Wallingford police department project is a $24M investment

WALLINGFORD — The Town Council started the ball rolling this week on a police station project estimated to cost $24 million.

Little information — including the total cost of the project to move police operations from 135 N. Main St. — had been known publicly before Tuesday night, when the Town Council approved spending $3.3 million to purchase 100 Barnes Road.

The one story, 41,129-square-foot office building on 9.22 acres was built in 1978 and expanded in 1985.

The council approved the purchase of 100 Barnes Road for $1.76 million, with the intention of renovating the facility and surrounding property for a new police headquarters. The council also approved $3.3 million in bonds for the purchase, an architectural and engineering design study and other incidental bid preparation costs.

A cost breakdown estimate by Jacunski Humes Architects, which Police Chief William Wright shared Tuesday during the meeting, stated it would cost $16 million for the building renovation, an addition for a sally port, an outbuilding for traffic division storage, a six-lane firearms training range, a carport structure and other site work; $3.2 million for soft costs, like furniture, wiring and communications, legal and permit fees; and $1.5 million in contingency.

The $3.3 million appropriation brings the projected grand total to roughly $24 million.

Wright said that looking for a new space, one that takes a property off the tax rolls and requires a significant sum of money, “is not lost on us.”

“We’re very cognizant of the economics behind it,” he said, “but through a really significant overview of available properties in town, both already constructed as well as raw land in the space that we would need, this piece of property rose to the top very quickly.”

He said that the site’s potential for renovation and future expansion could serve the police department for at least the next 50 years.

Although the town publicly identified a location and the council approved the purchase in quick succession, there’s been work going on to address the inadequacies of the current police building since 2007.

Former Police Chief Douglas Dortenzio, who retired in 2014, had a design completed of a new police facility at its current location utilizing the Wooding-Caplan property behind the building.

The high construction price — also $24 million, even though it would have been on town-owned property — and the impact of the 2008 recession ended that plan.

“Since then we’ve continued to maintain the building to the best of our ability,” Wright said Tuesday. “A lot of what were cited in 2007 as being deficient are still deficient today.”

Wright cited HVAC systems that have reached their end of life, the men’s and women’s locker rooms that are in need of renovation, the cellblock which is not up to modern design standards, and the parking situation.

“Parking was inadequate in 1995 when I started here,” Wright said. “Although it’s gotten a little bit better out in the back, once we were able to move on to the Wooding property, still to this day we’re using those Wallace Avenue lots as overflow.”

The women’s locker room is particularly deficient, with insufficient space and heating, and pipes that freeze in winter. Wallingford has seven female officers out of 75 sworn officers, “well above the state average,” Wright said.

“Our profession has absolutely recognized the value of diversity, and all of the benefits that come with that,” he said, “and this space (100 Barnes Road) will absolutely allow for future growth.”

Besides the problems with the current building itself, the police have outgrown the facility in the course of their work. Offices have been moved into tighter spaces to make room for other programs.

“It’s a 24-hour building,” he said. “It never gets a chance to rest. It’s always open and it’s always active, and it’s something that we’ve more importantly outgrown. The manner in which police services are delivered today are significantly different than they were in 1985 when we moved in here.”

Tim Ryan, the town’s economic development specialist, helped Wright scout locations, investigating about half a dozen possible sites, Ryan said Wednesday.

He said he first got involved with the mayor-approved search a little more than a year ago.

Ryan and Wright developed a list of criteria for the search. Ryan said that Wright basically wanted a somewhat central location that’s not too close to a residential neighborhood, because of the 24/7 nature of the operation involving noise and outdoor lighting.

Wright wanted an existing building, something on one floor with a certain amount of square footage. Ryan said they also considered vacant lots that fit the same criteria.

“In my opinion, it was a very thorough search, given the list of criteria,” Ryan said.

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

The building at 100 Barnes Road, Wallingford.

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