West Hartford’s Decision on UConn Property Delayed Again

UConn West Hartford campus. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The University of Connecticut has granted West Hartford another extension of the due diligence date while awaiting a response from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to a plan dealing with PCBs at the site.

By Ronni Newton

The University of Connecticut has given the Town of West Hartford an extension of its due diligence period – the seventh one – before requiring the town’s finalization of the purchase and sale agreement for the 58-acre property that was formerly the location of UConn’s Greater Hartford campus.

UConn vacated the campus in August, when it moved to the new downtown Hartford campus in the Front Street neighborhood.

In late April of 2017, the Town of West Hartford and University of Connecticut had come to an agreement to allow the town to purchase the 58-acre campus property at the intersection of Asylum Avenue and Trout Brook Drive for $1 million. The purchase was approved by the West Hartford Town Council in a 5-3 vote along party lines on April 25, 2017. Mayor Shari Cantor, who is a member of the UConn Board of Trustees, abstained from the vote.

The UConn Board of Trustees approved the $1 million deal on April 26, 2017. West Hartford has already paid a $250,000 deposit, and the remaining $750,000 would be due at the closing which was to have taken place in October 2017.

In June, UConn and the town agreed to an extension of the due diligence period until Sept. 15, 2017, to allow for continued examination of the property to determine the extent of PCB contamination and the cost to clean up the contamination, and to confirm terms for future liabilities.

UConn, town officials, and representatives from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) met on July 21 to discuss a sampling plan, which was subsequently submitted by UConn.

In a two-page letter dated Sept. 14, 2017, from UConn General Counsel Richard Orr to West Hartford Town Manager Matthew Hart, a copy of which was provided Friday by UConn, the University has agreed to another extension of the due diligence period until Dec. 15, 2017. Although the due diligence period has already been extended multiple times, Orr stated in his letter that the extension is appropriate because the response by the DEEP to the sampling plan is still pending.

“Your September 8, 2017 letter correctly stated that following that meeting with DEEP on July 21, 2017, UConn submitted a proposed sampling plan to DEEP. That plan was supported by the Town. We are looking forward to a meeting among UConn, the Town and DEEP to review the plan,” Orr said in his letter.

Orr said in his letter that he believes the new three-month extension will be sufficient to coordinate “next steps,” and once the plan is approved, the hope is “to move forward as promptly as possible. We are optimistic that the collaboration among the Town, UConn and DEEP will permit that.”

The extension of the due diligence beyond the original closing date set in the purchase and sale agreement will be addressed in the future, Orr stated.

The deal agreed to in April followed an original deal for the town to purchase the property for $5 million –a price that was re-negotiated to $1 million after a higher-than-expected level of PCBs was discovered by town-hired consultant Milone & MacBroom. The deal has a clawback allowing for UConn to receive 90 percent of the purchase price above $1 million should the town sell the property to another party prior to Oct. 1, 2026.

The Town Council has not voted on a final decision about whether or not to pay the remaining $750,000 to take ownership of the former campus property.

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