$10.5 million sought to clean up former Norwich Hospital

Preston - The town is seeking an additional $10.5 million in state grants to help complete the cleanup of the former Norwich Hospital property, but the agency overseeing the project recently learned that federal testing and removal requirements for PCBs could add up to $8 million to the total cost.

Sean Nugent, chairman of the Preston Redevelopment Agency, told the Board of Selectmen Thursday that the agency has received a testing protocol from the federal Environmental Protection Agency outlining requirements for the PCB testing of window frames and surrounding brick, and removal and transport to a licensed disposal facility.

Nugent said the strict testing and removal measures could add up to $8 million to the overall disposal costs to the entire cost to clean up the 393-acre property. About 21 percent of the hospital "footprint" has been cleaned thus far, including about two dozen buildings. The largest buildings, including the Kettle and Lodge buildings, remain standing and would be the costliest to demolish.

Preston is seeking two new grants from the state to help cover the cleanup of the former state hospital campus, a $5 million straight bond through the state Bond Commission and a $5 million Urban Act grant through the state Department of Economic and Community Development. Both grants would not require matching town funds, Nugent said.

In addition, the town has applied for a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant that also would not require a local match.

Selectman and state Rep. Timothy Bowles said the bond request has been forwarded to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office. Bowles is hoping the Bond Commission will vote on the request at the July 26 commission meeting. If it does not make that agenda, Bowles suggested First Selectman Robert Congdon and Nugent write a letter to the governor requesting the funding be placed on the August agenda. He also suggested soliciting a letter of support from the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments.

Preston learned recently, however, that the town will not receive four federal grants the PRA had applied for - three $200,000 EPA brownfields grants and a $964,000 Economic Development Administration grant.

The town now is working with $4 million in approved loan funding, a $2 million state low-interest loan matched with a $2 million voter-approved bond.

If the town receives the new $10.5 million in state grants, Nugent said the PRA still might be $5 million short to cover the entire cleanup cost, depending on the amount of PCBs actually discovered. Less contamination would lower the cost, and bundling some cleanup projects could save some money as well.

c.bessette@theday.com

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