NEWINGTON – The Town Hall Project is a project if there ever was one.
It took over a decade to plan and earn voter support and now under construction, the new building is hitting just about every obstacle it could.
Make those unforeseen obstacles – fuel gushing from the ground, 700 ft. of water pipe to replace, an improper property line and a lawsuit.
“It’s been a long time coming and I sure hope I make it to the ribbon-cutting,” Newington Mayor Roy Zartarian said this week, when asked if he had any comment on the project’s progress.
Town Hall Renovation Building Committee Chairman Joe Harpie is handling the pressure.
“The good news is that relative to all these things that have come up we’re still on track – on schedule to complete the building by mid-July 2020,” Harpie said Monday.
That’s as long as no complications arise during the demolition of the existing town hall and Mortensen Community Center, which could potentially drag new construction out into 2021.
Quisenberry-Arcari + Malik Architects and Downes Construction have been meeting with the committee for well over two years now. The team had an environmental study performed at the site and initially identified some asbestos and contaminants but did not proceed with a Phase II or III study to quantify the removal of what is there.
That is worrisome to Harpie, who said it is too late to do additional analysis on contaminants at this point in the project.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan District Commission is requiring the town to replace its water line underneath the ground.
The $28.8 million in bonding voters approved in a 2017 referendum was the original project budget. The total price went up to $31.2 million early spring, due to contingencies that arose. A group of residents is currently suing the town for approving this increase without asking voters’ permission. They are seeking to cease construction until further notice and hold another referendum. Superior Court Judge Susan Peck is expected to make a determination on the case sometime this fall.
The Town Plan & Zoning Commission was presented with a new petition Sept. 11 to move the town hall property line southeasterly, reducing the travel lane in Mazzoccoli Way by several feet. With this proposal, the street would still be used to access the library and town hall after construction is complete.
According to Harpie, this revision would mitigate a 20’ encroachment that the team was not aware of until this summer.
“It’s a bump-out to accommodate the parks and rec gymnasium and additional seating capacity,” he explained. “The only other alternative would be to knock more of the building down, but we don’t have any place or money to relocate town staff in that situation.”
Harpie hopes all the parties involved can come to an agreement.
“I think it can be resolved, but we all have to be reasonable,” he added.
Matthew Mazzoccoli, Karen and Dan Cantalfi – the children and son-in-law of late Newington Mayor Dominic Mazzoccoli, raised the issue at an August Town Council meeting after hearing that the roadway was in jeopardy.
“I will do everything in my power to keep Mazzoccoli Way even if I have to stand in front of a bulldozer and picket,” Mayor Zartarian told the group.
They were relieved to learn that what the rumors were false and the street dedicated in their father’s honor would be restored post-construction, even if it’s a shorter width.
“We came to protect everything he contributed to Newington his whole life, that was recognized, and we didn’t want to be taken away,” Matthew explained.
“It’s a small town, people talk and sometimes things are misinterpreted,” Dan added.
The family was heartened to hear how the people involved with the project felt about the former mayor and protecting his legacy. Both Harpie and Zartarian worked closely with and were very fond of their dad.
“The key take away was the kind words people had to say about him,” Karen said.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.