An ambitious timeline to bring plans for a new police headquarters to town voters is facing another five-month slowdown to a process that has already taken years and seen its share of speedbumps, pivots and delays. First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice discussed the schedule change at the Board of Selectmen‘s final public meeting of 2021, held Dec. 21.
The BOS members had hoped to review and approve plans from Tecton Architects at their Tuesday, Jan. 4 meeting. If the plans met expectations, they could then schedule a Special Town Meeting at the end of January or beginning of February to ask voters to approve moving forward on the project, along with bonding in the neighborhood of $15 million.
Now, however, project architects requested an extension of time to complete design documents and cost estimates — slowing down the project once again.
Vanderslice put a positive spin on Tecton’s request to push the deadline back.
“We had put them on a pretty tight schedule … Of course, our number one priority is to have the best project available to bring forward, and we certainly want the estimators to have the required time to do the proper costing, particularly in this post — or I guess middle of — pandemic period,” she said.
Town officials have been discussing either renovating or building a new home for the Wilton Police Department for several years. Officials say the current station is too small, and has outlived its service after not keeping pace with modern policing.
Watch GOOD Morning Wilton‘s video tour with Police Chief John Lynch and Capt. Rob Cipolla from 2017 to see first-hand what the issues were then — and which have only been amplified since then.
Officials had come close before in 2019-2020, complete with architectural plans and a schedule to bring the concept to Wilton residents for approval at a town meeting at the time.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing a 20-month halt to any thought of such a big, ambitious project.
When the urgency of addressing COVID issues day-to-day dropped significantly by September 2021, officials returned to the need to do something with the Police HQ situation. The Police/Town Hall Building Committee reconvened for the first time since January 2020 and in early October presented an updated Statement of Requirements — an itemized list of “must-have” building features sought by the Wilton Police Department — to the BOS, which then unanimously authorized the contract with Tecton for design services at a cost of roughly $480,000.
A late January approval by voters of the project would have put the start of construction somewhere around Labor Day 2022, according to Chris Burney, Wilton’s Facilities Director.
Vanderslice said that Tecton Architects will likely be able to present design drawings and costs at the first meeting of the BOS in February. As a result, the project will now be considered for approval by voters at the Annual Town Meeting in May.
Town officials had also planned to use a January Special Town Meeting to put another question in front of residents — whether to allow the sale of cannabis in Wilton. That will also be moved to the Annual Town Meeting in May, along with a question about building an indoor, domed multi-sport facility in town.
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