Moynihan: If Covia Building Is Not Buyable, Renovate Police HQ To Move In Board of Ed


Back of the New Canaan Police Department. Credit: Michael Dinan

New Canaan’s highest elected official said Thursday that if a downtown building he’d been eyeing as a possible future home for police and school district administrators is no longer available, as rumored, then the town should move forward with plans to renovate the police headquarters on South Avenue and move the Board of Education in there.

Asked whether the Covia building at Elm and Grove Streets was under contract, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said during a media briefing, “That’s my understanding.” Covia could not be reached for comment. 

Asked what the town would do if Covia is off the table, Moynihan said, “The thought now for South Avenue would be to knock down the rear of the building and build a whole new addition at the rear, with three floors, so the Board of Education would have all the space they need on the top floor.”

The town pays about $300,000 in annual rent for the New Canaan Public Schools’ administrative headquarters at the corner of Forest Street and Locust Avenue. A town committee in December 2017 recommended that Waveny or Irwin should be considered as alternatives. Moynihan initially said the Board of Ed should move into unused space at the Police Department, then targeted the Covia (formerly ‘Unimin’) building at 258 Elm St. as a possibility. But that plan was complicated, because the building itself would have needed an expansive renovation to accommodate both the school district and NCPD, and the town and Covia representatives couldn’t agree on a price.

“My idea was, if they ever get to the point where they want to sell it for a very unattractive price, then it would make more sense” for the town, Moynihan said during the media briefing, held in his Town Hall office.

Under Moynihan’s original plan, the police department building—built in 1926 as New Canaan’s first high school—would have been sold for conversion to apartments, possibly for seniors, with restrictions that would preserve its street-facing facade. 

The facade would still be preserved under a renovation-and-expansion project to bring the Board of Education there, he said.

Building an addition at the police department would approvals from elected and appointed town bodies as well as public hearings. 

The project would cost upwards of $10 million, Moynihan said, citing estimates from architects.

6 thoughts on “Moynihan: If Covia Building Is Not Buyable, Renovate Police HQ To Move In Board of Ed

  1. $11 million here, $10 million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. Where are the fiscal hawks now who objected to a slight increase in the operating budget for our schools out of concern for the town’s level of bonded debt?

  2. Keeping the police dept were it is makes more sense. What would happen to the garage in the back and would there be enough parking? It should be made clear that the parking area meant for the Schoolhouse Apts. stay that way.
    N. Jensen

  3. John, why not throw in the $18 mm Saxe expansion? What was your view on that project, and on what data was your view based? If I remember correctly, you believe the BOE runs extremely efficiently and there is no room for reductions in increased budgets ever year. Right/wrong?

  4. Not in this case John. NC’s debt plus taxes per resident are 15% higher than the next highest town in CT. There are opportunities for more efficient use of our tax dollars across the entire town budget, including the BOE, which is 2/3 of our budget including BOE debt service costs. That is obvious. Cost of living is one of the major reasons people leave CT/NC, leading to greatly diminishing real estate values. That is obvious.

    What is not obvious is your view. You argued against reducing the increase in the BOE budget by any amount. BOE FTE count was up 16% between 2007-2017 while enrollment was up 2%. There are countless other stats that question how efficiently our tax dollars are spent, and whether this spending is the source of excellence in our schools.

    You insinuate that the police building renovation is a poor use of money versus other alternatives. Maybe it is. I haven’t studied the issue. I have studied the BOE and the town budget extensively, including benchmarking versus other towns. I’ve made clear that I think the overall town budget should be flat for the next three years based on plenty of opportunities for greater efficiencies and the need to mitigate outmigration/declining real estate values. That is my transparent upshot, whether one agrees with me or not. What is yours? I’m always hoping for substantive responses with some objective data.

  5. If town debt burden is the concern, and I don’t disagree that it warrants scrutiny, then I would hope those concerned with it would not limit their skepticism to expenditures for education. Recent other examples include the unnecessary town ice rink being explored by the Parks Commission and the ever-changing plans for a new police building.

    Over and out.

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