- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Lawmakers from northeastern and central Connecticut voiced optimism Friday that legislation that could provide eventual financial help to homeowners experiencing failing foundations will pass this session.

Several bills addressing the problem are moving their way through the General Assembly, including one proposal that would create a Crumbling Foundations Assistance Fund. The account would be partly funded by a new $12 surcharge on homeowners and renters policies and would be overseen by the Capitol Region Council of Governments.

“I am absolutely thrilled that we are at this point, this early in the game in this session,” said state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, whose district includes many of the towns where foundations have crumbled because of pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide mineral in the concrete mix that has apparently reacted with oxygen and water. “We’ve gotten consensus on this bill. We’ve got consensus on the issue and we have consensus on real solutions, and we’ve brought together all the stakeholders.”

The lawmakers said they now need to convince their colleagues from other parts of Connecticut that this is a statewide problem. Homeowners and businesses in at least 37 communities are affected by the problem, which has been traced to a quarry in Willington.

“I’ve got some pretty conservative friends that say this is not the government’s role,” warned Rep. Tim Ackert, R-Coventry.

Besides the surcharge, lawmakers said they are looking at other revenue sources to finance the new assistance fund. One legislator estimated $35 million might be needed initially to help those residents whose homes have been deemed unsafe. The lawmakers are hoping for insurance companies and the federal government to eventually contribute.

The Public Safety and Security Committee voted earlier this week to forward the wide-ranging bill creating the assistance fund. Under the current language, affected homeowners could receive up to $150,000 in grant funds or 75 percent of the cost of replacing or repair their home foundations, whichever is less. The same bill instructs the Capitol Region Council of Governments to work with the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority to develop a long-term low-interest loan program to further assist homeowners, many of whom cannot afford to make needed repairs.

The bill still needs to clear other committees and eventually the full House of Representatives and Senate. It could change in the meantime.

Meanwhile, the Planning and Development Committee on Friday forwarded two bills that would ultimately lead to state regulations for the fund and the testing of pyrrhotite in concrete mix. The Connecticut Ready Mix Concrete Association has raised concerns about the second bill, pointing out how no standardized testing process and no accepted criteria regarding how much pyrrhotite can be detrimental have been established.

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