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CT Construction Digest Monday August 26, 2019

Berlin manufacturer eyes expansion, plans to build new HQ
Matt Pilon
A mid growing demand from its commercial customer base, a Berlin metal fabrication shop needs more space, but its planned move will be as convenient as it gets.
Complete Sheet Metal has been leasing 3,600 square feet at 500 Four Rod Road since Berlin native Jeff Michaud founded the business in 2017. It’s one of several industrial tenants in the approximately 100,000-square-foot building, which is owned by Cromwell-based realty developer William Coons III.
Now, Michaud has struck a deal with Coons’ LLC to subdivide and purchase an open 2.4-acre portion of the 22-acre property, where Michaud will construct a new 11,500-square foot building for his shop, effectively tripling his space.
The project could cost somewhere between $800,000 and $1 million, Michaud said in an interview.
That’s a sizable investment for a company with six full-time employees (up from three when it opened), but Michaud wants to buy new machines for folding metal into custom shapes and perhaps expand his product lines.
“It’ll hurt initially, sure,” he said of the investment. “But I knew putting up my own building was eventually going to pay off in the long run.”
Michaud, a Berlin native, said he wants to stay in town, where he has a five-minute commute and, more importantly, is close to a number of his key suppliers.
“In this business that’s key,” he said. “Everybody is last minute and they need it right away.”
The project received a key approval on Thursday night from Berlin’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
Michaud said he hopes to have the new facility built within the next 18 months.
Complete Sheet Metal operates solely in the commercial market. Core clients include roofers, window installers, masonry companies and exterior wall panel contractors.
Michaud is bullish on the commercial market in New England, and he said metal has become more popular among property developers in recent years, compared to plastic or vinyl.  “The commercial market is doing very well,” he said. “There aren’t many small fabricators that can supply customers with these custom shapes that they need to finish the exterior of these buildings.”

Ledyard celebrates completion of two major school projects
Amanda Hutchinson
Ledyard — Superintendent Jay Hartling can finally take the hard hat out of his trunk.
With ribbon cutting ceremonies last week, the renovation projects at Gallup Hill School and Ledyard Middle School — $28 million and $40 million, respectively — are finally complete, the result of eight years of work involving three superintendents and several town committees.
Following years of planning and a referendum in January 2015, groundbreaking ceremonies were held in April 2017. Both schools were "build as new" projects: the new wings were constructed first, and then everyone moved into them in September 2018 so the old wings could be renovated.
At the middle school for example, core classes are now in a new three-story academic wing on the field side of the school, and the existing wing where the 1970s cluster-style classrooms will now house the cafeteria, media center, auditorium and classrooms for band, chorus, art and technology education, among other spaces.
"The state reimburses at a higher rate for renovation as new, so it becomes a more economical approach for the town, not to mention that for a beautiful town like Ledyard, we like to preserve our open space," Hartling said. "When you look at both Gallup Hill and Ledyard Middle, they were schools that were built in the late '60s, early '70s, ... they were significantly antiquated and in dramatic need of repair and refurbishment."
The projects also paved the way for redistricting, with a final plan approved in March.  As part of the 2015 referendum, Ledyard Center School was closed at the end of the 2018-19 school year. About 200 students in grades K-5 were reassigned to Gallup Hill, about 50 reassigned to Gales Ferry and Juliet Long. All sixth-grade students in the district will now attend the middle school.
The middle school also gets a new principal, Ryan Earley, who started this week. He said he's looking forward to helping the district redefine the middle school experience for its students and supporting them during the transition.
Hartling called the project completion a "collective sigh of relief" for the district, noting that faculty and staff kept their focus on delivering a quality education despite having to move classrooms multiple times. He also commended the Ledyard Center School faculty and staff for maintaining a positive environment for the kids even as the school prepared to close.
At both ribbon cuttings, he said the spirit of the old schools lives on in the new buildings.
Speaking at the ribbon cuttings, Town Council Chairwoman Linda Davis highlighted the amount of volunteer work that went into producing the two schools. She said that building committee chairman Steve Juskiewicz in particular dedicated countless hours and pored over every detail to make sure everything was just right. She added "every major project needs a Steve."
Heather and Adam Dalton brought their two younger daughters to the Gallup Hill ribbon cutting Monday. As a former Ledyard Center family, all three kids in the Dalton family were impacted by the redistricting process; Faith, going into sixth grade, is going to the middle school, while Tessa, going into third grade, and Natalie, going into first grade, will be at Gallup Hill.
Tessa Dalton said she was glad to be going back to school, with new things at the new school and a lot of her Ledyard Center classmates. She also made sure she left a little note on the desk of Ashlee Konow, her second-grade teacher at LCS who also made the move to Gallup Hill.
"Looking at this and comparing this to Ledyard Center School, it's so much greater," she said.
Adam Dalton, a Gallup Hill alumnus, compared the open house to "the first day of school on steroids" and said he enjoyed walking around and trying to figure out where his old classrooms would have been relative to the new layout. He liked that there was a lot of Ledyard Center in the new Gallup Hill building to help kids who may be nervous about going to a new school.
Heather Dalton said the new school is clean and beautiful and she feels comfortable sending her children there. As a teacher herself, she appreciated the amount of behind-the-scenes work done to get the school ready, especially the teachers who got their rooms set up early so families could visit during the open house.
First-grade teacher Kathy Colosi opened her classroom for the night for parents and students to check out. With more than 30 years teaching at Gallup Hill, she's happy to be back in her old classroom, thoughtfully redesigned with new furniture and technology. She said she's looking forward building a new community with the combined population of Gallup Hill and former Ledyard Center students and staff.
"I think it's going to be interesting going from a little small kind of neighborhood school to the largest elementary, and I think that's going to be a different shift, but I think it's exciting for the kids and the staff," she said.
Other projects
In addition to major overhauls at Gallup Hill and the middle school, Hartling said the Board of Education has been working with Town Council on smaller projects at the high school. Over the last few years, the bathrooms have been renovated and the art rooms updated.
The middle school project also didn't include a space for the growing cycling club, so a multipurpose building was added to house the club's bikes and school maintenance equipment.
Ledyard High School is the site for the next major project, a renovation of the track and football field. Hartling said he's been pushing for it for the last 10 months, but discussions have been in the works for at least 10 years with the project delayed due to lack of funding. He said the work is critically needed and will only get more expensive the longer it is delayed. For example, he said, drainage problems will eventually threaten the structural integrity of the new bleachers.
Plans call for addressing grading and drainage issues with the track and football field. The latter would be replaced with artificial turf with lines to accommodate soccer and lacrosse games and allow use of the field by town recreational programs.
Jim Buonocore, the high's school assistant principal and athletic director, said the new track and field would provide a safe and sustainable playing space and give the community something to be proud of.
Groundbreaking is Oct. 14, which will allow the varsity football team to play their Sept. 13 and 20 home games. He said opponents for their remaining home games have been willing to work with him to play at their fields; Fitch will host the Thanksgiving game this year, and Ledyard will host next year.
The home meets for the cross-country team, which uses the track as the start and finish line, are on Sept. 24 and Oct. 1. Gym classes will also be mostly inside by the time construction starts.
The impact on outdoor track, however, is harder to predict because the installation of track surface is more susceptible to weather-related delays. Buonocore said May was a reasonable estimate, and even if there are problems finishing up, he's happy to have the new facility.

New plan cuts more than $1B off New York rail tunnel cost
River that cuts nearly $1.5 billion off the previous cost estimate, as officials seek to break a funding impasse with the federal government that has stalled progress in recent years.
The plan announced Friday envisions design and construction savings that would reduce the new tunnel's estimated cost from just over $11 billion to $9.5 billion. Repairing the existing century-old tunnel that was damaged in 2012's Superstorm Sandy, and is a source of frequent delays due to crumbling infrastructure, would cost about $1.8 billion, or about $200 million more than previous estimates.
The net cost decrease means the states will seek $5.4 billion from a federal grant program instead of $6.8 billion, project officials said in an email Friday.
It isn't clear how that will affect the project's prospects. The U.S. Department of Transportation has given the tunnel and an associated rail bridge project in New Jersey low ratings that have disqualified them from the Capital Investment Grant program.
Department officials have said the low ratings are justified because of the total cost of the request — which dwarfs any other project around the country — and because the states plan to fund their share of the project, between $5 billion and $6 billion, with federal loans. Project officials have argued that the practice is in line with what other states have done.
More than 400 trains and roughly 200,000 passengers pass through the tunnel and over the Portal Bridge in New Jersey daily on trains operated by Amtrak or New Jersey Transit. An analysis commissioned by the two operators this spring found that passengers traveling between New Jersey and New York have experienced rail delays of two hours or more 85 times between 2014 and the end of 2018.

Norwich Public Utilities completes Hamilton Avenue gasline project
Norwich — Norwich Public Utilities has announced the completion of its largest natural gas construction project for the 2019 construction season.
During the project, 5,800 feet of natural gas main was replaced along Hamilton Avenue between East Main Street and Smith Avenue.
“We appreciate the patience of the public while our crews completed this important project,” NPU General Manager Chris LaRose said in a news release. “By modernizing another section of our natural gas system, our community is safer, and our infrastructure is stronger.”
NPU scheduled the $480,000 work with the state Department of Transportation, which is expected to begin paving on Route 165-Hamilton Avenue this fall. If NPU were responsible for paving along Hamilton Avenue, the project cost would have increased by an additional $125,000, NPU said in the release.
Work on the project, which was completed entirely by NPU employees, began in April and was completed Wednesday. In addition to installing more than a mile of natural gas pipe, crews installed or replace individual gas services at 42 locations, primarily residences.

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