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City Hall restoration work continues in New London

New London — The general public is not allowed into City Hall these days but that hasn’t slowed construction activity.

Work crews have spent the better part of two months in the century-old State Street building performing restoration and repair work.

Otis Elevator is working to rehabilitate a broken elevator, while separate crews are restoring historical areas of the third and first floors. Skilled tradesmen and construction companies are exempt from the governor's executive order requiring the closure of nonessential businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The broken elevator, the only handicapped-accessible way to reach Council Chambers on the third floor, led the council and other boards and commission to shift their meetings to other venues late last year. That was before the coronavirus pandemic moved meetings online.

Tom Bombria, community & economic development project coordinator, said work to rehabilitate the elevator should be completed by the second week of April. He anticipates the work to be $60,000 less than an initial $250,000 estimate.

Valley Restoration was contracted for the work on the third floor and partnered with plaster and painting experts John Canning Company for repair of damaged and deteriorating plaster in the Council Chambers, chamber lobby, anteroom adjacent to Council Chambers and a council office.

There is also work to reopen a first-floor room that will be used as a conference room.

Other work involves restoration of the cork flooring and woodwork, asbestos abatement and electrical work.

Workers also will be painting. Research by Canning had uncovered the original color of the Council Chambers walls when the building was constructed in 1912. Bombria said painters revealed the color in a 14-foot swatch painted on the wall.

It was not a hit. “Way too much mustard,” was one response, Bombria joked. The color has since been tweaked a bit.

Xerox was contracted to work with the city’s informational technology staff to develop a scope for updated video and audio equipment in Council Chambers. The city is getting estimates for HVAC work in the chambers and restoration of historical murals in the anteroom.

The City Council in December approved $425,600 for the repairs. Bombria said that work appears to be under budget.

A consultant for the city is now completing an application to the State Historic Preservation Office to determine eligibility for up to $500,000 toward the work.

The City Council in 2015 authorized $3 million toward City Hall restorations, though an initial estimate proved to be too costly for all the work to be completed at the same time, as was planned. The city has since been chipping away at different projects.

Work left to be done includes lighting upgrades, expansion of the city clerk’s vault, bathroom renovations and finish work.

Felix Reyes, director of the city’s Office of Development and Planning, said the work on the Council Chambers is impressive.

“I’m confident in saying what we’re doing there is putting together something pretty spectacular,” Reyes said. “When the chamber is completed, we will have a meeting place New London will be proud of for generations.”

g.smith@theday.com

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