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CT Construction Digest Wednesday October 21, 2020

Why another Metro-North study?: Getting There

James Cameron  The headline a few days ago was encouraging: “CT gets $400K grant to study improvements to Metro-North lines.” But what’s $400,000 going to tell us that we don’t already know?

Any rider of Metro-North knows the infrastructure is crumbling, the station parking and seating on trains (until COVID) are inadequate and, on the branch lines, the service is terrible. So why another study?

Turns out, this federal grant is different, as Francis Pickering, the executive director of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments explains, “We know what needs to be fixed. We just don’t know how to pay for it.” That’s what this study is going to focus on. This federal grant is for a treasure hunt. Remember in 2015 when Gov. Dan Malloy rolled out his 30-year, $100 billion “Let’s Go CT” transportation wish list? Typical of a politician, he wanted credit for the vision but not the blame for paying for it. So he created yet another “blue ribbon panel” to brainstorm on funding, and their report was filled with unpopular ideas: Raise the sales tax, raise the gasoline tax, raise DMV fees and yes, add highway tolls.

I don’t notice anyone campaigning for the legislature this year on those unpopular ideas, so are there alternatives? Focusing specifically on the Danbury and New Canaan branch lines of Metro-North, this new study is looking to other areas’ transit improvements and how they were paid for — like the expansion of the D.C. Metro’s Silver Line out to Dulles Airport. Sure, half of its cost is being paid by tolls on the adjacent highway, but much of the rest is coming from what’s called “Value Capture”.

The thinking is, if you expand transit services then the area around stations will grow (remember TOD, transit oriented development?) as new offices and apartments are built. That means increased property values and more taxes for the town or city. The “value capture” idea is to get a share of that increased future tax revenue stream and use it to pay for the transit improvements.

That seems fair, right? Only the people who benefit from the improvements (residents, land owners, developers and the towns) help to pay for them. Layer on top of that the ideas of regional sales taxes or payroll taxes and you’re talking real money. Of course, none of these funding options are legal in Connecticut — yet. And to make those kinds of changes in Hartford you’ll need to get everybody on board, including the dozens of cities and towns served by those trains.

To sweeten the pot, the WCOG folks are looking to expand the Danbury line, adding new stations at Wall Street in downtown Norwalk, Georgetown and points north from Danbury to New Milford. But that assumes Metro-North is literally on board with the idea. It will take 18 to 24 months to do this new study, so there will be lots of opportunity for public input, the hope being if a funding solution works here it might be applied elsewhere in the state.

Nothing happens fast in the world of transportation in this state. I remember watching the diminutive Connecticut Speaker of the House Mora Lyons in 2001, standing next to a stack of studies and reports as tall as she was, saying, “Enough with the studies — let’s do something.”

Has much really changed in 20 years?

New $37 million health facility in New Haven to serve thousands annually

Mary E. O'Leary   NEW HAVEN — Come Monday, thousands of patients from three entities in the city will have a new medical home.

After five years of planning, the Primary Care Medical Center, a consortium of Yale New Haven Hospital, the Fair Haven Community Health Center and the Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, will open its doors.

The $37 million facility at 150 Sargent Drive integrates behavioral health with primary care for adults with a separate women’s clinic and pediatric services.

The logistics, particularly transportation for lower-income patients, were worked out with a combination of public bus service, free parking and special arrangements for handicapped persons as well those with long distances to travel. YNHH agreed to provide free transportation for current patients who live within 10 miles of Sargent Drive, whose trip would take 40 minutes of more on public transit, and who do not have access to private vehicles.

The hospital received permission in August 2019 from the Office of Health Strategy to close its current clinics at three sites and replace it with this new facility.

The leaders of the three component institutions expect it to be a model for academic medical institutions working with local clinics in the training of future physicians in the care of patients with challenging needs.

Dr. Nancy Brown said the goal is to decrease health disparities through health equity.

Dr. Suzanne Lagarde, the chief executive officer of the Fair Haven Community Health Center, said the consortium was developed “to provide care for New Haven’s most vulnerable,” tens of thousands of low-income patients now served separately by the three entities.

She said it will augment training for Yale Medical School students by addressing the “unique challenges of caring for populations burdened with poverty, food insecurity and housing instability.”

Integrating the YNHH residency program into clinic work “takes a giant step toward ensuring that the next generation of medical leaders will embrace both our model of care as well as the critical role that academia must play in the service of vulnerable populations,” Lagarde said.

Lagarde said the collaboration has the potential to provide care that is not only “world class,” but also will tackle behavioral health integration, social determinants of health and medical-legal challenges.

The chief executive officer said federally qualified clinics, of which Fair Haven and Cornell Scott are examples, represent the bedrock of the medical safety net in America. Always patient-centric, Lagarde said they served 29 million patients across the country last year.

Fair Haven now has an estimated 18,000 patients, while Cornell Scott serves about 35,000.

“This collaboration had no road map and no blueprint,” Michael Taylor, CEO of Cornell-Scott Hill Health Center, said.

“We created this from vision, from tenacity and I’m very grateful to my partners for demonstrating that,” Taylor said. He called it a historic partnership.

Cornell-Scott will assume responsibility for the adult medicine and women’s health primary care practices at 150 Sargent Drive, while Fair Haven will run the pediatric primary care services. The children’s and women’s services will be on the first floor with the adult clinic, blood draw stations, labs and radiology on the second floor.

Both Fair Haven and Cornell Scott will continue to run their current clinics across the city and patients can opt to go to those sites or the new facility. Lagarde estimated that more than 80 percent of low-income residents in New Haven will get their care at Sargent Drive or the clinics’ other sites.

The care teams will have a coordinator who will help with such things as language barriers and food insecurity, while behavioral clinicians will work with their medical counterparts. All three entities will be using the same electronic medical records system.

“We don’t know of any other municipality in the country that can boast of having this sort of arrangement where the most vulnerable residents are all on a shared electronic platform. This is powerful. The opportunities for population health and cost savings are truly endless,” Lagarde said.

Cynthia Sparer, senior vice president of operations at YNHH and executive director of the Children’s Hospital and Women’s Services at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, in a tour of the facility, said they have moved all of the primary care services previously at the St. Raphael’s campus,York Street site and Hamden to Sargent Drive, while the specialty clinics will remain at the old sites. She said they are still planning what to do with those spaces once they are freed up.

Sparer said they were well along in construction when COVID-19 hit. She said the hospital continued to work on it through the pandemic although there were some slowdowns when they had to mitigate against flooding and other field conditions.

There were some 25 exam rooms for each program, or about 90 in total. The architect was Environments for Health.

Torrington invites residents to Prospect Street construction meeting

Staff Reports  TORRINGTON — The City of Torrington is developing plans to reconstruct Prospect Street.

The project will include road reconstruction with paving, new curbing, replacement of sidewalks and associated miscellaneous work, which will provide for safer vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle travel, according to city officials.

The project is financed with State of Connecticut, Department of Transportation- Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program and city funds. Officials expect to begin construction in spring 2021.

“It is the City of Torrington’s and the State’s policy to keep persons informed and involved when such projects are undertaken. It is important that the community share its concerns to assist in the project’s development,” according to officials.

Residents are invited to an informational meeting on Zoom, at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 29. The meeting is not in person, but on an online platform.

To attend, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89610465376?pwd=cjFlRmh6TEp6SSt3cHY5OWJFMHFmZz09 , then enter meeting identification number 896 1046 5376, and passcode 24QC50. Residents can also call in at 1-646-558-8656, meeting identification number 896 1046 5376, passcode 036583. Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kcv5SbzfhR.

Anyone interested in further information or providing input may do so by attending the meeting, by contacting the City Engineer, Paul Kundzins P.E at 860-489-2234 or in writing at 140 Main Street, Torrington, Connecticut 06790. Comments should be received in writing before Oct. 29.

Worker at Memorial Boulevard renovation site tests positive for coronavirus, causing temporary delay

Susan Corica  BRISTOL – A worker at the Memorial Boulevard Intradistrict Arts Magnet School renovation site has tested positive for covid-19, causing a temporary delay in the work there.

Superintendent Catherine Carbone said Frank Tomcak of Downes Construction, senior project manager for the renovation project, alerted the school district on Oct. 14 that a tradesperson performing demolition had tested positive.

“Proactive mitigation strategies and cohorting procedures were in place. All workers were released for the day and tracing activities commenced so the full extent of contacts and subsequent containment could be identified,” Carbone said in a prepared statement. “At this time 23 of 53 workers have been issued quarantine directives. Non-affected workers will be retested on Monday, Oct. 19.”

Carbone said the entire building was disinfected Oct. 15 from 7 to 10 a.m. and “wash and disinfectant stations have been added at all entrances to the containments where final abatement activities are taking place.”

“At this time there is no further concern and non-affected crews have resumed work on the site. Our wish for all those affected is a speedy recovery and resumption of regular activities,” she added.

The city and the Board of Education are collaborating on the project to transform the closed Memorial Boulevard School into an arts magnet school for grades six through 12. The total cost of the project is $63 million, of which 60% will be paid by the state.

The project is still on track to open for the 2022-23 school year, according to Deputy Superintendent Michael Dietter, chairman of the project’s building committee.

Work has continued during the covid-19 pandemic and is currently under budget and on schedule, he said earlier this month in a report to the Board of Education.

Major interior environmental remediation is nearly complete and demolition and excavation at the rear of the building, where the gymnasium addition will be located, has started, Dietter said.

Memorial Boulevard was the city’s high school when it opened in 1922, then it became a junior high school and then a middle school. It closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year as part of a major redistricting in which the district closed five aged schools and opened two large new ones.

D'Amato Construction Co. provides personal touch on significant and complex projects, doing so for nearly 60 years in Bristol and beyond

Justin Muszynski  BRISTOL – D’Amato Construction Co., Inc. is a third generation family-run business that has been a part of the Greater Bristol community for nearly 60 years.

“We provide that personal touch, but can also handle the significant and complex projects,” said Anthony D'Amato, operations manager for D’Amato Construction Co., Inc.

“Although we’re family-owned, it does not limit our abilities in the commercial, industrial or governmental arenas,” he continued, adding that a family-owned business “provides that little extra that everyone is looking for that you can’t really find in today’s corporate oriented companies.”

D’Amato Construction Co., Inc., – which, today, now stands with some of most capable firms in Connecticut – was established in 1961 when Edward Sr., his wife, Patricia, and brother, Anthony (Tut) D’Amato, started D’Amato Construction General Contractors. The company later became D’Amato Construction Co., Inc. in April 1967, specializing in commercial, industrial and niche market construction.

Nearly six decades later, the company is managed by Edward Sr. and his children, along with the third generation, who coordinate the daily operations and build on skills and lessons learned over years.

D’Amato Construction’s Central Connecticut location makes it easily accessible to customers within the state, in addition to those in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It specializes in a diverse number of disciplines that include, but are not limited to, athletic and recreation, banking and financial, childcare and early childhood, commercial, concrete and specialties, demolition (Class A), K-12 educational, governmental, healthcare and institutionalized health, industrial, luxury residential, mission-critical, Nucor Building Systems pre-engineered buildings and utilities among others.

Although a majority of D’Amato’s work is done outside of Greater Bristol, the company regularly contributes to its local community and does not turn down projects for small facilities or small business owners.

“If someone has a small problem with their facility, the answer is yes, we do that kind of work, that’s the kind of work that built our company,” Tony D’Amato said. “We want to see Bristol succeed. We’re dependent on the greater success of the area.”

The company has offered services to clients for projects that range from $300 up to $68 million. All personnel are available to new and repeat customers.

D’Amato is designed and has been tested to be fully functional during long-term power outages and threats from severe weather, stocking large quantities of materials at its 50,000 square foot warehouse facility as well as other crucial consumables. The administration and supervisory staff can work on generator power, while the entire fleet has the ability to keep moving for upwards of a month with the fuel capacity, compressed gases and lubricants that are housed for emergencies.

“A great number of resources have been into business continuity and preparedness, it’s what really sets our firm apart from others in our market,” Tony D’Amato said.

D’Amato Construction Co., Inc. specializes in Class A demolition and can provide demolition and removal solutions for cantilevered, elevated, freestanding and pedestal type structures. The company has the unique ability to structurally dismantle a facility while maintaining its normal operations.

D’Amato also specializes in new installation of critical water and sewer utilities, boasting a deep bench of specialized tools, uniquely outfitted equipment and shoring apparatus that is used in installation and repair. It also has the ability to move and transport on/off-road, oversized and overweight items and components.

For more information on D’Amato Construction, visit its website at damatoconstruction.com.

Ansonia neighbors told to take their rock-crushing complaint to Superior Court

Michael P. Mayko  ANSONIA — A virtual hearing, in which neighbors were prepared to discuss the rock-crushing operation of Burns Construction, ended quickly Monday night when they were told to take their complaint to Superior Court.

Corporation Counsel John Marini told the 27 people who attended the virtual meeting that the inaction of a Zoning Code Enforcement officer “is not a decision or ruling that can be challenged before the Zoning Board of Appeals.”

He said a Connecticut Supreme Court ruling involving Darien gave the Superior Court and not the ZBA jurisdiction over such issues. He said the proper course of action is to file a “writ of mandamus” in state Superior Court which, if approved, would require the city to take action

Additionally, Marini said the the timeline for challenging the permit issued in February approving Burns’ work has long passed.

As a result, the four Zoning Board of Appeals members who attended the meeting voted to dismiss the application filed by Kevin Cursaeden, a Milford lawyer representing the recently formed Westwood Association.

“I completely disagree with city counsel’s position on it,” Cursaeden said after the meeting. “The ZBA has authority to hear this matter. I think the city doesn’t want the facts coming out.”

As to whether he will file a Superior Court complaint, Cursaeden said he would have to confer with his clients.

Those clients include Andrew Mark, whose father operated Mark Hardware for decades on Main Street, and Leonard Marazzi, a former Amity High School football coach.

Both claim noise, dust and fumes generated by the operation have impacted their lives. They submitted a petition signed by more than 100 West Side and lower North End residents.

The Westwood Association claims that rock crushing on the Riverside Drive site was found to be in violation of zoning laws and determined illegal as far back as 2002.

Both Marini and Cursaeden agree a permit was issued to Burns in February but Cursaeden said no notice was given to the neighbors. The Milford lawyer said he only learned of its existence last month.

As for Marini’s argument that the time to challenge the permit has lapsed, Cursaeden believes that there is wording in one of Gov. Ned Lamont’s COVID-19 executive orders that extended the time for appeals while city government and the state courts were shut down.

Marini offered to meet with Cursaeden and review any legal precedent that supports the neighbors’ claims.

The neighbors who attended Monday night’s virtual meeting were not given the opportunity to address the ZBA.