Norwich: Voters split on referendum questions

Norwich — Voters rejected, by an unofficial tally of 6,765 to 3,838 votes, the controversial $33.4 million new police station in downtown Norwich Tuesday.

But they approved the $8 million expansion of the city’s natural gas system by 7,163 to 3,325 votes.

The police station project called for purchasing the former Sears building at 2-6 Cliff St. and several surrounding vacant lots as well as using the city-owned adjacent parking lot to create a 57,000-square-foot police station with a secured prisoner drop-off location, 29 holding cells, an indoor shooting range and covered parking.

Controversy about the project has swirled since it was first unveiled in July. Residents questioned the project cost of $33.4 million and the purchase price of $2.5 million.

Residents also objected that the city paid the owners a $100,000 nonrefundable option price to hold the Sears building and surrounding properties for six months until the referendum. The money would be lost if voters reject the plan but would have been included in the overall purchase price.

Norwich police officers and supporters made a late push during the campaign season for the new police station.

Natural gas vote

There was little campaigning on the ballot question for an $8 million expansion of the city’s natural gas system approved by a large margin Tuesday. It helped that it would be at no cost to taxpayers.

A portion of the revenues from the new customers along the expansion routes will pay for the gas lines. Norwich Public Utilities will conduct surveys of densely populated areas not served by natural gas lines to be sure enough new customers would be added.

New revenues provided by the gas line expansion would add money to the city’s coffers, because NPU turns over 10 percent of its electric, gas and water revenues to the city in a general fund grant each year.

c.bessette@theday.com

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