Norwich committees agree on need for new police station request for proposals

Norwich - The Public Safety Committee agreed with a recommendation from the Police Station Study Committee that the City Council put out a request for proposals for a new police station, a move that could bring in more private developer proposals and give the city exact cost estimates for the project.

The Police Station Study Committee briefly presented its eight-page report Wednesday to the City Council Public Safety Committee that reviewed two unsolicited private developer proposals, one for the former YMCA property on Main Street and the other for land owned by Thayer's Marine & RV on North Thames Street.

Police station committee Chairman David Eggleston told the three aldermen who sit on the Public Safety Committee that the group's first recommendation to build a city-owned police station on the grounds of the former William A. Buckingham School is still the least expensive option for the city.

In the report, the committee cited technical issues with both private developer proposals, including congested traffic and functional design issues at the YMCA property and flood zone and traffic flow issues on North Thames Street.

"The Buckingham site has the least number of issues and would be the lowest cost," Eggleston said.

But by putting out an RFP, the City Council would learn whether there are other private developers who also would want to present proposals to the city. He said the two current proposals are "just concepts" and would need to be much better defined before they could be evaluated thoroughly.

Gary Schnip, developer of the North Thames Street proposal, addressed the Public Safety Committee briefly to clarify points in his project. Schnip presented a letter from project engineer CLA Engineers Inc. stating the entire building and parking garage could be elevated above even the estimated 500-year flood zone level on the property, removing the flood concern issue.

Schnip also said the Buckingham School site building cost estimate of $19 million in the police station committee's original report was inaccurate, because it did not include engineering costs. He said adding those costs could bring the project closer to the $33 million project cost overwhelmingly rejected by voters in a November 2012 referendum.

If the city leased the police station from a private developer, the city could avoid needing a referendum for the project.

Eggleston said the committee has adjusted the Buckingham property estimates to add so-called "soft costs," and still believes it to be more cost-effective.

Alderman William Nash, public safety committee chairman, thanked the police station committee for doing the extra work in evaluating the two private developer proposals. Both were submitted to the City Council after the committee finished its initial report ranking 30 different sites for a possible police station. The Buckingham site topped that ranking.

c.bessette@theday.com

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