State Awards $2.5 Million to New Milford for Century Brass Mill Demolition Project

March 31, 2014

By ALICE TESSIER | Litchfield County Times

NEW MILFORD—The town is anticipating $2.5 million in state funding to help it remove the old Century Brass mill to prepare the brownfield site for redevelopment.

“Gov. Dannel Malloy announced Monday that the State Bond Commission is expected to approve the funds at its next meeting, which is this Friday,” said Mayor Patricia Murphy in an interview Tuesday.

The money would go toward the demolition of the old, vacant 320,000-square-foot fabrication mill building on the 72-acre site, now known as Century Enterprise Center, and cleanup and disposal of contaminants.

“Although the [Center] has already undergone a multi-million dollar federal and state environmental assessment and cleanup, the property still includes a vacant brass mill contaminated with asbestos and PCB that must be demolished and disposed of properly before the town can move forward with redeveloping and marketing the property,” stated the March 24 news release issued by the governor.

The state anticipates the project would create approximately 50 construction-related jobs.

“Woo hoo!” Ms. Murphy said Tuesday when asked her response to the news she presented to the Town Council the previous evening that the Bond Commission is expected to vote on the funding Friday.

“We approved her to act on it [the application] at the Town Council on Monday, and now we’re waiting with bated breath for the Bond Commission’s decision,” council member Beth Falder said Wednesday.

“It’s certainly a feather in the mayor’s cap, and I’m sure [state Sen.] Clark Chapin had a lot to do with it, too,” said fellow member Frank Wargo, who is also a member of the town’s Economic Development Commission and had served until recently as its chairman for several years.

The grant would be administered by the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

The Century Brass mill closed in 1986 and the town obtained it in 1999 in a tax foreclosure, according to the governor’s release.

Mr. Wargo, who was a member of the Town Council when the town foreclosed on the property, said that “for the last four years, there’s been more focus on the site,” and he also recalled earlier efforts the town made.

“We started when Tripp Rothschild was EDC chairman, even before Vin Nolan [a former town economic development supervisor] came to help move the town forward. It never seemed to click, and the building seemed to get worse and worse until the only thing that made sense was to tear the building down.”

The mayor pointed out that “the land has already been cleared and remediated, but the roof of the old mill has friable asbestos and it would cost more to address that than demolish the building.”

Ms. Murphy said she submitted a project proposal to the state in December in hopes of obtaining funds for “our $3 million reclamation and demolition project.”

According to the project description, the mill’s steel structure would be reclaimed in addition to the “disposal of asbestos and PCB contaminated debris.”

“I sent a conceptual plan for how the site might be redeveloped up to the state with the grant application,” Ms. Murphy said of the town’s request for a $2.5 million Urban Act grant for its Final Remediation and Reclamation/Demolition Project at Century Enterprise Center.

Pointing to a rendering illustrating the concept in her office at the Roger Sherman Town Hall, she noted that the site could potentially accommodate eight lots or so for small business use, a fuel cell or other renewable energy source for a ‘green component’ and the relocation of public works.

She said she was trying to present “a modern view” of redevelopment of the site that would reflect “getting as much return as possible on its use for the community.”

“The town has not only done a lot to clean up the site—we also put in sewer and new gas lines and water so it could be developed and add to our tax base,” Ms. Murphy said.

According to the governor’s release, the town “has made additional investments totaling $4.4 million in sewer, water, and road infrastructure near the property.”

The site, which is about a mile from Route 7 and has service sidings by Housatonic Railroad Company, represents about 15 percent of the town’s industrially zoned land.

It is estimated that the town’s industrial tax base potentially might increase by more than $300,000 per year with the redevelopment of Century Enterprise Center.

The state DECD is helping the town to actively market the site “for possible future uses as a distribution center, a large retail complex or as a property for ‘green’ industry,” according to the news release.

Gov. Malloy stated in making the funding announcement, “The Century Enterprise Center has tremendous potential for commercial and ‘green’ industrial use that will generate economic development and create jobs, but for too long this site has sat unused. The state’s investment in this project demonstrates our ongoing commitment to work with municipal partners to restore blighted properties, bolster our economy and improve the quality of life for residents.”

Legislators who represent the town in Hartford offered comment in the news release.

“I’m very grateful for Governor Malloy’s decision to partner with New Milford in helping to move this worthwhile project forward,” said Sen. Chapin (R-30th). “This additional investment by the state will greatly enhance the town’s ability to transform the former Century Brass property from its idle state to a productive one.”

The mayor noted that last fall she and Sen. Chapin had taken Daniel Esty, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection commissioner, and his wife, Rep. Elizabeth Esty, on a tour of the site and that Sen. Chapin “has been working on this for quite a while.”

State Rep. Cecilia Buck-Taylor (R-67th) stated: “Remediating and redeveloping brownfield sites is crucial to the economic plans and goals of so many Connecticut communities, and New Milford is no different. This is welcome news for New Milford, and I hope it will serve as fuel for additional investment and development here.”

State Rep. Richard A. Smith (R-108th) echoed their comments, stating, “This is a huge investment in New Milford, marking the start of an economic transformation that will draw businesses, investors and opportunities to our community. This project will boost the town’s profile as a competitive destination for industry, while breathing new life into a site that has long needed revitalization.”

Mr. Wargo said he thinks the town is more than ready to move ahead with the project now.

“Hopefully, if this goes through Friday, I think we might be able start in the summer, to make requests for bids,” he said. “I think we’re going to have enough money, with the receipt of this funding, to do it.”