Sites for Norwich police station ranked

Norwich - A preliminary ranking of nearly three dozen suggested sites for a new city police station puts the former William A. Buckingham School site at 188 Cedar St. at the top of the scoring sheet in an early evaluation of the suggested locations.

The former Buckingham School had been considered the top site in a police station site search several years ago, but was eliminated because of concerns that it is located in a residential neighborhood. Residents soundly defeated a plan to build a $33 million new police station in the former Sears Building at 2-6 Cliff St. and several surrounding properties in 2012.

The site evaluation subcommittee presented a spreadsheet that ranked the sites in four categories - location, geometry, cost and community benefit. The full study committee next must review the rankings, verify the numbers and finalize the rankings.

The space needs subcommittee downsized the rejected plan and determined that the police station should be about 50,000 square feet and would need at least 2.72 acres of land.

The preliminary review appeared to eliminate all but about a dozen locations based on lack of size and potential flooding issues alone. Because of lack of size, virtually all the downtown potential sites were eliminated - with the previous proposed Cliff Street location falling just short at 2.55 acres.

The full study committee hopes to narrow the search to several top sites in a report to the City Council due in March.

"I think we can come to a solid determination at the end," committee member Keith Ripley said. "We're close. We're close."

Other sites that ranked high in the site evaluation committee's spreadsheet included a former automobile dealership at 390-420 W. Thames St., the Beth Jacob Synagogue property at 400 New London Turnpike, the New London County Mutual Insurance building at 101 High St., the Mechanic Street ballfields and the city skateboard park at the corner of Ox Hill Road and Mahan Drive. The former Greeneville School site also remains on the list after early eliminations.

Both former schools have been demolished by the city.

The space needs subcommittee's evaluation placed the potential cost of the new facility at about $18 million - $15 million less than the project rejected by voters. In one major move, the space needs subcommittee eliminated the proposed parking garage that accompanied the previous plan, which cut the project cost by $5 million alone.

The number of jail cells also was reduced to 16 - eight for men, four for women and four for juveniles.

c.bessette@theday.com

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