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CT Construction Digest Monday October 28, 2019

Climate change v. Killingly gas power plant. And the winner is …

When the plan to build a natural gas power plant in Killingly first came up in 2016, the objections from folks in this northeast corner town of about 17,000 were pretty basic – they already had one, didn’t want another about a mile away, and didn’t want its emissions.
“Not another power plant,” was the rallying cry. Three years later, this remains the name of the local opposition group — or NAPP for short.
But since then, the furor over the proposed Killingly Energy Center (KEC) has expanded into a statewide environmental cause célèbre and is now something of a poster child for how not to tackle climate change. Those critical of the plan point out that a fossil fuel-run power plant that still emits greenhouse gases, even if it produces fewer of them than oil or coal plants, will not allow the state to meet a 2040 target of 100% zero carbon for the elector sector suggested by Gov. Ned Lamont last month.
With this as their argument, environmental advocates have ramped up their opposition to KEC. For the last several months, members of the Sierra Club and other groups have protested every Friday outside the governor’s residence, while NAPP has held protests on Saturdays in Killingly. Advocates have also blasted the governor’s office and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes with emails and calls opposing the plant.
“This one plant is shining a light on a bigger problem we have in Connecticut,” said Samantha Dynowski, state director of the Sierra Club. “We have clean energy goals and greenhouse gas reduction goals, but they’re only good if we use them for decision-making.”
Lately the governor is saying what they’re saying.
“I can say Connecticut has a zero-carbon electric grid by 2040. I’d like to see Rhode Island and Massachusetts follow our lead there. And if we’re all on that same page, we don’t need a Killingly plant. We’ll see how that sorts out,” Lamont said after a meeting with governors of those two states Thursday. “I’ve got to think about: Is this important for Connecticut’s energy future? Right now, I’m sort of doubtful.”
His comments echoed a widely-circulated video from a few days prior in which Lamont said he was going to take “a good hard look at it.”
On Friday there was a meeting that included representatives of the governor’s office, Dykes and the plant’s developers – NTE Energy, based in Florida. Sources say state officials are taking a hard look at the project and discussing what the options are.
Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan, D-Bethel, co-vice chair of the Energy and Technology Committee and leader of the legislative Clean Energy Caucus, said he’s spoken with the governor’s office about next steps. He also signed a letter from more than two-dozen legislators urging Lamont to oppose the Killingly plant.We don’t want a fossil fuel future for Connecticut,” he said. “The governor is committed to clean energy. We want to make sure we stay on that path. We don’t need the power and even if we did, we wouldn’t do this.”
While the recent activity indicates KEC opponents may be closer to convincing state officials than they realize, actually stopping the plant is not so easy. The governor can’t just say, “I don’t want it.” The regulatory approval process is underway. And the grid operator, ISO-New England, has already obligated itself to use the power.
A little history will help explain the difficulties.
What happened and when
The plant was first proposed in 2016 for 550 megawatts. By comparison, both Millstone units together are about 2100 megawatts. The state’s siting council rejected the proposal twice. It was resubmitted early this year for 650 megawatts.
The siting council approved the new submission in early June, despite arguments that the power was not needed for grid reliability, and DEEP filed a letter of support, which opponents criticized for not addressing climate change.
Dykes, however, has repeatedly acknowledged to the CT Mirror that climate change pressures have increased rapidly since she served as energy chief in 2011, when the state began a push for greater use of natural gas toward the beginning of the Malloy administration.
 
 
“We need to be transitioning away from more fossil fuel to zero carbon,” she reiterated after last Friday’s meeting. But she laid a lot of the problem at ISO’s doorstep.
Dykes pointed out that at the last annual future power auction in February – known as the forward capacity auction – to choose power generators beginning in 2022, the Killingly plant was among the generators it chose, which means the whole region is stuck with it.
The siting council rejected in July a request for reconsideration of its approval for Killingly. Just days before the governor’s executive order paving the way to 100% carbon-free power, NAPP filed suit over the siting council decision.
That case, which has not yet been heard, focuses narrowly on one issue. When the siting council approved the plant, the pipeline needed to connect it to a natural gas supply was not included. The lawyer for NAPP said, based on previous federal rulings, it should have been.
The matter of the pipeline, which would go through areas of protected land and under the Quinebaug River, along with a number of permits that still require approval, could turn out to be good news for plant opponents since any one of the needed approvals, theoretically, has the potential to derail the project.
 
 
Lois Latraverse, a member of NAPP, still worries. “Our feeling is if you start that construction and the pipeline is not approved, you could still destroy acres and acres of carbon-eating forestland,” she said.
Adding to the frustration of plant opponents was a timing problem that emanated from confusion over rules that made it difficult for the many planned offshore wind resources, which are zero carbon, to compete in last February’s auction.
The state of natural gas in New England
All of this begs the question of whether, in the face of climate change, new natural gas plants should be built, period.
“Unequivocally no,” said Martha Klein of Sierra Club, who organized much of the Killingly protests and cites economic reasons, such as the declining costs of solar and offshore wind and the potential for battery storage. “All of these other states are doing renewable energy projects. Who says we need another fossil fuel power plant? We don’t need it.”
But Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, said natural gas is still needed even with the dramatic increases in renewable deployment.
“It becomes a funny situation,” he said. “There is going to be a need from a reliability basis for things like natural gas.”
Such plants can be powered up as needed at times, he said, such as when the wind isn’t blowing, the sun isn’t shining, or a key generator goes offline.
“We expect natural gas plants to operate less, but be more valuable,” Dolan said. “I don’t think they’re incompatible in the transition and march towards decarbonization.”
 
 
Gas still accounts for about half of New England’s available power generation and nuclear accounts for just under one-third. Renewables – not including hydro –  while only about one-tenth currently? YES CURRENTLY, account for almost all of the proposed new generation: 61% is wind, 15% is solar and 12% is battery storage, according to ISO-NE.
Natural gas accounts for 12%. According to ISO-NE, since the start of the state’s push for more natural gas in 2011, eight natural gas units larger than 100 megawatts have come online in New England. Five are in Connecticut, including the Bridgeport Harbor expansion, the Kleen Energy project in Middletown and the Towantic Energy Center in Oxford, along with a number of smaller plants – totaling more than 2,500 megawatts.
ISO reports that there are two natural gas projects greater than 100 MW under development in New England — one in Rhode Island, and Killingly.
Killingly’s developer, NTE, is a fairly new company with two operating plants, one under construction and four projects (including Killingly) in development.
Email comments from Tim Eves, NTE’s president, did not respond to the question of what the company would do in the face of an attempt by Connecticut to scuttle the plant. Eves’ statement reiterated the plant’s ability “to support the variability of renewable energy sources: KEC will run when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing and will not run when they are.”
Killingly Town Manager Mary Calorio, said “the town has no comment,” when asked what it would do if the plant is not built.
The town stands to make a large amount of money from the plant. In addition to hundreds of temporary jobs, it would reap more than $120 million over 20 years in tax stabilization and Community Environmental Benefit Agreement payments.
Even so, Rep. Pat Boyd, D-Pomfret, who does not represent Killingly but can see the plant site from his home, said not one of the many constituents that has contacted him is in favor of the plant.
“It is a step in the wrong direction,” he said, noting nearby solar developments. “We’ve set a policy for the state. Putting in a plant like this is completely opposite to that vision.”

 
Stamford man says his street has not been fixed for half a century
Angela Carella
STAMFORD — It looks like Madison Place last was paved in 1965.
Alan Jackson, who lived there then and lives there now, said it happened the year before he graduated what at the time was Rippowam High School.
The city doesn’t refute Jackson’s claim. A spokesman for Mayor David Martin said it’s unlikely road paving records have ever been kept.
Jackson said he’s sure of the date.
“The father of one of my best friends worked for the city then, and they were going to pave Hall Place,” which runs parallel to Madison Place between Wilson Street and Fairfield Avenue. “He said, ‘Hall Place was done a few years ago; let’s do Madison.’ They did, and he almost got fired for it,” Jackson said.
Lyndon B. Johnson was president, Rippowam had recently opened as the city’s second high school, and Jackson was a teenager.
“It was 1965,” said Jackson, now in his early 70s. “Since then they’ve been patching it.”
The ride down the residential West Side street on a weekday morning was bumpy. Irregularly shaped patches are everywhere. There are patches on top of patches, with sunken spots in between.
Long patches line the edges of the street on both sides, and there are plenty of cracks — some stretch lengthwise down the street; others form little squares that splay crosswise. There are holes.
Hopes dashed
“The city redid the sidewalks about two years ago. I think they were the original sidewalks from the 1940s,” Jackson said. “I thought it was a good sign that they would do the street. But they didn’t.”
He put in requests on the city’s online citizens’ service platform, FixIt Stamford, and received an email.
“They sent me the link to the paving list, which shows Madison Place is No. 74. I wrote back that I think it should be higher, since it wasn’t done since 1965,” Jackson said. “They didn’t seem concerned.''
On the list, last updated Sept. 27, Madison Place is color-coded as “pending,” which means “no actions being taken at this time.”
The list includes 132 streets slated for work. Stamford has more than 1,200 streets.
A goal unreached
Residents and city representatives have long complained about poor road conditions. Martin has acknowledged the problem, saying the city needs to spend at least $6 million a year on repairs but, before he began his first term in 2013, only half that amount was being spent. Martin allocated $5 million for paving his first year in office but dropped it to about half that amount for the next couple of years because the city had to fund the new school on Strawberry Hill Avenue and a new police headquarters on Bedford Street.
Martin got the paving budget to $6.5 million in 2017, the year he was reelected, but it fell to $4.8 million last year after mold was discovered in multiple school buildings, requiring costly repairs.
For the fiscal year that started July 1, Martin set aside $4 million, but he has a request before the Board of Representatives for an additional $1.6 million. If representatives approve his request when they meet Nov. 6, it will bring total spending on roads this year to $5.6 million, just shy of Martin’s annual goal.
Mystery list
Jackson said he wonders how the list works.
“If you drive around the West Side, you’ll see a lot of streets in bad shape,” he said. “There could be others that haven’t been paved since the 1960s.”
Last month city representatives invited public works officials to explain how crews tackle the paving list. They learned that multiple factors affect decisions about which streets to fix.
Besides the budget, factors include condition of storm drains, which must be repaired before roads are repaved; whether utility or construction companies plan to dig up a street; digs by a state agency that monitors aging natural-gas lines; and the weather.
City Rep. Jeff Stella represents District 9, which includes parts of the West Side. It would not be surprising to learn that streets have gone unpaved for decades, Stella said.
“Roads on the West Side have been in bad condition for years. I’ve complained about it myself,” Stella said. “But I know they are starting to pave because I’ve seen crews on West Avenue, and they are hitting some of the side streets.”
That follows what Operations Director Mark McGrath told representatives last month — crews working on a main artery will resurface a nearby side street if they see it’s crumbling. It’s to work as efficiently as possible “wherever we drop anchor,” McGrath told them.
Getting irked
Martin’s spokesman, Arthur Augustyn, said West Side streets are not different from those in other parts of the city.
“All neighborhoods in Stamford are in need of road repair,” Augustyn said, citing the paving list, which he said shows “that the West Side has had many paving projects in the past five years.”
According to the list, crews have paved Stillwater Avenue and Smith Street, filled cracks on West Avenue, and are fixing drainage problems on Richmond Hill Avenue.
The list is based on a 2016 study by a company, Infrastructure Management Services, that Martin hired for $144,000 to assess the condition of every road in the city. Martin did not form the paving list based juston condition, however. He factored in traffic volume.
“The mayor created a formula weighing road condition with volume of use and that’s what created the priority list,” Augustyn said. “The mayor says this frequently and it’s worth repeating: Stamford’s roads are the result of underfunding road maintenance for over 10 years. We’ve made a lot of progress, but it may take 10 years to bring all our roads to better conditions A 10-year wait is one thing; 54 years is something entirely different, said Jackson, who with his sister owns the house on Madison Place purchased by their parents in 1958.
“I started getting really aggravated about five years ago,”  he said.

Construction sites to "stand down" to address opioid abuse
AP
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Work at dozens of constructions sites across Connecticut will be suspended in the coming days to draw attention to the problem of opioid abuse in the construction industry.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong are scheduled to appear Monday morning with members of the Connecticut Construction Industry Association and construction union officials outside the State Office Building in Hartford, where a massive renovation project is under way. It will be one of dozens of similar "stand downs" planned across the state at construction sites, beginning Monday and running through Friday.
The general theme of the campaign is called "You Are Not Alone: There Is Help." The events are designed to create awareness, provide resources and reduce the stigma of opioid use among construction workers.

East Lyme officials review scaled-back police building plans
Mary Biekert
East Lyme — Public Safety Building Vision Committee members on Thursday reviewed newly revised concept plans for the town’s proposed policing facility after objections were raised to a higher-than-expected $5.8 million renovation estimate presented to the committee late last month.
Compared to the original plan, which took up 22,537 square feet spread across two floors in the building, the new plan features renovations on just the first floor of the building, taking up 16,938 square feet, which committee members are hoping will bring the price down to within the town’s $1.7 million budget for the project.
Vision Committee Chairman Paul Dagle, who is also a selectman, said that contracted building architects Silver/Petrucelli + Associates have not yet provided new cost estimates, but committee members would receive them by Monday to discuss at another meeting planned for Tuesday night.
A previous cost breakdown presented by architects showed that renovations would cost about $248 per square foot. Dagle said he was not sure yet whether the price per square foot would decrease, but that, “We’re expecting the price to come down closer to the budget.”
“I just know that, with the decrease in the total square footage and some effect of not having to worry about means of egress because we aren’t on the second floor at all, the price is coming down,” Dagle said.
Committee members added that the latest plans could save hundreds of thousands of dollars by not replacing an HVAC system and skipping over repaving the parking lot. A downgraded generator also will save at least $100,000, member Bill Cornelius said.
Dagle said more savings may be found when the town has a better understanding of which Americans with Disabilities Act and other building requirements must be followed.
Building official Steve Way had previously told The Day the town may be able to save money by structurally upgrading only certain parts of the building, such as its Emergency Operations Center.
Way also had told The Day that the building may not need to be fully retrofitted with sprinklers, depending on which modifications can be obtained from the state. Should holding cells be built, that part of the building would need to be retrofitted with sprinklers, he said.
The town still needs to obtain modifications to bypass certain building requirements from the state's building official.
Voters in a February referendum approved spending up to $5 million to purchase and renovate the former 30,000-square-foot Honeywell office building at 277 West Main St. into a consolidated space that would house a new police facility, as well as the town’s dispatch center, fire marshal’s office and emergency operations center.
Having closed on the building in May for about $2.77 million, the town is now left with approximately $1.7 million for repurposing the structure as a public safety facility, while the remaining $500,000 will be used to install communications wiring and dispatch equipment in the building.
But after Silver/Petrucelli + Associates said renovations could cost as much as $5.8 million at the Sept. 26 Public Safety Building Vision Committee meeting — $3.6 million more than provided by the approved bond issue — many residents, as well as some town officials, have since expressed worry that the project simply cannot come in on budget.
Principal architect William Silver of Silver/Petrucelli + Associates has since appeared before the Board of Selectmen to offer an explanation for the higher-than-expected renovation estimates. Silver said earlier this month that a “needs assessment” for the building, as well as the first “conceptual design,” presented to the Vision Committee on Sept. 26, was just the first phase of a multiple-step process between architects and the committee — a "planning tool," he said, to begin the process and to “show the big picture” of the project, “to give you a sense of what the total responsibilities in the long run are going to be involved.”
According to comments submitted to the vision committee by police Chief Mike Finkelstein, who was not present at Thursday’s meeting, the new plan is "workable."
“He understands and we all understand that we are trying to minimize the amount of work in this building and maximize it as an office building,” Dagle said.
Most committee members at Thursday's meeting also expressed content with the newly outlined plans and said it made sense to keep the plans to just the first floor, saving the second floor for expansion of other town departments in the future.
Member Lisa Picarazzi, who is also vice chairwoman of the finance board, raised concerns with the building’s roof, asking that the committee receive an accurate lifespan for it. According to initial price estimates, a new roof would cost more than $370,000. Picarazzi also said she wanted to ensure that the size of the Information Technology room provides adequate space for its systems, saying that Stonington police had told her, while she was touring their building, that their IT room is too small and to learn from their mistake.
Dagle said he would add her concerns to the list of questions to ask architects.
Holding cells also were designed into the scheme presented Thursday. Dagle said that was to help price out how much the cells would cost, which will be further determined when the committee goes out to bid on contracted renovations for the building. Once the committee has the final price of the holding cells, Dagle said it will then make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen on whether the cells should be built as part of the building now or to wait until later.
The Board of Finance voted during a Jan. 23 special meeting to decrease the amount the town is allowed to bond out for the project, unanimously approving $5 million — $2.77 million to purchase the building and $2.23 million for renovations. That was below the initial nearly $6 million request based on estimates First Selectman Mark Nickerson and the task force obtained from experts.
Cutting $1 million from the original request, the board acknowledged, would mean potentially putting off installing proposed holding cells. In Silver/Petrucelli + Associates’ original presentation, holding cells were estimated to cost just over $1 million.
Dagle said that should the holding cells be built, the committee also would need to account for how much it would cost to hook up the building to the town’s water system, which would be needed for the sprinkler system required in the holding cell area.
Dagle said the town is planning to connect the police building property to a water line that soon will be brought down through a proposed affordable-housing development — known as Rocky Neck Village — currently being planned just north of the police building.
Dagle said those costs are not currently part of the $5 million budget.
Reviewing the vision committee’s charter, Dagle said, “Our goal is to get those four organizations in this building and make sure it's functional so that they can go do their job and be in a much better environment than the one they’re in today.”
“And if for some reason, we think we are taking a shortcut here, cramming all this here into the square footage, or cramming it in to meet the cost, it’s our responsibility to identify that,” Dagle said. “We are going to have to continue to evaluate this. A lot of things will evolve. This is our second or third step to get a concept to meet our needs and budget.”

N. Britain’s Hospital for Special Care to break ground on $13M expansion
Joe Cooper
he Hospital for Special Care (HFSC) in New Britain says it will break ground Tuesday on a $13 million expansion of a hospitalization program and an education and day center.
The project is being supported by $10 million in funding approved by the state Bond Commission and $2.3 million in community contributions. HFSC is still seeking another $700,000 in funds to complete its fundraiser.
The American Savings Foundation made the first investment in the project through a $150,000 grant. A spokesman for HFSC said the grant played a significant role in spurring other public and private contributions.
Construction is expected to be completed by fall 2020.
The partial hospital program and education and day center will complement current outpatient and inpatient services at HFSC’s autism center, hospital officials say..
The expanded facility is being designed by architecture firm Kaestle Boos Associates Inc. and construction is being managed by Downes Construction Co., both based in New Britain.

Windsor Locks PZC greenlights 116-room hotel
Joe Cooper
Planning officials in Windsor Locks have blessed a developer’s plan to build a 116-room Tru by Hilton brand hotel on Ella Grasso Turnpike.
The town’s Planning and Zoning Commission last week unanimously approved a special use permit and site plan application for New Hampshire-based Archgrove Hospitality Inc. to build the 55,000-square-foot hotel at 229 Ella Grasso Turnpike next to the Springhill Suites by Marriott Hartford hotel.
The 6-acre property, which sits across from the entrance of Bradley International Airport, is owned by Frank E. Bauchiero Jr. of 225 Turnpike Associates LLC.
It’s not yet clear how much the hotel project will cost or when construction will begin. Archgrove and Bauchiero could not immediately be reached for comment Friday, and they have not yet applied for building permits with the town.
According to plans, the rooms will span over 13,000 square feet and the building will feature an indoor pool, fitness room, lounge with a gaming room, and an area for continental breakfast. It will also include two offices and a break room for employees. Plans do not currently include a bar.
The hotel will have 123 parking spaces split across two separate parking areas and will likely offer guests a shuttle service to the airport.
Tru by Hilton operates 129 hotels in the U.S.
The Windsor Locks project is one of several recent hotel proposals in Greater Hartford’s growing hospitality industry.

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