The female locker room at the police station—a 1926 building that hasn’t seen a substantial renovation in nearly four decades—is so small that the department may not be able to hire more women, officials said last week.
At six female officers, the New Canaan Police Department now has more women in uniform than it ever has in its history, “and it’s a good thing happening to us,” according to Police Chief Leon Krolikowski.
Yet “there is a limitation in our female locker room, because we may not be able to put on any more female officers because there’s just not enough room,” he said during a Jan. 9 meeting of the Selectmen’s Advisory Committee on Buildings and Infrastructure.
“So that’s just another thing that nobody ever planned for. The male locker room is a lot larger than the female locker room. So that’s just another aside, that when we do renovate, we have to plan for future expansion and future employees.”
The comments came as Krolikowski and Deputy Chief John DiFederico reviewed the problems with the current police station on South Avenue, built in 1926 as New Canaan’s first high school.
“It’s really deteriorating and primary systems are failing,” Krolikowski said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.
Problems include sewer flies in the men’s locker room, broken bricks and masonry, defective plumbing, rusted and rotting doors, mold, inadequate number of electrical outlets, smell of sewer gas, scattershot HVAC systems, loose and broken tiles, water leaks and lack of ventilation, sprinklers and ADA compliance.
“The outside of the building—it’s a really nice building, a beautiful building—built as a school and repurposed for us,” the chief said. “But inside the walls, there are a lot of issues and that is where the substantial expense lies.”
A renovation of the existing building would cost upwards of $10 million, with an additional $1 million needed to create a temporary police headquarters (possibly at Irwin House) during construction, officials said. An entirely new building from the ground up would cost about $14 million or $15 million, officials said.
Moynihan has called the question facing the town on a renovated or rebuilt police headquarters one of four major decisions that municipal government officials must make in the short term, along with school start times, a proposed senior living facility on Oenoke Ridge and taxpayer funding for the New Canaan Library rebuilding project.
Beyond its physical failings, the poor police building has an negative effect on the department’s ability to recruit new hires as well as on the morale of those already on the force, Krolikowski said. Officials have been flagging the interior, exterior and infrastructure problems at police headquarters for years.
Former Police Commission Chair Stuart Sawabini, a member of the Committee, said the appointed Commission has “had two different architects come in and give us two radically—in my opinion, different views—on renovating the current police building.”
“One indicated that we actually could make use of the third floor for portions o fate Police Department during renovation,” Sawabini said, “The other is to have to move out completely. So you have different views. Of course moving out and establishing a temporary Police Department is a very expensive proposition. It’s not simply office space but you have to still address all of the very specialized components of a police department. Records management and police cells and so on. It’s a very complex piece of work that needs to go on. So that’s a big question.”
Whether the town pursues a renovation or rebuilding project, “Certainly the current building that is in use needs a huge amount of gutting and renovation,” Sawabini said.
“I mean it really is a tired building that has been renovated in little pieces so many times that it is now spaghetti inside,” he said.
According to Krolikowski, the building at 174 South Ave. was renovated for NCPD in 1981 and then underwent a second-floor renovation in 11 years ago, with the dispatch area redone five years ago and the men’s locker room renovated in 2016.
Asked about next steps, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said that an organization representing towns and cities in western Connecticut is studying the viability of regionalized police functions among Weston, Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton and New Canaan. The study is to be completed in about three months, he said. New Canaan is most interested in a shared training center and shooting range, officials said.