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Rosenthal Talks Timing For Police Headquarters Referendum

Published: July 20, 2018 at 12:00 am

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First Selectman Dan Rosenthal has laid out the sequence of meetings during which he is hoping local officials will approve placing a spending authorization referendum on this November's Election Day Ballot for funds to complete the construction of a…
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal has laid out the sequence of meetings during which he is hoping local officials will approve placing a spending authorization referendum on this November's Election Day Ballot for funds to complete the construction of a new police headquarters. This computer rendering illustrates what the new Newtown Police headquarters might look like from the front civilian entrance at 191 South Main Street. The images were provided by Kaestle Boos Associates.
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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This Week's Poll

Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

“In The Bag” exhibition, on view to September 28
0% (0 votes)
The Lords of 52nd Street concert, September 14
0% (0 votes)
Newtown Arts Festival weekend, September 15-16
50% (1 vote)
“An Evening of the Arts,” September 15
50% (1 vote)
“The Fox on the Fairway” production by Town Players of Newtown, weekends September 21-October 13
0% (0 votes)
“The Main Street Replica Project,” launching September 25
0% (0 votes)
Someday Cinema Series screenings of “The Blues Brothers,” September 30
0% (0 votes)
Photography display “In Our Rearview Mirror” by Marleen Cafarelli, et al, October 1-30
0% (0 votes)
“Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb” with Tinky Weisblat, October 3
0% (0 votes)
Newtown Day, October 6
0% (0 votes)
The 3rd Annual Newtown-Sandy Hook Restaurant Week, October 8-14
0% (0 votes)
Basket weaving workshop with Tina Puckett, October 13
0% (0 votes)
“Courageous Conversations in A Complex World,” October 17
0% (0 votes)
Live at ETH: David Wax Museum concert, October 19
0% (0 votes)
The 2nd Annual Fall Carnival at Fairfield Hills, October 19-21
0% (0 votes)
Connecticut Author’s Reading Series, October 21
0% (0 votes)
Natalie’s Open Mic, October 21
0% (0 votes)
“The Wordsmiths,” October 24
0% (0 votes)
Pianist Konstanza Chernov, October 28
0% (0 votes)
Someday Cinema Series double feature screenings of “Bride of Frankenstein” and “The Beast with Five Fingers,” October 29
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 2