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    Friday, April 19, 2024

    Developer of Ponemah Mill gets 3 months in prison in N.Y. construction death case

    The developer of the giant Ponemah Mill complex in Taftville and his OneKey LLC company were sentenced last week in New York federal court after pleading guilty to violations of federal health and safety regulations that led to the death of a construction worker in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 2017.

    OneKey LLC, the New Jersey-based construction company was sentenced to three years of probation and fined $218,417, and company principal Finbar O’Neill, 57, of Paramus, N.J., was sentenced to three months in prison and one year of supervised release Friday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison.

    According to a news release by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, OneKey and O’Neill pleaded guilty to willfully violating the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations that resulted in the death of the worker.

    OneKey and O’Neill had implemented a soil compaction plan at a Poughkeepsie construction site involving piling large quantities of dirt on top of the sites of three future buildings. An engineering firm designed a plan for the use of the dirt but OneKey and O’Neill failed to follow the plan, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in the news release, and built a wall to hold back one of the piles so that workers could start work on an adjacent building.

    The news release stated OneKey and O’Neill did not consult with qualified persons to see if the wall could withstand the weight of the pile against it. OneKey continued to use construction machinery while workers were next to the wall. Workers told OneKey and O’Neill that the wall was not safe, but workers near the wall were not warned of the danger, and the wall was not fixed.

    On Aug. 3, 2017, workers complained that the construction machines were driving on the top of the pile. Later that day, the wall collapsed, and a worker ran from the scene but could not escape in time, the news release stated.

    O’Neill could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

    In Taftville, OneKey has completed a $60 million renovation of the first mill building in the Ponemah complex into 237 market rate and affordable apartments, and 77 additional units from the mill’s rear wing that were completed last fall.

    Work on a $40 million renovation of the second building into another 141 units has begun.

    Kevin Brown, president of the Norwich Community Development Corp., said Tuesday he was disappointed at hearing about the New York violations and construction worker’s death. Brown said the Taftville project work “has been nothing but excellent in its execution and final product.”

    Brown said NCDC will re-examine the construction safety plans to ensure all regulations are being followed.

    “We are confident in the work that has been done here and the safety and standards applied to the project here and will continue to be applied as we finish the project,” Brown said. “We will be sure to double down and take a close look at the final phase of the Ponemah project to ensure that none of these issues happen here.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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