WALLINGFORD — The town has identified a building and property to purchase for a new police headquarters.
According to a letter from Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. dated Tuesday, the town negotiated a purchase price of $1,760,700 for 100 Barnes Road.
The Town Council is scheduled to vote April 13 on approving the purchase contract. A public hearing is slated for the same meeting on appropriating $3.3 million in bonds for the purchase.
The additional money in the appropriation is needed for an architectural and engineering design study and other incidental costs involved in preparation of bid specifications, Dickinson said Thursday, adding that he doesn’t want the vacant building to continue to sit unused.
The building was most recently occupied by 3M. The international manufacturing company moved its Wallingford operations to a facility in Meriden nearly three years ago.
Built in 1978, the one-story office building is 41,129 square feet and sits on a 9.22 acre property, according to town records. The property owners are Raymond Godbout, of Southington, and Len Rossicone, of Durham.
The building is located in the Industrial Expansion (IX) District. Under town zoning regulations, government facilities are a permitted use, subject to site plan approval.
The current police station, 135 N. Main St., is a former state armory constructed in 1920 that’s on the National Historic Building Registry. In 1984, the town began renovations for police use and the department moved into the facility in early 1986.
Police Chief William Wright said Thursday that an effort to build a new police facility at its current location began in 2007, under former Chief Douglas Dortenzio.
The high construction price — roughly $24 million — and the impact of the 2008 recession ended that plan.
“The status of the building, (and) in many locations within the building, is either the same as it was in 2007 or worse,” Wright said.
After he became chief, Wright met with a group of architects from several firms with the intent of exploring whether the needed improvements could be done at the current location.
“It was really an eye-opening day,” he said. “I think that these architects, (who) typically are competitors on any given day to the others, on that day were kind of collaborative on looking around the building, and coming to a pretty quick analysis.”
Wright said the architects told him that a third floor couldn’t be added, and it wouldn’t solve the parking squeeze behind the building.
He delivered a report to the Town Council in January 2020 identifying several issues with the current facility, including parking congestion, inadequacy of the sally port, need to bring the cell blocks up to building code, the need for more locker room space, more evidence storage and bigger offices.
“This building has served us well, but we’ve won outgrown it,” Wright said.
Dickinson gave Wright permission to look for a location in town that might be suitable for a new station, whether it be undeveloped land or a current existing building that could be renovated into a police department.
He engaged the help of Tim Ryan, the town’s economic development specialist, and looked at several sites.
The property at 100 Barnes road “floated to the top of the list for a number of reasons,” Wright said, including room for expansion on the nine-acre parcel.
The town contracted with Jacunski Humes Architects, of Berlin, to look at the building and its property to determine whether it could work as a police department, bringing in structural engineers and facility specialists.
Wright said the architects considered what additional work would need to be done to turn an office building into a suitable law enforcement facility.
The town Law Department then got an appraisal on the property and a sale price from the owners.
It’s unclear what the town plans to do with the old armory building. The radio tower for the downtown location is located there, so radio tower placement “will become a major consideration,” Wright said.