up a project to transform the top dozen floors of the struggling Hilton Hotel on Trumbull Street into 147 apartments. Salvatore has described this as necessary to save the hotel from failure, and as a defensive move to protect the value of his neighboring development.
The state Bond Commission has approved an $11 million loan to help fund the conversion. Salvatore said he is finalizing legal agreements for the project with the city and Capital Region Development Authority.
With warehouse distribution centers becoming a bigger part of Connecticut’s economy, South Windsor next week may adopt a one-year moratorium against any new ones.
Longtime resident Kathy Kerrigan says the town needs to ban new freight depots and fulfillment centers until planners can write zoning rules to keep them from damaging the community.
“The town has reached a tipping point — the cumulative effect of multiple warehouse-type facilities is catching up with us,” Kerrigan told the planning and zoning commission last week.
“I’m not against growth,” she said. “I’m worried about the dramatic negative changes that residents seem to be experiencing in a relatively short amount of time. Traffic congestion and noise are beginning to affect neighborhoods all across town.”
Kerrigan in January called on the planning and zoning commission to pass a one-year ban; it began a hearing on the idea last week and will resume it on April 5.
Builders have put up a series of warehouses and fulfillment centers over the past decade, and Kerrigan said the result is higher truck traffic and around-the-clock elevation in road noise.
A moratorium would give planners time to consider whether large warehouses are the best use of South Windsor’s remaining industrial land, Kerrigan said. They could also examine what neighboring towns are doing with warehouse proposals, and study exactly what financial benefits the town gets from those facilities, she said. In the past 13 years, the town has approved seven major warehouses — Coca Cola, Aldi’s, FedEx, Amazon, Mobis, Vistar and Home Depot — that created 2.2 million square feet of buildings covering more than 280 acres.
“All too often these warehouse facilities are built by people who don’t live here, who have no stake in our quality of life and who have no reason to care about the well-being of the residents,” Kerrigan said.
In a letter, resident Derrick Butler called on the commission to pass the moratorium.
“The high volume of truck traffic that these sites produce is not safe,” he wrote. “Trailer drivers are running in many cases through neighborhoods and parking in ‘no parking’ zones. This is created by insufficient staging areas at the facilities.”
South Windsor is just one of the Connecticut communities seeing growth in fulfillment centers and warehouses; most of the towns near Bradley International Airport got more in the past 20 years.
Ahold Delhaize USA, parent of Stop & Shop, opened million-square-foot warehouses in Plainville and Manchester last year, while Amazon has mega-centers in Windsor and North Haven and plans another in the Naugatuck Valley this year.
Developers typically promote giant distribution centers as creators of jobs and tax revenue, and on Monday afternoon Indeed.com listed 1,708 warehouse jobs across Connecticut.