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Ledyard - In one last effort to display the state of their police station before the town decides whether to build a $6.4 million new one, the department hosted a two-day open house.
Few showed, said Lt. Michael Finkelstein, who led a couple tours of the building. But those who did seemed in agreement after following him through the dingy, narrow hallways and cramped office spaces.
"They were like, 'wow, this place is awful,'" he said.
No one seems to disagree with the assessment that the police station on Lorenz Industrial Parkway is in a state of disrepair, ill-suited to officers' and the town's needs. But as the May 21 referendum looms, qualms remain about the price tag and the proposed location of the new building, slated to stand next to Town Hall at the site of the old Ledyard firehouse. But situating the proposed building there ratcheted up the cost slightly.
The spot was ultimately selected from three possibilities because of its visibility and centralized location. Ever since the police department left its former spot in Ledyard Center, Finkelstein said he's fielded complaints from residents about the current site, set back from Route 117.
The building, parts of which date back to the 19th century, was never meant to be a police station, Finkelstein said. It had been converted from stables into office space when Ledyard police moved in from the Town Hall Annex in 1995.
The problems are many, mostly to do with space and layout. Small rooms have yielded haphazard record storage, with files squeezed into spots throughout the building. Poor drainage has caused flooding from time to time. There is no real lobby. Offices are spaced far apart in meandering hallways.
The room that houses the bulk of the station's technology - servers, radio systems, parts of the 911 system - is more like a closet. When it began to overheat, the state mandated that the town install air conditioning; and when the new state 911 system was initially installed, part of the machinery had to be placed in the custodian's office for lack of space.
The architect who has sketched plans for the new station - and who has built dozens of other police stations around New England - has called it a "woefully inadequate" space.
"The physical layout isn't conducive to the flow and function of police work," Finkelstein said.
As for heating and cooling issues and other various maintenance needs, Mayor John Rodolico has said that it would take upwards of $250,000 next year to bring the facility up to "some level of adequacy."
The new building's plans call for about 12,000 square feet of space - compared to the old building's about 7,000 square feet - in two stories. While the price stands at $6.4 million, Finkelstein said there's about $500,000 worth of contingency costs built in, and the Municipal Building Committee could further decrease the price after approval.
A public hearing on the proposed police station will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Ledyard High School auditorium.