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Bloomfield, CT 06002

PDS Updates

York Correctional Institute, Niantic CT
PDS Update, February 20, 2010

Repair project at York prison won't be without challenges By Amy Renczkowski.

Security measures will be strict as workers correct some shoddy construction.

East Lyme - The state Department of Correction is in the beginning phases of its three-year reconstruction project and working under strict security measures to rebuild almost three quarters of the York Correctional Institution in Niantic. The $15 million project, in addition to demolishing and replacing stone facades, will reinstall windows and roofs at 22 buildings at the women's prison. Repairs are scheduled for eight phases, the first having begun six months ago. By spring, construction will begin inside the maximum security section of the correctional facility, bringing a whole new set of challenges to the massive construction project.

"We're essentially building a correctional facility and operating it at the same time," said Warden Kevin Gause. "Working inside those walls will be a challenge." After the buildings went into use in the mid-1990s, problems with leaking rainwater, cracks in the facades of several buildings and mold on the exterior walls began to crop up. The state is suing 13 companies for more than $18 million in necessary repairs and possible civil penalties. State officials say the contractors, engineers and inspectors who built 22 buildings at York between 1991 and 1997 botched its construction. "My office's lawsuit is continuing to seek more than $18 million for slipshod and substandard construction at York Correctional Center. I will fight for restitution - money back to state taxpayers - to cover the colossal cost of repairing serious structural damage," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Friday in a written statement.

Blumenthal's suit, which was filed in February 2008, charges negligence and breach of contract on the part of the companies, including the Maguire Group of New Britain. Also named in the suit are the Tishman Construction Corp. of New York, HDR Architecture of Oregon, the Bacon Construction Co. of Providence and other management, design and subcontracting firms. PDS Engineering & Construction Inc. of Bloomfield is the contractor doing the current repair work, and Hoffmann Architects of Hamden is assisting with the design. Eric Allard, the PDS project superintendent, said it's been a "logistical nightmare" to coordinate. "The work is reviewed by the warden. We have weekly construction meetings. We're not allowed to surprise anyone," said Mike Rice, the project manager from the State Department of Public Works. Rice said they're working hard on the fine details so that the job is done right and they don't have to fix it again. "It's got to be done right," he said. "It's not a place where you can send construction workers back because it's got to be safe and there are security issues."

Construction workers go through security checkpoints before they arrive at the site. They must obtain outside clearances; no one with a criminal background is allowed to work there. Workers come in through a separate entrance, their vehicles and tools are searched and they are escorted by a correction officer to the site. Typically there are 30 workers at the site Monday through Friday from 6:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nine correction officers are assigned to the area, overseen by Capt. Robert Rutchik. The buildings where the work is being done are fenced off. There is scaffolding alongside some of the buildings. The discoloration of the bricks where there is water damage is visible. Heavy machinery is being moved in and out of the construction site. Noise is an obvious issue. "You can't hear yourself thinking in some areas," Rutchik said.

The first phase of the project, which involves repairing five buildings in the minimum-security section, is expected to be completed by the end of the month. Those areas are the dining hall, gymnasium, administration building, garage, maintenance buildings and the warehouse. Already there's been some inconveniences to staff and inmates. Programming in some of the buildings had to be moved and inmate access to satellite television was interrupted for a day. Some of the walkways inmates used in the construction area have been rerouted, and additional correction officers have been placed in those areas. The second phase is under way, and the third will require repairs to be made within the correctional facility. Gause said it's going to take some coordination on behalf of everyone working on the project. So far, he said, there have been no issues with security. There are 1,082 inmates at York. "It's been a great team effort," Gause said. "I'm very confident that we'll be OK" with the next phase of work inside the prison. Rice said the project is on schedule and on budget. It is expected to be completed by mid-2012.

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