Based on a recent public presentation, revenues generated by selling the current police station would not offset additional costs that would come with building a new one on a Saxe Middle School baseball field, versus renovating-on-site, according to the chair of the Board of Finance.
Though selling off the police building at 174 South Ave. “could offset some building costs” and “would be a source of property taxes for years,” still “the delta between the new police building at a new site and the ‘Renovate on Site’ option was significant,” Todd Lavieri said in an Oct. 3 email to town officials, obtained by NewCanaanite.com through a public records request.
“The sale of the current structure wouldn’t pay for the new structure,” Lavieri said in the email, sent to fellow Board of Finance members and Tucker Murphy, a staffer in First Selectman Kevin Moynihan’s office, with the Board of Selectmen and town CFO Lunda Asmani copied in. “Not even close. It might help close the gap between the two options, at best.”
Cited by Selectman Nick Williams during a heated discussion of the Saxe proposal at the selectmen’s Oct. 5 meeting, Lavieri’s email followed a presentation made the prior week in a joint meeting of the selectmen, finance board and Town Council. At that Sept. 29 joint meeting, a team assembled by Moynihan—nearly three years after he first aired the idea publicly and after keeping its work under wraps for many months—unveiled a proposed new $23.5 million police station that would be built along South Avenue just north of the New Canaan YMCA.
The figure is far higher than a different architect’s two estimates for renovating the existing building: about $14.7 million to $16.4 million to renovating while occupying the structure, and about $16.2 million to $18 million to renovate it while it’s vacated (which includes temporary relocation costs).
It’s unclear how much money the town could get for selling the existing police station building. Moynihan has talked about having it developed for senior housing for years. In August, Moynihan said it could sell for $6 million to $9 million. More recently, he has referred to $5 million, though he’s also hinted that there are additional costs associated with renovation that have not yet surfaced (see below).
The Board of Finance is scheduled to take up an assessment of the options at its regular meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday. The finance board is expected to make a recommendation on a future police station project to the Town Council.
Lavieri said in his letter that the Board of Finance likely wouldn’t be ready to make its recommendation until November.
“We will put all these options together for a discussion at our October Board of Finance meeting to provide a current update for everyone,” he said. “Town Council Chair John Engel asked that a few other new sites be evaluated. So this process will continue in the assessment phase. Then we will make our final recommendation to Kevin [Moynihan] and the Board of Selectmen once we have all the facts.”
Lavieri opened his email by saying, “For those of you who couldn’t make the special town meeting last week, we had a good presentation and discussion around the dozen or so options for the Police building. Obviously, our town can’t spend $20 [million] or more without looking at options! The architects who were asked to look at a new building on a new site, had a preference to go with the Saxe/South Ave location. As an ‘out of town’ independent assessment it made more sense than other locations.”
During a charged discussion with Moynihan regarding the Saxe proposal where he said the first selectman had misrepresented some key figures’ support for that project, Williams read from Lavieri’s letter.
In response, Moynihan said, “I don’t know what Todd is focussing on. Todd went into this with open mind, as others have.”
Williams said, “But his initial impression based o the meeting from Wednesday night, is the the numbers —putting aside whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea to put it there—the numbers don’t add up.”
Moynihan responded that the police station project is a “once-in-a-generation decision” and the town is obligated to study all options. He then said, “Quite honestly there are reasons not to renovate that building, and those will be discussed over the course of the next few weeks,” and did not elaborate.