Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Contract signed for work on blighted properties

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Published: Friday, May 30, 2008 2:10 PM EDT

VERNON — A $1.5 million contract has been signed for the final leg of work to be done on eight vacant houses on Village and Orchard streets.

Work is set to begin next week, and members of the Vernon Non-Profit Housing Development Corp., which holds title to the properties, are hoping the more than 10-year project will be completed by March 2009.

BRD Builders LLC of Hartford was awarded the contract last week and will start work on June 1.

On Tuesday, the Town Council voted unanimously to waive all building permit fees for the project.

Fees were increased by the council last year from $14 for every $1,000 of estimated construction cost to $30 for the first $1,000, and $15 for every additional $1,000 of estimated cost.

Waiving the fees was correct as it’s a nonprofit doing the work, Mayor Jason L. McCoy said.

“This is a huge step for the area — it’s 11 years in the making, and now we have contracts and we’re ready to roll. People in the area should be super excited about that,” he said.

The properties have sat vacant and distressed for more than a decade as the nonprofit struggled to rehab the homes.

Nancy Osborn, president of the corporation, told council members that 44, 45, 47, 52, 72, and 76 Village St. and 26 and 30 Orchard St. will be completed under the contract, but 41 Village St. was excluded as structural problems may necessitate it being razed.

Interior work on the buildings has been under way for months, but neighbors should see siding go up and the windows installed soon, she told the council.

The project went out to bid around this time last year.

The long-delayed project had been mired in bureaucracy for years, as the group acquired rundown, foreclosed, multifamily properties in the Rockville section of town with plans to refurbish and sell them as owner-occupied homes.

Because the project had stalled for so long, organization members were brought before the council last August to provide an update and to give financial figures.

At the time, the eight houses stood as empty, windowless shells with blue tarps partially covering them to protect them from the elements. Police say they were increasingly becoming magnets for crime, and neighbors were distressed over the area’s prolonged blighted appearance.

Members of the nonprofit told council members then that they expected a contract to be awarded soon, but refused to release a detailed budget and schedule, claiming private corporation status.

The project is funded through a number of state grants. The town also has contributed about $65,000 in funds for architectural drawings, engineering services, and administrative costs associated with the project.

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