Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Rell urges McCoy to lobby for Roosevelt Mills funding

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
November 9, 2007

VERNON - Gov. M. Jodi Rell told Mayor-elect Jason McCoy on Thursday that he should line up local legislators to lobby for the Roosevelt Mills project as she could not say with any certainty when it would come up before the bond commission for final approval.

The multi-million project to renovate the aged eyesore on Route 74 into a complex of 68 apartments and 10,000 square feet of office and commercial space has been in jeopardy these last few months as state politicians wrangled over the bonding package.

Rell vetoed the first $3.2 billion bond package, which included $1.5 million for the local revitalization venture, as well as financing for school construction payments and various other municipal capital projects.

But last week Rell signed a new $2.8 billion bond package into law, ending four months of partisan feuding between the Democrat-controlled legislature and the Republican governor and allocated the money for Roosevelt Mills.

Funding could remain in the proverbial hopper indefinitely, however, until it is brought before the Bond Commission, chaired by Rell.

The governor exclusively controls what the bond commission considers. Even though she has signed the legislature's bond package into law, no projects move forward unless she opts to fund them

But Rell couldn't say Thursday when that might happen for Roosevelt Mills.

There hasn't been any support "lately to put it on the agenda," Rell said when asked about the project's status.

"It should be pushed by local legislators," Rell told McCoy. "You need to get them to push for this."

McCoy, who had just been sworn-in by Rell as Vernon's new mayor, said he would talk with state Sen. Anthony Guglielmo, R-Stafford, whose district includes Vernon, to ensure the project goes before the Bond Commission soon.

State Rep. Claire Janowski, D-Vernon, has repeatedly said she is working to get this project, and two others for Vernon, on the agenda.

Two weeks ago the town formally turned over ownership of the Roosevelt Mills to Westport architect Joseph Vallone and his company, Loom City Lofts LLC, with plans to rehab the circa 1906 structure.

Roosevelt Mills manufactured textiles until the mid-20th century and was one of the first in the nation to be built with reinforced concrete. The state money is needed to demolish some of the buildings, including the Boiler House and Dye Building.

Overlooking the Snipsic Reservoir, the mill complex sits on 5.94 acres that offers spectacular views of the waterfall flowing into the Hockanum River. Once the buildings are knocked down, the view of the falls will open up to passersby, officials say.

The agreement with the town includes a reduction in assessment values on the abandoned mill and grants tax abatements.

Under the town's recently adopted blight ordinance, developers improving distressed properties at costs of $10 million or more are eligible for a 100 percent reduction of increased assessment for a period of no more than 25 years.

The entire project is expected to cost in excess of $13 million.

Vallone has secured roughly $10 million in loan guarantees from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and financing from Prudential Financial.

Once the state bond money is released, developers can begin demolition and construction immediately with hopes of completion by February 2009.

Other Vernon projects included in the bonding bill include $283,000 to bring the Vernon Historical Society's Grange building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and $550,000 for similar improvements to the Rockville Public Library.

©Journal Inquirer 2007