Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Norpaco Identified as Manufacturer for Bysiewicz Site

Dean Spilka, president of Norpaco Gourmet Foods, appeared before the Economic Development Committee and presented his vision for a new manufacturing plant on a city industrial park site officially called Liberty Park, known locally as the Bysiewicz property. The property in question is one which the Army Corps of Engineers has identified as a possible site for its Army Reserve Training Center.

In November we reported here
that the owner of the property was seeking incentives for an unnamed manufacturer to build a plant in Middletown. The owner also sought incentives to allow private development as opposed to development by the Army. The property-owner incentives were approved by the Common Council in December.

On Monday night Spilka, president of Norpaco, and Stephen Stachelek, Vice President of Finance for the company, appeared to talk about expanding their operation in Middletown. Currently located in New Britain, Norpaco produces bottled hot peppers stuffed with salami and provolone (known as Pepper Delights), poppers, panini rolls, pesto, Italian salads and other gourmet Italian specialty foods.

Founded in Norwich in 1946, the company moved to Bristol, and then New Britain and has grown into a $13.8 million company with 100 full-time employees. They have outgrown their current plant, and are looking to construct a 50,000 square foot building, expandable to 70,000 square feet, with the potential for 140 and which will bring $80,000 in taxes to Middletown annually.

The company is seeking a designation in the Urban Jobs Program which will bring them a temporary 80% tax abatement, half covered by the state, half by the city. They are also looking for assistance with relocation funds.

"It's a huge financial package with lots of relocation," Spilka told the commission. "I could have moved the operation to South America or Mexico, but that's not what we do."

Spilka and Stachelek also told an Eye correspondent that they would be willing to consider green methods for their new plant, and would encourage the city to create public transport for workers to the site.

The commission approved the plan which will come before the Common Council at its February meeting.

Also at the meeting, Jacqueline Williams and John DeSena of JDS Holdings were given approval to approach the Common Council for purchase a blighted property at 82 North Main Street. DeSena has improved two other blighted properties in town, oneat 471 Washington Street and one at 1359 Newfield. The Council must approve the conveyance of blighted property as designated by city ordinance.

Representatives from Kleen Energy and Buckeye Pipeline explained to the commission how a low-sulfur, low-pressure oil pipeline is being proposed from just below the Arrigoni Bridge to the Kleen Energy site in Maromas. The pipeline will be built along deKoven Drive, River Road, Eastern Road, Bow Lane and then through city property before it reaches the Kleen Energy site. Buckeye Pipeline needs approval for temporary easements as it drills and digs and permanent easements for the pipeline.

Kleen Energy's William Corvo explained that Kleen Energy will produce electricity using natural gas, unless there is an emergency, or economic hardship in using gas. Corvo said that the plant will be built to a standard of environmental integrity which will emit the lowest particulate matter in the nation, 2.5 parts per million as opposed to the current standard of 10 parts per million.

The committee approved the easements which will be considered by the Common Council. Planning and Zoning and Inland Wetlands must approve other portions of the Buckeye site plan.

The meeting ended with a discussion of shovel-ready projects. Newly seated state representative Matt Lesser attended in the interest of getting attention for Middletown's projects when the Obama administration distributes economic incentive money for infrastructure projects.

The Eye published a list of preferred projects
as compiled by the mayor and staff, which was sent to Governor Jodi Rell for consideration.

"The governor's parameter for 'shovel-ready' set the bar too high," commission chair Gerry Daley said.

"The legislature doesn't necessarily agree that the money is going to go to the governor without some input," Lesser added.

Commission member David Bauer added that the state has a history of siphoning off project dollars for grants like the one being considered.

"The state takes an unconscionable level of the funds right off the top," he said. "And we don't see the value the state's involvement adds."

When asked by Lesser to identify the top three projects for consideration the commission agreed that North End redevelopment was the highest priority, with Westfield water improvement and improvements to Industrial Road following closely behind.

The committee also voted to recommend the creation of a separate parking department, and to consider extending the contract for city lobbyists Panuzio & Giordano.


David Bauer said...

It was good to see two MiddletownEye "untrained" reporters at last night's EDC meeting.

One follow-up is that the Norpaco investment in Westfield will take Scenario #2 & #3 off the table as far as the City's commitment to the Bysiewicz development. If Cucia Park is the site of the new Reserve Army Base, the City will likely be buying one lot for ~ $300,000 from the land sale proceeds.

I really hope that if Middletown gets a check for Cucia Park that it is not already spent. Just my opinion in difficult economic times.

Barrie said...

About the Buckeye Pipeline: Was it explained why Kleen Energy, primarily a gas-fueled power generating plant, desires/requires oil pipeline fuel delivery but, NRG,a mile away and primarily an oil-fueled power generating plant relies on barge and truck fuel delivery? Is it more economical?

Also, would the proposed route require approval from the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)? I believe the currently proposed route, entering Kleen Energy via Bow Lane and crossing City property, is a significant departure from the River Road route approved by the CSC. It now appears to take a roundabout rather than a direct route. If the Buckeye Pipeline originates in New Haven to the south, why does the new "spur" to Kleen come from the north?

Without more information it is difficult to weigh the merits of these proposals. Certainly Kleen Energy requires fuel oil and natural gas to fulfill its goal to provide necessary power in a state-of-the art, "clean" manner.

Kleen Energy is important to Middletown's future in many ways. The construction of the plant and collector wells is in progress. I hope the Common Council, Inland Wetlands and additional City agencies will be working closely with the company to forge the best possible partnership.

Catherine said...

When the topic of which projects to support came up, I felt my stomach doing flip-flops. I thought, " Here we go again. How is this decision going to be made?" No surprise: one councilman said just pick the 3 with the highest price tag.

I ask you, when are we going to get it together?

Here are some alternate ideas of how we could have answered the question (let's call this The Dream Sequence of my post):

How about deciding if all the projects on the list are worthy of even being on the list?
How about making a long-range plan (you could call it the "Plan of Development") and referring to it to inform decisions?
How about re-instituting the department of economic development with someone with an economics degree so we can have a professional help us look at this list?
How about having a discussion where regular people can offer their ingenuity to solving some of these challenges?

I am not sure the eight or so projects on that list are worth doing, but we'll never get to have the kind of Town Meeting type of discussion because this city isn't interested in inviting people to participate. We have a Balkanized system of making decisions, so NO ONE ever knows exactly what projects are planned at any one time, nor is there ever a complete evaluation of which are worthy.Even if you were committed to answering this one question, I'd like to see how you could do it when the Design Review Board, Public Works and P&Z all meet the same night.

The entire process needs to be changed. How can the city decide on which things to focus if the council and the department never invite the public together to discuss the Big Picture?

It brings to mind something town planner Andres Duany often says: if we treated Public Works projects they way they were 70 years ago. with both schools and roads as items in the same budget, we would make decisions about how best to use our money in an entirely different way. I often fantasize that Middletown chooses to start doing things that way. Is this what we want to be doing with our own and with federal money? Could we use it more wisely?

I'd love to live in that parallel Middletown.

Anonymous said...

Dear, dear Catherine.

Please submit more actual EYE posts instead of lurking in the comments section! Middletown needs your perspective. And your ideas (as well as anyone else's) about what Middletown needs would just get better with lots of opportunity for debate, feedback, revision, compromise and -- wait for it -- consensus.

Truly, I'm a fan. And I hope we'll both be at the table on that great, glorious future day when all the ideas get tossed into that big salad we should call "A Vision for Middletown."

-A. Nona Mouse