Norwalk fire department to use $300K in federal funds to repair fire station

NORWALK—The city’s fire department is set to receive more than $300,000 to repair and redo air flow systems following a “lousy” repair conducted in 2020, officials said.

The Common Council Finance and Claims Committee recently approved the $301,066 request to use part of the city’s one-time federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to complete the emergency repairs at fire station one on New Canaan Avenue.

The necessary repairs are largely related to the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning, Norwalk Fire Chief Gino Gatto said at Thursday’s meeting.

Work has been underway at the station for about a year and a half, Gatto said.

“A little more than a year and a half ago, we started some renovation work at what we call station one, which is in Broad River and the contractor that was originally hired ended up doing pretty lousy work to say the least and they were fired ,” Gatto said. “Going through the scope of work, the new contractor discovered several deficiencies in the building, which include no makeup air coming in. The building had HVAC lines that were leaking all the time in the summer.”

In addition to the HVAC concerns, the new contractor discovered asbestos tiles, which will also require replacement, Gatto said.

The first company was hired under a $191,250 bid, but the project barely got off the ground when the company’s faults were discovered, Gatto said.

Litigation ensued and the city avoided having to pay any of the $191,000 for the unfulfilled project, Gatto said. The removed company’s bonding agency took responsibility for the failed project, according to city documents.

“To date, we have not paid that company one penny and we’ve been through the corporation counsel and through the bonding agent and surety bonding company,” Gatto said. “This has been going on now over a year, just to get another contractor in there to try and get this work restarted. They (previous contractors) left tools on the job, never came back to pick them up. I don’t know what happened to them.”

The multi-phase renovation involves exposing the building’s ceiling to add proper insulation and duct work, resizing and re-pipe some existing units and removing the asbestos tiles, according to the documents.

ARPA funds were recommended for the project as it is a one-time fix and won’t require more funding, Assistant Fire Chief Mark Conte said.

The new companies hired for the project was Maggiore Construction and Encon, based out of Norwalk, Conte said. Maggiore

“Essentially, this is the original project to bring everything back to where it should be,” Conte said earlier this week. “Next step is Common Council next Tuesday so hopefully, as long as everything goes through there, we intend to start the emergency work phase as soon as possible. Depending on how long the HVAC rooftop takes to come in, within two months everything should be complete.”

The only hitch in the current plan and construction could be potential supply chain issues, Conte said.

“You’re talking months to order a simple vanity for a bathroom,” Conte said. “But Maggiore Construction took over and did an outstanding job. They opened up all the issues that other contractor made.”