Contractor claims Middletown vets memorial too dangerous to open

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MIDDLETOWN--A Windham veteran is claiming there are serious safety issues with the construction of the Connecticut Trees of Honor Memorial in Middletown.

Doug Fleming -- owner of Douglas P. Fleming, LLC -- was hired to lay the paving stones for the memorial. He believes the memorial is a disaster waiting to happen.

"This environment is going to hurt or kill somebody," said Fleming.

Fleming said the site, which is going to be a memorial for Connecticut's service men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, is filled with safety violations and unlawful construction practices. The memorial is located at Veterans Memorial Park.

On September 2, he filed an emergency injunction with the city to try and halt construction until better safety practices are put into play. The immediate injunction was denied, but a "show cause" hearing is scheduled for September 26.

The memorial's dedication is scheduled for September 17 at 2:30 p.m.

Fleming said construction workers are not wearing hard hats, safety glasses or hearing protection.

FOX 61 was with Fleming at the site on Monday. Construction workers were drilling into concrete, letting off a dust that Fleming identified as silica. If inhaled, silica can lead to lung damage or cancer.

Fleming then pointed out wires near the memorial's entrance way. He claims the wires were live last month when he tested them with an Ohmmeter. Dean Lisitano, Middletown's chief building inspector, told FOX 61 that those wires were not hooked up, and that they are not connected to the electrical panel. Lisitano said the site holds the two proper permits it needs.

Fleming said he made anonymous complaints to both Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. When FOX 61 asked, OSHA said it has no record of any complaints against the site. DEEP said it received one complaint about stormwater issues, which it referred to the city of Middletown.

In an email dated August 2, 2016, Michelle Ford, Middletown's environmental specialist, wrote to Mr. Fleming, "I concur that the situation on the property is far from ideal, but I assure you that I will continue to work with the Trees of Honor as well as other responsible departments to address the issues and develop sustainable solutions so these violations cease to occur."

The memorial's founder, Susan Martucci, said in an email dated September 17, 2015 to James Sipperly, Middletown's environmental resource specialist, that "there are major drainage issues." She added that "...this needs to be kept quiet so it doesn't get to the media. Very disturbing confirmation of my worst fears about this excavated and compacted site."

Bruce Driska, deputy director of Middletown's Planning, Conservation and Development, said the department has addressed issues, made necessary referrals, and been compliant with all local regulations.

The city said it takes all concerns very seriously. "The goal is to make sure it's all safely and correctly done in anticipation of the opening coming up this weekend," said Middletown General Counsel Brig Smith.

Susan Martucci told FOX 61 by phone Monday that neither she, nor her attorney, would make a comment for our story.