MERIDEN — While construction at both Platt and Maloney high schools continues, it’s leaving some neighbors in the dust, literally.
June Thomas lives at 185 Gravel St., which is just feet from the site fence around the construction at Maloney. “I’m miserable,” she said Thursday.
“My house vibrates, there’s dust flying around, I can’t see around the corner when I’m backing out of my driveway, it’s just miserable,” Thomas said.
The $107.5 million construction project for a new wing at Maloney High School began in early November 2013, and is scheduled to be complete in 2017.
Thomas’ property wasn’t always so close to the high school — at the end of 2012, two houses, at 163 and 179 Gravel St., were bought by the city and razed to create space for construction equipment. The lots will eventually become a parking lot for the high school.
“That’s what I want them to do with my house, because it’s just not healthy over here anymore,” Thomas said.
But Glen Lamontagne, a consultant for both high school construction projects, said the city isn’t likely to purchase her property.
“At this point, I think it’s cost-prohibitive, it’s very late in the (building) process, and practically, I’m not seeing a lot of value added other than maybe more parking,” Lamontagne said. “When everything is said and done, I don’t think it’s going to be so terrible having us as a neighbor, but that’s a decision she’ll have to make,” he added of Thomas.
Thomas said she has concerns even after construction is complete, however. “I have a little one who has asthma. What’s going to happen with all the exhaust, with a parking lot next door?”
Thomas moved to the area in 2002. “I spent my life savings buying this house, and I thought that I could retire here, but now I don’t know,” she said, adding that she has concerns about selling the house herself. “Who’s going to want to move in next to all this? I know I wouldn’t.”
Residents slightly more removed than Thomas say they’re impacted as well.
Rachel Balch lives on Sunbright Drive South, where her house faces but is one street removed from work at Maloney. “Sometimes I wake up to it,” she said of noise from the work there. “It’s not too terrible, except my dogs will bark a lot if there’s a real loud noise, which can get annoying.”
For Thomas meanwhile, noise from the site is more acute. She said her daughter, who co-owns the house on Gravel Street, and used to work a third-shift job, “had to switch her shift, she just wasn’t sleeping.”
City officials have taken some steps to try to alleviate the problem for Thomas.
Assistant City Planner Thomas Skoglund said that a mesh screen was put up along the chain link construction fence to reduce the amount of dust that flies into Thomas’ yard, and to reduce visibility of the project.
“I’m concerned about the activity close to her boundary. She’s probably the homeowner that’s the most directly impacted, and we’re trying to plan for a few things that will reduce the pressure on her property in the future,” Skoglund said.
One of those plans includes moving equipment farther away from Thomas’ property in the summer, when there are fewer cars in the school parking lots.
“I think it’s in everyone’s best interest that the project move as quickly as it can,” Skoglund said. He added that the area near 185 Gravel St. would be one of the first to be completed in the project, “which should also help.”
Lamontagne said that three years from now when the project is complete neighbors will benefit.
“The good news is that at the end of the project, this will be an enhancement to the properties close by. When we were done with work at Lincoln (Middle School), we saw property values around the school go up; it’s an addition in the neighborhood.”
And though city and project officials say they haven’t heard any complaints from residents near Platt High School, both project managers are taking steps to reduce the impact of the construction on neighbors.
Karrie A. Kratz, project manager from the Glastonbury-based Gilbane Building Co., said that workers at Maloney sweep Gravel Street daily, and have limited the traffic pattern for trucks at the site.
David Cravanzola, project manager from Torrington-based O&G Industries Inc., said at Platt workers have laid down larger stones on truck routes within the site “that act like floor mats for the trucks,” before they exit onto the main roads.
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