A group of about ten people, whose members want anonymity, have started a private fundraising drive with the goal of building a new police station for the town police department to replace the existing station at 3 Main Street.
Over the past decade, Police Commission members have occasionally described the inadequacies of the existing police station and resolved to pursue new quarters for the 45-member police department, but to date that resolve has not translated into concrete results.
In 2009, Police Commission members discussed the prospects of building an almost 30,000-square-foot police station that would meet the police department’s space needs for more than 20 years.
In the town’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), spending $500,000 for design work on a new police station is listed as an item for the 2017-18 fiscal year, which runs from July 2017 through June 2018.
Also listed in the CIP for that fiscal year are: road improvements, bridge replacement, Edmond Town Hall renovations, library renovations, Fairfield Hills demolition, Newtown Middle School renovations, and Middle Gate School window replacements.
Douglas Fuchs, a Newtown resident who also is Redding’s police chief, has been named the spokesman for the private fundraising group. The group’s goal is raising $18 million.
Mr Fuchs said November 20, “This is not a short-term drive,” adding that the fundraising project will continue as long as necessary to get a new police station for the police department.
Following the 12/14 shooting at Sandy Hook School, many people approached police officials asking what they could do to help the police agency, he said.
The fundraising group, known as the Newtown Police Building Fund, is seeking to raise money from corporations, foundations, and individuals interested in providing new facilities for police, Mr Fuchs said.
Although the existing station is considered to be in a good location for the police, the site’s expansion potential is limited.
Police officials have mentioned a Fairfield Hills location as the likely site for new police station. Fairfield Hills is in the town’s geographical center.
One police requirement would be that a new station have direct access to Wasserman Way, the state-owned east-west connector road that passes through Fairfield Hills and connects Route 25 with Interstate 84 and with Route 34.
One site that has been mentioned a potential police station location at Fairfield Hills is an open undeveloped area near the intersection of Wasserman Way and Mile Hill Road South, near the site of the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps’ new headquarters/garage, which is now under construction.
Mr Fuchs said that in about six months, the fundraising committee’s members will review what progress they have made toward their fundraising goal.
A main goal of the committee is to raise public awareness of the need for new police facilities, according to Mr Fuchs. The group will seek money from all across the country, he said.
Of the Newtown Police Department, Mr Fuchs said, “That department has a very special place in my heart.”
In a statement, Police Commission Chairman Paul Mangiafico said, “The efforts by private individuals to raise funds for a new police headquarters is most welcomed because it addresses a desperate and longstanding need in Newtown.
“It has been many years that town fathers have known of the need, but as usually happens other much-needed expenditures always seem to push off the police building need,” he said.
“The need is not just one of needing a ‘little bit more space,’ but needing much more than currently exists and any effort private or public to help with this is very much appreciated,” Mr Mangiafico said.
Messages left for Police Chief Michael Kehoe seeking comment on the fund drive were not returned.
First Selectman Pat Llodra described the group as “wonderfully civic-minded people,” adding, “I applaud the efforts to provide a better facility for our police department.” The police deserve better facilities, she said.
The Newtown Police Building Fund has published the following mission statement:
“As citizens of Newtown, we take great pride in our police officers and their commitment to protect and serve our community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“The committee brings together everyday citizens of Newtown in a common cause, to establish a fund that will facilitate the design and construction of an entirely new police facility that will allow our officers to work more efficiently while serving our community.
“Our goal is to raise $18 million for a new state-of-the-art police station, replacing the existing facility, which was deemed much too small 15 years ago. We plan to effectively raise awareness of the need for a new police facility.”
The committee this week released a statement on its work.
“On December 14, 2012, the Newtown police led the first response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, and since that tragic day, they have continued to lead their community on a shared path of strength, unity, and healing,” it states.
“During the difficult months since 12/14/12, the Newtown police have exemplified a continuous spirit of service and support, focusing on the many immediate and long-term needs of their community, while not prioritizing something they themselves have needed for many years — a new headquarters for the police department,” it adds.
“The world has been inspired by Newtown’s response to unspeakable tragedy, especially among our first responders, and now, as we enter the Thanksgiving season, we want to give back to our heroes as they have given to us. It’s a season for us to give thanks, but more than that, it’s a season to give,” according to Mr Fuchs.
The committee is seeking a national response to the campaign. Local and state political leaders, community service groups, Newtown residents, and commercial and corporate participants are being recruited to join the effort, according to Mr Fuchs.
In the prepared statement, Mr Fuchs said, “Give to those who have given to us. That’s the simple, powerful idea of this campaign. We want people everywhere to have a chance to contribute to the healing and rebuilding of what was shattered last December. Providing a new police station for the Newtown police is a great and fitting way for people everywhere to get involved, and it’s a goal we can definitely accomplish as we work together with the same unity and strength that have carried us through these past hard months.”
The committee maintains that town police are now crammed into an old and inferior building, a building that was identified more than a decade ago as undersized and out of date.
Local police need a working environment that is well-equipped, properly-sized, professional, and that demonstrates that they have the full support of their community, according to the committee.
Mr Fuchs said that donations to the Newtown Police Building Fund are tax-deductible, as allowable by law, and may be made online at www.newtownpolice.org.