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Rosenthal Talks Timing For Police Headquarters Referendum

Published: July 20, 2018 at 12:00 am


The first public discussion of timing leading up to a planned November referendum to seek funding for a new police headquarters surfaced during First Selectman Dan Rosenthal's report at a special Board of Finance meeting July 16.

Mr Rosenthal reminded finance officials that the Board of Selectmen is recommending the town move to purchase two abutting lots and a well-equipped and maintained commercial building at 191 South Main Street.

"From a cost standpoint, there is no question that 191 [South Main] offered the best potential for delivering a project for the lowest cost," Mr Rosenthal said.

Unfortunately, the first selectman said, "We won't have the luxury, when we send this to referendum, of having a final construction design with bid documents because the voters only approved the concept design funds last year."

Mr Rosenthal said Kaestle Boos, the architect firm hired for that phase of the project, has come up with an operating estimate with contingencies that give the town "some wiggle room," the first selectman said.

He said the project cannot move forward from its present stage unless the local fiscal bodies - the Boards of Finance and Legislative Council - want to proceed.

If so, the town would move forward with that rough construction budget estimate, Mr Rosenthal said. That estimate, including both lots, the existing commercial building, and a residential home, but not including an optional new building that would house training facilities and a shooting range, has been negotiated at $14.8 million.

He said the property owners have graciously agreed that the sale could progress, contingent on the acquisition passing the whole public process.

"If the voters don't ratify the project, we don't have to buy the building," Mr Rosenthal said. "I think it would be a great deal for the town, but I didn't want to get into the real estate business any more than the town already is and have to buy a commercial building [that] ends up not getting approved and having to sell a commercial building on South Main."

That being said, the owners cannot wait until the April 2019 budget referendum, so the first selectman said the plan would be to try and expedite whatever processes are required to get the purchase authorization on the November Election Day ballot for voters' consideration.

That will require fast-tracking the appropriation process while working with the state to ensure the referendum question is approved as part of the town's November balloting, Mr Rosenthal said.

To ensure it happens, the selectmen will make the appropriation request during their second August meeting, then move it to the finance board for consideration at its second August meeting. If approved, it moves to the council at its first September meeting.

There may also be a need for one or more of those bodies to hold a special meeting, "but it will have to be that quick," Mr Rosenthal said.

To make it more convenient, the first selectman said he may request finance and council officials attend the second August selectmen's meeting so all parties can hear from the architect and ask questions at the same time.

Mr Rosenthal said considering the next best site option would drive the project cost closer to $20 million, the hastened process would be worth the effort.

On questioning about the site acquisition, Mr Rosenthal affirmed the entire property in question is valued at $2.2 million between the eight acres, the 21,000-square-foot building, and the adjoining three-acre parcel and home, which is actually on Peck's Lane.

The first selectman said the commercial property was offered at $1.5 million, and the entire two-parcel agreement between the town and seller ended up being negotiated to $1.6 million.

Mr Rosenthal said if it ends up that the entire abutting Peck's Lane parcel is not required for the police facility, the town may decide to sell the house and remaining land to recoup some of the funds.

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