State Sending City $10M For New DPW HQ

Thomas Breen photosThe city will likely spend $5 million less than anticipated on a rebuild of the Department of Public Works (DPW) headquarters, even though the projected cost of the project is now $5 million more than originally budgeted.

That’s thanks to $10 million in state bond money for a demolition and construction project.

Members of the Board of Alders City Services and Environmental Policy (CSEP) Committee heard that update this past Thursday night, then voted in support of the city accepting the $10 million grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) for the demolition of the current DPW headquarters and construction of a new headquarters at 34 Middletown Ave. The item now goes to the full Board of Alders for a final vote.

“The state came through with $10 million,” City Engineer Giovanni Zinn said, “requiring a $5 million match from the city. That’s created a pool of $15 million for the facility, which we’re very grateful for.”

The city had originally budgeted $10 million in city capital funds for the project in this fiscal year’s budget, which was adopted in July 2018.

In the intervening six months, Zinn said, the city and a structural engineering firm it has hired for the project determined that the existing three-story maintenance, parking, storage, and office facility on Middletown Avenue is in even worse shape than originally thought. The cost estimate to demolish and repair two floors and redo the 1950s-era building’s mechanical and electrical systems bumped up to $15 million, he said.

Then the city reached out to the state, and managed to secure the $10 million grant from DECD during Sep. 2018’s State Bond Commission meeting. That state money requires that the city match the state funds with $5 million of its own. Zinn said that match is still $5 million less than what the city was initially planning to spend on the project.

Zinn said the infusion of state dollars has also allowed the city and its engineering partners to come up with a new solution for creating a stable DPW headquarters, where everything from city snow plows to garbage trucks are stored and serviced. The city now plans to demolish the existing three-story building, and build two new buildings on the site: one dedicated to maintenance, one dedicated to parking and storage.

“The building is worse than we had anticipated in terms of the extent of the issues,” Zinn said about the current structure at 34 Middletown. “We actually think they poured the two floors in the winter in the 1950s. We found a very consistent background level of salt in the concrete,” which in the long run contributed to the building’s degradation.

Now, Zinn said, the city plans to put a new maintenance building on the wedge-shaped plot of land, and then build a new three-level, pre-cast parking structure for passenger cars, trash vehicles, and snow plows. These new buildings will be more energy efficient than the existing structure, he said. They will be handicap accessible, whereas the current building is now.

Zinn said the city hopes to begin construction sometime in 2019, and that it will build the maintenance building first, relocate office staff there, demolish the current three-story facility, and then build the new three-story garage.

“What is your target time frame for construction?” asked Westville Alder Adam Marchand.

Zinn said this is probably a one or two-year project.

“The big benefit to the city,” Zinn said, “is that we save $5 million.”

State Money For Sidewalks, Too

Alders also voted on Thursday night unanimously in support of the city accepting $2.3 million in state aid to fund sidewalk repairs. That bond money was also released by the state to the city at Seprember 2018’s Bond Commission meeting. The item now goes to the full board for a final vote.

“The $2.3 million will basically double the quantity of sidewalks we’re able to do” this spring, Zinn said. He said the city last completed a citywide sidewalk assessment in 2016, and that it will do its next citywide sidewalk assessment in 2021.

Zinn said the city chooses which sidewalks to repair based on a number of factors, including current state of disrepair and proximity to schools, parks, and playgrounds.

He said the city completed sidewalk repairs at around 200 city addresses this fall. The next round of repairs, he said, should begin in the late spring or early summer. He did not share a list of which sidewalks are next up for repair.

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posted by: Noteworthy on January 6, 2019  7:34pm

Does the city ever get its estimates remotely correct? Being off by 33% is no small thing. Our high priced engineer is also off on the great Escape debacle and the Walker ice rink which is now closed for the third season and not remotely close to being done. Itsgalso over budget.

posted by: LookOut on January 7, 2019  9:24am

Good point, Noteworthy.  It seems that we either get people who can’t estimate or just don’t care.  Missing on this many projects would cost someone their job int he real world.  In New Haven, they stay (and get a rise) or get promoted.  Speaking of the ice rink, that we supposed to be available for use this winter.  Anyone have an update?

posted by: tmctague on January 7, 2019  11:18am

“The building is worse than we had anticipated in terms of the extent of the issues,” Zinn said about the current structure at 34 Middletown.

Understatement!  I used to work for USDA-APHIS and 34 Middletown was one of my sites - horrendous.  The beetles I was trapping also found the site unsuitable. 


posted by: robn on January 7, 2019  11:25am

I’m still curious why a light weigh structure isn’t being considered for vehicle storage.
Maintenance could be done in a smaller heated bay.

posted by: Noteworthy on January 7, 2019  12:04pm

Rink update: Over budget. Behind schedule. Because the city “doesn’t have any money” it had to look for grants and partners. Ever the beggar. Albertus Magnus is the partner. It requires their own locker rooms and offices. They are not even framed up and the rink is not closed in. Parks and Rec said maybe February. This is heroic and even if it’s done by then, there is not enough season left to intellligently launch. Not that P and R won’t do so anyway. Bottom line: taxpayers use of its ice rink is denied again, through mismanagement and groveling to special interests and money.