Study committee finds private plans for Norwich police station would cost more

Norwich - Of the two unsolicited private developers' proposals to build a police station to be leased to the city, the Police Station Study Committee would prefer the city consider a project at the former YMCA building rather than property on North Thames Street.

But the report the committee will submit in July to the City Council Public Safety Committee will say that either of the two private proposals would cost more than the committee's first recommendation to build a station on the grounds of the former William A. Buckingham School.

The committee's top recommendation in the upcoming report will be to have the city advertise a request for proposals for any police station project - whether it be city-owned property or property leased to the city.

The committee's original recommendation to have the city build a station at the former Buckingham School property would be less costly, committee members said. Once the project meets the police department's space and functional needs, city officials could place greater priority on factors other than cost, such as cleaning blight on Main Street, thereby enhancing economic development downtown.

The committee last week met separately with the two developers proposing to build a police station at the former YMCA site and on land owned by Thayer's Marine & RV on North Thames Street. Portions of those meetings were behind closed doors to discuss the developers' financial information.

Chairman David Eggleston said Thursday the proprietary financial information will not be included in the public report the group will submit to the Public Safety Committee July 9, other than general statements related to projected costs. The committee will ask the city Finance Department to work out the city's annual cost of a bond for the estimated $20 million to $21 million police station at the former Buckingham School.

Residents soundly rejected a $33 million police station proposal using the former Sears Building and several surrounding properties downtown. At least $5 million to $6 million of that cost was for a proposed parking garage that would not be needed on the Buckingham School site.

Police Chief Louis Fusaro met with the committee Thursday and said of the two private proposals, he preferred the former YMCA site on Main Street. Fusaro said both properties "would work," but he had more reservations about the Thayer site.

While the developer of the Thayer site said placing the police station there would provide "synergy" with the city fire department and American Ambulance nearby, Fusaro questioned potential traffic hazards if all three emergency responders are exiting their driveways racing to a scene.

Developer Gary Schnip and project attorney William Sweeney last week explained how the building could be raised above any floodplain concerns on the Thayer property, but the committee continued to have concerns about the floodplain issues.

The YMCA Main Street site was proposed with a two-story underground parking garage and a two-story building with 26,000 square feet of space per floor rising above the street on the Main Street side. From the rear on the steeply sloped lot, the building would be four stories.

Incorporating two small city-owned vacant lots nearby for public parking, the committee said the small size of the YMCA site would work, but they expressed concern about the lack of space for future expansion.

c.bessette@theday.com

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