Year In Review: Police Station Project Gains Traction, And A New Fire Marshal For Newtown In 2017
After discussion by Police Commission members for the past 15 years on the need for a new police station to replace outdated facilities, in 2017 the project finally gained traction, as voters at an April referendum approved initial spending of $300,000 for some basic architectural planning.
Additional funding approvals would be needed to cover overall costs for the project, estimated to have a price tag somewhere between $10 million and $15 million.
By late in the year, officials narrowed from four to two the field of architectural firms under consideration to formulate construction plans. The two finalists are Jacunski Humes Architects, LLC, of Berlin, and Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc of New Britain. After a firm is chosen, the initial design phase for the project will start.
A site for the project will need to chosen. It expected that two sites at the town-owned Fairfield Hills core campus and one site somewhere else will be reviewed for the suitability before a decision is made.
Police officials have long said that their existing facilities at 3 Main Street are physically substandard and especially too small for the functioning of the 45-member department. Also, they say that their current 1.2-acre site is cramped and has inadequate parking.
In law enforcement fashion news, police in 2017 changed the garb they wear while patrolling the town, shifting from a gray and black color scheme to navy blue garments. Police say the new uniforms are more practical and comfortable than their former clothing. Also, the dark blue uniforms are widely worn by law enforcement personnel in the Northeast and thus cost less due to their broad availability.
During the year, residents of neighborhoods concerned about traffic flow, especially speeding, in their areas approached police for aid. During 2017, residents of Toddy Hill Road became vocal about the speed and recklessness of drivers who pass through their area. Toddy Hill Road links Berkshire Road (Route 34) to South Main Street (Route 25) via Botsford Hill Road.
In response to complaints lodged with the Police Commission, police greatly heightened their traffic enforcement on Toddy Hill Road and employed electronic speed displays to get motorists' attention about the need to slow down.
One traffic technology improvement in early 2017 was the initial operation of a four-way traffic signal on Church Hill Road at its intersection with The Boulevard and a commercial driveway for new development at 32 Church Hill Road. Boulevard area residents had long complained about the difficulties of exiting that street amid poor sight lines to enter the congested Church Hill Road.
In April, the police department's German shepherd named Saint Michael died following an illness. In June, Newtown Kennel Club donated $15,000 to acquire a new dog and cover training-related costs. Late in the year, the new German shepherd known as Aris had been fully trained and was in service with K-9 Officer Felicia Figol.
During the year, police intermittently investigated criminal incidents in which unlocked vehicles with their ignition keys left inside them were stolen overnight from outside residents' homes. In other cases, thieves simply kept trying vehicles' doors until they found unlocked vehicles which they then rifled for any valuables left inside that could be stolen quickly and silently.
Police have repeatedly urged residents to keep their unattended vehicles locked, and not to leave any valuables, including keys, within the vehicles as deterrents to illegal entry and theft.
In February, the Board of Fire Commissioners appointed Rich Frampton as the town fire marshal, naming him the local official in charge of fire safety and fire investigations. Mr Frampton had served as the acting fire marshal since November 2016, when Bill Halstead retired from the fire marshal position. Mr Frampton had served as the town's full-time deputy fire marshal under Mr Halstead for many years.
Also, board members promoted Steve Murphy, appointing him as the town's full-time deputy fire marshal/fire administrator. Mr Murphy formerly served as one of the town's part-time deputy fire marshals.
The town fire marshal office's basic duties involve the enforcement of all fire safety codes. Work includes reviewing construction plans for compliance with those fire safety codes. The staff issues permits for blasting and for open burning. The staff also formally observes the removal of underground fuel storage tanks. The fire marshals also inspect all gasoline filling stations and inspect all local buildings, other than one-family and two-family residences.
In April, Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company acquired a new rescue truck, a key piece of firefighting apparatus firefighters use when responding to motor vehicle accidents, medical calls, and structure fires.
The custom-built vehicle, known as Rescue 444, which cost the fire company $628,000, was fabricated by Rescue 1 of Manasquan, N.J. Sandy Hook's former rescue truck, which the fire company used for 20 years, was sold to a Kentucky fire company.
Hawleyville Volunteer Fire Company bought a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe that it put into service in December as the company's new command car. The vehicle, which is stocked with emergency equipment, responds to emergency calls quickly, with its driver serving as a scout and reporting back to fire company members on the scope of an emergency.
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