Police Station Project Planning Continues
Police officials have narrowed from four to two the field of architectural firms under consideration to develop plans for a new police station to replace the existing police station, which town officials agree is outdated and too small for its law enforcement function.
Police Chief James Viadero said November 22 that an Ad Hoc Building Design Selection Committee has asked that representatives of Jacunski Humes Architects, LLC, of Berlin, and Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc of New Britain again meet with police officials to discuss the police station project. Chief Viadero said that within a month, the two finalists will meet with committee members to answer questions before a firm is selected to start work on the police station design.
Other firms that were considered but not selected as finalists are Tecton Architects of Hartford, and Silver/Petrucelli & Associates of Hamden.
"The process is moving along nicely. The committee wants to make sure that the best firm that can meet our requirements is chosen," Chief Viadero said. After a firm is chosen, the initial design phase for the project will start, he said.
Asked about the likely location for a new police station, Chief Viadero responded, "It is premature to comment on a site. That is a discussion and process that will commence once a firm is selected. We will be working with the community and town officials on identifying locations."
At an October 24 candidates' forum hosted by The Newtown Bee, Daniel Rosenthal, a Police Commission member who was then running for the post of first selectman, said that the planning process for public buildings needs to be inclusive.
Mr Rosenthal, who is now the first selectmen-elect, at that October forum said that he wants three potential locations for a new police station to be considered, including two places at Fairfield Hills and one place elsewhere. Mr Rosenthal is expected to resign from the Police Commission before assuming the first selectman's post on December 1.
Recently, the town-owned site that holds Cochran House at Fairfield Hills has been mentioned by town officials as a likely location for a new police station. A complicating factor with that location, however, is the need to demolish the 188,000-square-foot masonry structure that was built in 1956. Cochran House served as a patient housing/treatment facility at the state psychiatric hospital, which closed in 1995. The site is adjacent to the town's Emergency Operations Center and three youth baseball fields.
Recently, town officials have suggested that a police station may range in size from 24,000 to 28,000 square feet of floor area. The price of such a structure is yet unclear, but estimates have ranged from $10 million to $15 million.
In Bethel, a new police station is being built on town-owned land for $13.5 million.
At a Newtown budget referendum in April, by a 2-1 margin, voters authorized bonding for $300,000 that would be used to create basic plans for a new police station. Additional funding approvals would be required later.
Town police officials have long said that their existing facilities are physically substandard and especially too small for the functioning of the 45-member police department. Also, they say that their current 1.2-acre site is cramped and has inadequate parking. Police Commission members have intermittently discussed the need for a new police station for the past 15 years.
Chief Viadero recently said of the police station planning process, "It will be a lengthy process and we will be moving along being fully cognizant of cost, best use of town-owned land, determination if other sites are available, and the continued economic and budgetary constraints of the state and town on the project."
The building known as Town Hall South that holds the existing police station formerly served as an agricultural equipment dealership. It was later converted for use as a police station on the upper level and town offices on the lower level.
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