New London — The Coast Guard is considering its options for relocating some programs at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, including looking outside New London for space if the academy can't expand in the city.
Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., the Coast Guard commandant, said the school has reached its capacity at its current site along the Thames River. New London voters narrowly defeated a proposal to sell half of Riverside Park to the academy in November.
"I don't foresee any time in my lifetime that we would even consider relocating the academy. But I think there are certain functions that are here within the walls of the Coast Guard Academy that we could justifiably and reasonably look at moving to other locations," Papp said in an interview at the academy Thursday.
Both the Leadership Development Center and a simulator used for training could potentially be moved to free up space at the academy, he said.
The debate over Riverside Park may also change the Coast Guard's plans to build the National Coast Guard Museum in New London.
Papp said he sensed during the deliberations that there is a constituency that views the Coast Guard, or the federal government, as being intrusive into the city's affairs and taking its property. He said he wants to "be sensitive" to that and is looking at sites both in and outside of New London for the future museum.
Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said Thursday the Riverside Park vote was not a rejection of the Coast Guard.
Instead, he said, people likened the sale to the eminent domain fight at Fort Trumbull, where residents of the neighborhood lost their homes.
"I simply believe that the people of the city of New London felt that yet again, the land of a poor neighborhood was being taken out from under them at a cheap price with little forewarning," Finizio said. "It would be taken permanently off the tax rolls and sold to an institution with interests outside of New London."