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Habitat homes in New London get ready for housewarmings

New London - With two new homes on Davis Farm Way largely complete, builders who managed the one-week Habitat for Humanity projects spent Friday putting on the finishing touches.

Workers - six of whom were recruited from Pfizer Inc. - put up screen doors, tiled a bathroom and later were to hydroseed the lawns at the two homes near New London High School that were part of a nationwide Habitat Builders' Blitz.

Other than that, the builders concentrated mostly on cleanup and a few cosmetic details, as well as dealing with inspections for the homes' certificates of occupancy.

”It was certainly a good test of our ability to schedule a job,” said Norton C. Wheeler III, owner of the Mystic River Building Co., which was in charge of building one of the nearly 1,300-square-foot houses in one week's time. “Every hour was critical here. Each hour was equivalent to a day on a normal job.”

Wheeler said doing two houses at a time actually made the job easier, since workers could be borrowed from one site to help out at the other.

Wheeler and Robert Fusaro Jr., who managed the other Builders Blitz home for Real Estate Services of Middletown, said the project started out with 14- to 16-hour days, but the hours had become more regular since Wednesday.

”Now we can crack a beer,” Fusaro joked.

Both builders hoped their efforts would inspire other local builders to try similar affordable-housing projects.

”Everyone should build one of these - once,” Wheeler laughed. “I hope other people in the community will follow our lead and participate; give a few hours, give a day. It doesn't take much of any one individual's time.”

The Bondy and Bryan families will be receiving keys to their new homes at 2 p.m. today, when Habitat holds a dedication ceremony, expected to be attended by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District; state Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, and New London Mayor Kevin J. Cavanaugh.

Habitat will also be giving the owners, who will be spending from $130,000 to $140,000 and receiving a zero-percent mortgage, a Bible and a toolbox as gifts for their new home. The families should be able to move into their new homes by the end of this month.

”This whole thing allows us to talk about affordable housing in a positive way,” said Terri O'Reilly, executive director of the local Habitat chapter. “It can be done and be a plus for the community.”

O'Reilly said she has been working with the Town of Montville as well as the Lyme Compact, a group in Lyme, to create affordable housing in those towns. She said Habitat is open to all sorts of ideas, including partnerships with builders, renovations of older buildings and even the construction of condominiums.

”We're always willing to try new ways to do this,” she said.
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