Provide state funding to finish Norwich Hospital cleanup

Sen. Cathy Osten said it well, the state needs “to clean up its own mess” and complete the former Norwich Hospital property cleanup, finally clearing the way for its redevelopment.

The Democratic state senator for the 19th District which, interestingly enough, doesn’t include Preston, made her comment last week at a breakfast business meeting in Groton, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. Glendowlyn Thames, deputy director of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, was an event speaker.

Osten was pointing to the need for the state to include $7 million in the bonding package to finish the environmental remediation of the property. In 2017, a $10 million state grant was approved for the property cleanup, but the projections soared another $9 million beyond that.

Preston, which in 2009 acquired the property from the state with the intent of getting it developed and on the tax rolls, has a $2 million loan previously approved by the state that it can use towards completing the work, but it needs a $7 million grant as well.

The Preston Redevelopment Agency in 2019 received the bad news that during the decades when the property was developed into a sprawling campus to institutionalize people afflicted with mental illnesses, toxic coal ash from the coal-burning plant was used as a sub-surface material for parking lots and roadways.

Those pollutants have to be removed if Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment is to move forward with a $400 million to $600 million plan to convert the nearly 400-acre property into a mixed-use sports, entertainment, housing, hotel, retail and marina complex, across the river from the Mohegan Sun casino.

Completing the cleanup is not only a moral imperative, considering that state decisions led to the situation, but a sound investment given the economic benefits that would result.

On Monday, Gov. Ned Lamont called for releasing $625 million in municipal aid through a bond package. Osten said she has been told by leadership of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee that there is interest in expanding the bond package beyond municipal aid, in part to support economic development, including completing the Norwich Hospital property cleanup.

We strongly urge the Lamont administration to work closely with the committee to assure that the funding is included. Given the positive benefits that would result, all members of the region’s legislative delegation should join in bipartisan support.

Finish the job.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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