Town Leaders Concerned Residents Aren’t Engaged in Conversation About Proposed $15 Million Spending for New Police HQ

Vanderslice highlights earlier budget moves that could make the project more palatable to taxpayers, urges residents to learn more before upcoming Special Town Meeting

Resident turnout was light at last week’s public information session on the proposed new Wilton Police Department headquarters.

The Oct. 18 meeting, held at 7 p.m. on Zoom, was an opportunity for residents to learn about the major construction project — with an estimated $15 million price tag — that is being proposed by the Board of Selectmen (BOS).

But with few residents in attendance, town officials are concerned that the public is not engaged in the discussion about the proposal, its potential benefits and costs. A final proposal will be presented to residents and decided by voters at a Special Town Meeting as soon as January 2022. 

Tours of the current facility offered on Oct. 16 were similarly light in attendance. A few days later, Selectman Ross Tartell voiced his concern at the Oct. 19 BOS meeting.

“I want to say that the police station was really set up for tours and the town coming to see them. They didn’t get as much traffic as they would have liked,” Tartell observed. “We just need to keep moving along [with the discussion] about the police station because we need more people to understand how badly we need that police station.”

“It needs to happen,” Tartell asserted.

In Case You Missed It

After moving the project to the back burner at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the BOS recently returned it to the forefront of its priorities.

At the Oct. 5 BOS meeting, following the board’s approval of an updated Statement of Requirements — an itemized list of “must-have” building features sought by the Wilton Police Department — the BOS voted unanimously to authorize the contract for design services at a cost of roughly $480,000.

Since then, the BOS, along with the Police/Town Hall Building Committee, embarked on a plan to inform and educate residents about the proposal.

The Oct. 18 information session included:

  • A presentation by First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice with an overview of the project and process
  • A review of the current police headquarter’s deficiencies by Police Chief John Lynch and Wilton’s Facilities Director Chris Burney
  • Recommendations made by Police/Town Hall Building Committee co-chairs David Waters and Patti Temple

The presentation document used at the information session can be found on the town website.

Bottom Line

Vanderslice noted that the final costs are being updated to reflect the most realistic costs in today’s market, but directionally, it will be in the range of $15 million.

“We don’t have those [revised] estimated costs, but right now we are expecting to borrow $15,000,000. That is the $14.5 [million estimate] from February 2020, plus some cost increases, less $700,000 that remains from the May 2017 approved funds. That $15 million is subject to change, but that’s what we have right now,” Vanderslice said.

“To fund this, we would issue 20-year bonds, with annual principal payments of $750,000 per year,” Vanderslice explained, acknowledging the hefty price tag. “We know $15 million is a lot of money. It’s a big project for Wilton.”

Vanderslice pointed to recent budget moves that she says would essentially pay for the annual principal payments.

She said that permanent reductions in the BOS operating budget achieved by the BOS in 2021 — as a result of savings from changes to the town employee health plan, reduction in employee headcount, and joining a regionalized waste management program — amounted to approximately $750,000.

“We think this is the first time ever the Board of Selectmen will be proposing a bonded project for which the Board of Selectmen permanently reduced their own annual budget by an amount equal to the annual principal repayments,” Vanderslice said.

Vanderslice emphasized that point. “We think this is a really important fact and a big deal. By doing what we did, we think we have made this project affordable for taxpayers.”

Ready To Get Informed?

There are several ways residents can get up to speed on this significant project.

  • Read GOOD Morning Wilton’s coverage of the history and progress of the headquarters project and view our video tour with Police Chief John Lynch and Capt. Rob Cipolla.
  • Look for information and drawings at the Nov. 2 municipal election polling locations
  • Check the meeting calendar on the town website for another information session to be scheduled in December
  • Visit the Police/Town Hall Building Committee‘s page on the town website for links to documents associated with the project
  • Visit the project website for important information such as the committee members and advisors, due diligence, and other background and updates
  • Consider a tour of the current facility, available upon request. For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact Capt. Tom Conlan of the Wilton Police Department at 203.834.6256. 

1 COMMENT

  1. Honestly, it doesn’t seem that controversial – the current building is old and dilapidated and nobody’s suggesting that it doesn’t need fixing, and unlike the Miller-Driscoll renovation, it’s a) quite clear-cut in terms of size / scope (no debates over how many classrooms we need / why we aren’t replacing X / etc) and b) not part of a larger / more bitter discussion about educational spending. Even strident advocates of police reform would probably concede the point that whatever form of police department a town has ought to be housed in a clean safe modern building.

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