In a break from an opinion voiced recently by New Canaan’s highest elected official, Selectmen Nick Williams said Tuesday that the best location for a future police station likely is its current one.
Williams said during a regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen, “can’t think of a better location for a Police Department than where it is today.”
“You are literally seconds from downtown, you are a minute from three of our schools, and you are close to the Merritt Parkway where a lot of activity takes place,” Williams said of 174 South Ave. said during the meeting, held via videoconference. “It’s not to say that I’m not open to another location. I just think that where it is is a pretty darn good spot.”
The comments came as Williams, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectman Kathleen Corbet voted 3-0 to appoint Town Councilman Mike Mauro to the Police Department Building Committee.
The volunteer group last month heard from two architectural firms seeking to win the contract for the job. It’s unclear whether the town will pursue a renovation or rebuilding of the existing Police Department on site or seek to build anew elsewhere in town. Moynihan has spoken in favor of the latter, citing the high cost of renovation among other factors. The two firms, Berlin-based Jacunski Humes Architects, LLC and New Britain-based Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc, currently are evaluating the existing police station and site while also identifying other potential sites in town for new construction.
Moynihan said the architects’ findings are expected some time in late-May or early-June.
Meanwhile, a group of municipal employees separate from the Police Department Building Committee last week toured “10 or 12 locations, including some private properties,” Moynihan said. Some of those locations “are quickly being eliminated,” he said.
“They have problems either they are wet or too many issues so but there are several locations in town that could work,” Moynihan said.
Williams asked whether the appointed Committee would be expected to “come up with a recommendation as to stay at South Avenue in some capacity or move to a different location.”
Moynihan said he didn’t know.
“I don’t know that the Building Committee—a building committee normally oversees a project,” he said. “This is unusual in that we are trying to decide where to put it. I think it’s more a town body decision than a building committee. But we can decide that when we get down to May and June and see where we are.”
He added, ”The selectmen may make a recommendation to the Town Council. I don’t know how we are going to decide. But let’s see what the options are. Maybe one will become obvious.”
Williams responded, “I absolutely will be open to seeing options.”
Moynihan said that though the existing Committee is “a good group,” he “still would like a contractor to step forward to co-chair with Bill Walbert.”
“Because when we do get into a phase of building—Bill is a great guy on a lot of things, but he is not as detailed in terms of a building project as a contractor would be,” Moynihan said. “We have some good people on that committee. The problem is, a number of the people on the committee have done building committees before, but they are sort retired or semi-retired and they aren’t necessarily going to be in New Canaan. You want someone who is going to be on site throughout the building project.”
The 1927-built New Canaan Police Department got its last major renovation in 1981. Officials have called for a project there for years. In 2017, a panel that studied and made recommendations about town-owned buildings in New Canaan said the town should fund architectural and engineering needed for renovations. The town since then has considered re-locating NCPD entirely. Moynihan said two years ago that at least one developer has shown “serious interest” in converting the Police Station into senior housing.