Norwich to Coast Guard: We've got land

Norwich - City officials are hoping the U.S. Coast Guard Academy won't forget about this city's vacant waterfront property as the academy looks for property to expand.

The Coast Guard is looking for such sites after New London voters rejected a proposal to sell it half of Riverside Park by 19 votes in November. The academy had planned to use the property for an expansion.

On Saturday, Norwich Alderman Charlie Jaskiewicz sent an email to Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, superintendent, inviting her and Coast Guard officials to discuss "potential partnerships and available land on the Thames River."

"I think the United States Coast Guard is a great asset to southeastern Connecticut, so when I look at the dilemma the Coast Guard is in and what's going on, I don't have a problem saying we want to be a good neighbor and if there's anything we can do we'd love to create more communications with the Coast Guard about coming to Norwich," Jaskiewicz said on Sunday. "I think it is the proper thing to do."

As an eight-year host for Coast Guard cadets, Jaskiewicz and his wife had just finished a spaghetti dinner with four cadets at their home.

"Norwich already has an established relationship with the Coast Guard on other fronts," he said, referencing the academy's Partnership in Education (PIE) program that brings their phased-out computers and other related technology equipment to the city's school system.

Forty acres of waterfront property on Shipping Street is one possibility for expansion, but Jaskiewicz said the city has other waterfront property on both sides of the Thames River that "has potential depending on what and how it would be used for." He wouldn't specify the locations of the other properties.

On Sunday evening, Stosz replied to Jaskiewicz's email, thanking him for his service as a cadet sponsor parent and welcoming a discussion.

"We already have a nice partnership with Norwich and I am always eager to explore new opportunities," Stosz wrote in the email.

She suggested a meeting be scheduled for later this month or early February.

David Santos, communications director at the academy, said Sunday that Stosz has scheduled a meeting with New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio for Jan. 17 to discuss expansion options and plans for a Coast Guard museum within the city.

"Norwich and New London are just some of the many options we will explore. The Coast Guard has been in New London for over 100 years, so obviously we're part of New London and that's how we've always viewed ourselves," Santos said. "I'm sure there will always be some part of the Coast Guard in New London but as far as having a robust campus that encompasses a lot of different programs that all have to do with leadership, and we do see the positive outcome of having them all located in New London, but to do that and to grow the way we need to grow, we will have to expand."

Last week, Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., the Coast Guard commandant, said the school has reached its capacity at its site along the Thames River.

"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.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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