The Farrel Corp. will be staying in Ansonia after the Board of Aldermen agreed to spend $1 million to build an access road to the industrial park where the company plans to relocate.
Officials say they’re confident the cost will be covered by grants from the state and federal government.
Even if the grants are rejected, the city will remain committed to the work.
Farrel: We Want To Stay
The Farrel Corp. has a history in Ansonia going back more than 150 years.
But its once-bustling headquarters — based in more than 10 acres of buildings straddling the north end of Main Street — have sat mostly vacant for years.
In January 2013, a developer purchased the properties with a view to redeveloping them into mixed-use residential and commercial space.
The Farrel Corp., now owned by a conglomerate based in Germany and renamed Farrel-Pomini, signed on as a tenant to the new owner, but announced last June that it would consolidate operations at a new facility in either Ansonia or Oxford.
Paul Zepp, the chief financial officer of Farrel-Pomini, told the Board of Aldermen during a meeting Tuesday (Feb. 10) that Oxford “has been very aggressive in terms of trying to get us up there.”
The city of Topeka, KS, where Farrel has a sister company, “also bent over backwards” to tempt Farrel out of Ansonia, Zepp said.
“We believe, though, that the best for our business, and to retain our employees, is to stay here in Ansonia,” Zepp told the Aldermen.
Industrial Park Eight Years In The Making
Meanwhile, Robert Scinto, a prominent developer whose construction of millions of square feet of office space in Shelton help keep that city’s mill rate perennially low, has been building an industrial park at a hilltop above Fountain Lake, off Birmingham Boulevard.
The project, started in 2007, has not gone smoothly.
Work stopped soon after it began when the global economy crashed in 2008.
The development struggled to attract tenants.
But that changed last year, when Scinto’s company asked city planning commissioner to approve the construction of a 60,000-square-foot building there for Farrel’s new headquarters.
The planning and zoning commission approved the project last November.
Farrel has 78 employees in downtown Ansonia and would bring seven employees currently based at a facility in Oxford to its new headquarters at Fountain Lake.
Build Us A Road
But in order to make that happen, the city needs to step in, Mayor David Cassetti told Aldermen, by building an 1,100-foot access road from Birmingham Boulevard into the property.
“Unfortunately, the parties have encountered a significant financial obstacle in construction of an access road,” Cassetti said. “This impasse threatens to break the deal and end Farrel’s 160-year history with Ansonia. We cannot let this happen.”
If the company moves to Fountain Lake, Cassetti said, it would be an “absolute boon” to Ansonia in the form of jobs and tax revenue.
Article continues after video of Zepp’s remarks.
But at the same time, work to blast and haul away rock to prepare the property has drawn complaints from neighbors.
One of those neighbors, Millie Rios, who lives at the corner of Birmingham Boulevard and Great Hill Road, reiterated her concerns to Aldermen Tuesday.
“This constant blasting has damaged my property and nobody seems to care, nobody wants to do anything about it,” she told Aldermen Tuesday.
Rios has brought her concerns to city officials before, but is told Scinto’s company follows the rules when blasting rock away from the site.
“I am at the boiling point. You can only be cool so long,” she said. “What are you guys going to do to fix my property?”
The city’s corporation counsel, John Marini, said officials from the mayor’s office would meet with Rios in an effort to allay her concerns.
“It’s been a long time,” Marini said of the Fountain Lake project. “Really, the horizon is in sight.”
Scinto also acknowledged Rios’ frustrations while speaking to Aldermen about the project.
“It’s a very, very, very difficult project” because of the land’s steep grade and the abundance of rock that must be removed, he said.
“There’s no one out there to buy rock,” Scinto said. “There’s no place to sell the rock, and you just can’t afford to take the rock off the site.”
He said he’s spent about $700,000 on the development so far, but couldn’t commit to another million or so. He said he would personally guarantee the completion of the project if Aldermen agreed to have the city build the road.
“So this project is really behind the eight ball,” Scinto said. “If it wasn’t for the effort of the town to help out with the road and everything else, it just wouldn’t get built, that’s the bottom line.”
Article continues after video of Scinto speaking to Aldermen.
Aldermen Discuss, Approve
Joan Radin, who represents the Fifth Ward on the Board of Aldermen, was worried the city is relying on grant funds it does not yet have.
“If we don’t get the money, the city is still responsible for a million dollars,” she said. “We’re trying to get the taxes down, and I just don’t feel comfortable with it.”
Marini said the city is confident it will receive a federal grant to pay for the road. But he conceded the city was taking a “calculated risk” in committing to building the road.
“Someone needs to step up and put their money where their mouth is and say ‘Listen, we’re going to make a commitment.’ If we don’t do it, no one will do it. If we don’t do it, we lose Farrel,” Marini said.
“The sites that are left to be developed are difficult sites,” Sheila O’Malley, the city’s economic development director, added. “If they were easy they’d already be developed.”
Charles Stowe, who represents the First Ward, said the risk is worth taking, noting that the new road will benefit future tenants (and future tax revenue) in addition to Farrel Corp.
“Business has lost the commitment of government for many years now,” Stowe said. “And we have a developer and we have a business that is looking for cooperation with government here tonight. I cannot understand any reason why we shouldn’t support this.”
Pat Henri, who represents the Sixth Ward, invoked General George S. Patton in endorsing the move.
“We have precisely the right people in precisely the right place at the precise moment in history to do something great,” he said.
Aldermen then voted unanimously to commit the city to building the new road by Sept. 1.