Though an available commercial building at Elm and Grove Streets may emerge as the best long-term option to house two large municipal agencies, it’s unclear just what New Canaan would need to spend to acquire the property and ensure it meets local needs, according to the town’s highest elected official.
Because the ‘Covia’ building at 258 Elm St. isn’t large enough to accommodate both the New Canaan Police Department and Board of Education, an expansion of some kind already is needed, according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.
As of now, the town and owners of the building also are about $1.5 million apart on a selling price, he said.
“Their appraisal was $9 million, our appraisal was $7.45 million,” Moynihan told members of the press Thursday during a media briefing in his Town Hall office. “That’s a gap that just represents what the market is. They’ll find out, we’ll find out when they market the building.”
Officials for years have said a renovation is needed at the police headquarters on South Avenue, a structure built in 1926 as the original New Canaan High School. The town pays about $300,000 per year for the district to rent offices downtown for New Canaan Public Schools administrators and two school programs. Originally, Moynihan floated the idea of renovating the upper floor of the Police Department to house the Board of Ed, but that proposal since has been scuttled.
A renovation of the Police Department would cost about $10 million, Moynihan said.
A new building could cost in the range of $16 million to $17 million, he said, but the town hasn’t been able to find a property that would justify or allow for a brand-new building.
That leaves Covia as an attractive option, and the town is working with architects to home in on just what it would cost to add on to the existing building.
“The piece of the building police that’s expensive and a large part of the police operation can fit on the second floor,” he said. “But there is more that has to go elsewhere and the Board of Ed is fine with the top floor, so if we do that strategy, we are going to have to add on to the building. The cost of that has to be defined better before we can consider [it].”
A new Police Department would be a good option in some ways, he said—for example, it would be a 50- to 100-year building that’s designed to meet the Police Department’s needs. Yet “when you finally bite the bullet and do a police department, you have to do it right,” Moynihan said.
“And the Covia building can be done right if we can just define the cost,” he said.
“If they can market the building and get a price, that will end it,” he said. “They very much wanted to do a deal with the town. But we have to be able to have absolute clarity on what the cost is.”