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CT Construction Digest Friday December 13, 2019

EXCLUSIVE: Gov. Lamont interview on ‘truck only tolls’ and public trust in government
Mark Davis VIDEO
HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont says he has been absolutely assured by legislative leaders that his ‘trucks only tolls’ plan will come up for vote next month. He sits down with WTNH Chief Political Correspondent Mark Davis to talk about the road to passing his transportation plan.
Governor Lamont has had a pretty rough road deciding what he wants for a state transportation plan, but now he says he’s got the commitment from he needs from top Democrats in the Assembly.
Here’s a transcript of News 8’s exclusive interview Thursday:
[LAMONT] “It’s absolutely key that we fix the transportation system. We have a way to do it and tied to that is the Bonding bill, so we can get that money out to municipalities that are ready to make those investments.”
[DAVIS] “One year ago today, five weeks after the election, I asked you if you were still committed to the ‘trucks only tolls, you said you were. About six or eight weeks later you changed your mind and included passenger cars. Last month you went back to trucks [only]. Don’t you think that’s a problem for a Governor and a politician?
[LAMONT] “What’s a problem is not investing in our transportation system for fifty years. We’ve got a good option now. It’s a ‘trucks only’ option. It raises $200 million a year. It speeds up rail service from Hartford to New Haven to Stamford and New York. And it cleans up a lot of real congestion points.”
[DAVIS] “But don’t you see why there’s this trust in government thing and trust with the state government that people are concerned that it won’t be passenger cars in the future?
[LAMONT] “What they don’t trust is when people say we’re going to have a ‘Rainy Day Fund’ and we’re going to save that for when we have a recession so we don’t have to cut services for the most vulnerable, so we don’t have to raise taxes in the middle of a recession. What could be worse? They don’t trust it when we say ‘rather than protect our ‘Rainy Day Fund’ we’re going to squander it now, or spend that money now and hope to God we don’t have a recession in the next few years.'”
[DAVIS] “And what will you do if the truckers win their case in Rhode Island and then do a similar suit here?”
[LAMONT] “They’re not going to win their lawsuit. This is a law suit that’s been pending for a while. It will be resolved in the next couple of years, one way or the other. Right now the good news, Mark, is that the Trump Department of Transportation is continuing to fund Rhode Island despite the law suits. We get hit with law suits all the time in this state. It’s litigation-happy. You got to do the right thing and that’s what we’re doing.”

Old Lyme water authority weighs changes to sewer project fee formula
Mary Biekert
Old Lyme — The Water Pollution Control Authority overwhelmingly voted down a proposal Tuesday night seeking to tweak a formula dictating how much homeowners living in Sound View would have to pay to hook up to a sewer system planned for the area.
Members of the WPCA cited the need for more research and legal counsel before passing the change.
The WPCA has been considering tweaking the formula since it was passed earlier this year, WPCA Chairman Rich Prendergast said. The formula dictates how much homeowners living in the Sound View and Miscellaneous Town Area B neighborhoods, north of Sound View, would pay to hook into state-ordered sewer upgrades planned for the neighborhoods — a $9.5 million plan that town voters passed in an August referendum, but for which future ratepayers must pay back $7.44 million over the next two decades.
The original formula outlined that homeowners would have to pay both a $6,000 connection fee and a betterment assessment fee starting at $15,000. The assessment fee then would increase based on the exact livable square footage of a home.
The formula, however, yielded extreme cost disparities between those owning a small cottage, for example, and those owning a large home.
The owner of an average 1,242-square-foot, or mid-size, home, for example, would pay an estimated $31,007, while on the high end, a homeowner with a more than 6,000-square-foot structure could be on the hook for upward of $100,000. Those with smaller homes would pay as low as $21,000, Prendergast said.
Such disparities have prompted complaints from homeowners in the neighborhood, including by Sound View Commission Chairman Frank Pappalardo, who questioned the formula with The Day before the referendum passed. First Selectman Tim Griswold also criticized the plan during his campaign this past fall, saying he would encourage the WPCA to come up with a better one.
The WPCA has said the original formula was never set in stone and is still a working concept. The formula was passed to help give homeowners an idea of what they would have to pay to hook up to the sewer system in order to make an informed decision while voting, Prendergast said Tuesday.
WPCA Vice Chair Frank Chan proposed the formula that was voted down Tuesday. The formula was first presented to the WPCA in October, and sought to make the current charging formula more equitable for everyone, Prendergast explained, by essentially "tweaking" it to decrease the disparities.
The absolute highest a property owner could pay under the new formula would be capped at $48,000, while the lowest is at $21,000, again depending on home size.
Similar to the already passed formula, Chan’s outlines that each dwelling would pay a $21,000 fee — comprising of both the betterment assessment and connection fees — and then would pay an additional “cost adjustment,” which he broke down into five tiers depending on home size.
The tiered charging plan allows those with larger homes of more than 3,000 square feet — the highest tier —to pay an additional cost adjustment of $27,296 on top of the $21,000 baseline fee, while those with homes less than 500 square feet would not pay an additional cost adjustment. Owners of homes in between those sizes would pay a rate that would depend on which tier they fall into.
Chan’s proposal, however, raised other concerns from WPCA members, who worried the plan would need additional legal counsel before being passed and that the formula also would not make everyone happy because of its tiered organization.
Member Steve Cinami said he was concerned that many homeowners would unfairly have to pay thousands more in their cost adjustments if their homes, say, happen to fall into the low spectrum of a higher tier. For example, a home slightly larger than 1,000 square feet would have to pay nearly $7,000 more than the owner of a 999-square-foot house, he said.
Since the WPCA wasn’t fully comfortable or confident in the proposed changes, Prendergast said the authority will seek legal counsel before again discussing the formula at a future meeting. He said the group likely would pass a formula close to what Chan has proposed, depending on feedback from counsel.

House passes defense policy bill backing submarine construction at EB, provides money for new pier at sub base
Julia Bergman
The U.S. House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed an annual defense policy bill that includes support for the recently announced submarine contract awarded to Electric Boat and money to replace an aging pier at the Naval Submarine Base to accommodate a longer, more modern version of the attack submarine that will be built.
The bill, which authorizes $738 billion in defense spending, passed the House by a vote of 377 to 48. The Senate is expected to take up the measure next week. President Donald Trump has indicated he intends to sign the bill.
The bipartisan House support for the bill followed months of partisan debate over what would be included, namely a fight over provisions related to Trump's proposed wall on the southern border. Lawmakers also had to sort out differences between the Senate and House versions of the measure.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who was among the lawmakers selected to negotiate the final version of the bill, dismissed criticism that the bill was a win for Republicans, saying that was "off base."
Courtney pointed to what he called bipartisan achievements in the legislation, such as 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees, which, he said, was a "a great step in achieving parity between members of the military and the civilian workforce that supports them," and the phasing out of the so-called Widow's Tax, which prevented some military survivors from receiving two different sets of benefits to which they're entitled.
Courtney became chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which has oversight of Navy shipbuilding, at the start of this year with the Democratic takeover of the House following the 2018 midterm elections. He said the bill the House passed reflects many of his priorities.
The bill authorizes $8.5 billion for two Virginia-class attack submarines. The Navy recently awarded EB, which is in Courtney's district, a $22.2 billion contract to build at least nine Virginia-class submarines from now through 2023. The contract includes the option to buy a 10th submarine, which Courtney has pushed for. The bill authorizes $200 million to buy materials for that 10th boat, which Courtney said is a "strong statement in Congressional support" for construction of 10 submarines over the timeline of the contract.
Another $2.4 billion is authorized under the bill for the Columbia-class submarine program, a new fleet of 12 ballistic missile submarines, and the bill authorizes $8 million to support workforce training programs to develop the employees needed to carry out this work.
The bill also includes $72.3 million to replace an aging pier at the sub base with one that is longer and wider to accommodate the new Virginia-class submarines. The new subs will include an 85-foot section to increase payload capacity.

Judge to weigh testimony in Metcalf Paving appeal of Canaan Planning and Zoning Commission decision
TORRINGTON — Testimony was heard Wednesday in Torrington Superior Court on B. Metcalf Paving’s appeal of a decision by the Canaan Planning and Zoning Commission.
The case involves owner Ben Metcalf’s application for site-plan approval to slightly modify his business at 235 East Canaan Road.
Judge John Moore will make a decision after studying the material presented.
Metcalf submitted the application in May 2018, but the commission, deeming his request was not in the table of uses, refused to accept the application and returned Metcalf’s check.
During the trial, Metcalf attorney Mark Shipman said the PZC has three choices: accept, accept with modifications or deny the site plan.
“The commission could have acted,” Shipman said. “It could have denied it if it failed to meet the regulations. Instead it just did nothing, but sent the check back. That’s not action. We’re here on a narrow issue. The application should be approved because the commission took no action.”
He noted that because the commission did not act within the 65-day limit and no notice of decision was placed in a newspaper, the application should be approved. PZC attorney D. Randall DiBella countered that the 65-day rule does not apply to special exceptions.
Metcalf was issued a special permit to operate his business in May 2016. When asked by DiBella why he sought approval of a site plan, Metcalf said he was adding one more piece of equipment and was advised by his attorney to go through the procedure.
During questioning by Shipman, Metcalf said because he has not been able to add green warm mix to his business, he has to purchase it from willing suppliers. Last year it cost him $589,000 under that arrangement.
Also called to testify was Richelle Hodza, the former zoning enforcement officer who resigned because of the case. Asked if she was fully apprised of all information pertaining to the issue, she said, “The matter grew so complicated and confusing, I couldn’t take enough time from my day-to-day duties to study it.”
Shipman questioned Hodza about her resignation letter in which she wrote the PZC was “hoodwinked” by Chairman Steve Allyn, and said she was bullied by Allyn and member Dan Adam. Allyn denied those allegations.
During his questioning of Allyn – who has been chairman since 2008, and for a time this year served as both chairman and zoning enforcement officer – Shipman asked why he thought the PZC could not act on the application. Allyn said he was told by a former town attorney not to act on applications that are not in the table of uses. Allyn acknowledged that ruling was not given specifically to this application.
Shipman also noted that while the decision was made in May, the letter sent about the decision was stamped “received” by the Board of Selectmen on Sept. 25, “coincidentally two days after a mandamus action.”
Shipman told Allyn he seems to be recreating history.
Allyn insisted the processing of asphalt was not a permitted use. Shipman asked him to read a section of the regulations that mentioned processing of asphalt, and when Shipman questioned him again about it being allowed, Allyn replied, “I would say no. I say millings are different.”
Shipman responded, “What else in the regulations do you not understand and try to enforce?”
DiBella objected when Shipman asked Allyn, “You don’t like Mr. Metcalf, do you?”
Allyn replied, “I didn’t say that. You did.”
Called for a rebuttal, Metcalf disputed Allyn’s assertion he’d never met with him to discuss the application. Metcalf said they met at Allyn’s place of business, a limestone quarry, before he submitted the application.
This is the second time the case has been in court. In July, Judge Dan Shaban ruled the court did not have jurisdiction over the case. He said approval of the site plan cannot be given through a zoning appeal, a law noted in state statutes.

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