Wilton announces timeline for proposed police headquarters

Photo of J.D. Freda

WILTON — The public will have several opportunities to learn about the proposed new police headquarters, which officials say is “long overdue.”

The town shared recently a prospective timeline of events to inform the public leading to an eventual January vote on allocating funds for the project. The goal is for a fuller understanding leading to the special town meeting and adjourned vote, the selectmen and Director of Public Works Chris Burney said. Burney and other officials stressed that the specific dates on the timeline were tentative and not final, but were more of an outline for what the next few months are to hold.

The timetable consists of various steps that start in early October with further adoptions and possible approvals of proposed changes to the building design. In mid-October, the first public tours of the police headquarters will be held. Residents will have another chance for public tours in November.

On Oct. 18, a public information session on the project will be held for the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and the general public.

The expected date for an updated report on the design and development of the building will be on Nov. 1.

After the general elections in November, a special joint meeting of the newly seated BOS and BOF members will be held in the opening days of December to fully present the new police headquarters proposal design, its expected cost and any associated bonding requirements.

A decision will be made the selectmen by Jan. 3 on a specific date to hold a special town meeting and adjourned vote, which is expected to be on either Jan. 25 or Jan. 29.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said that the last time a new police building project was discussed at a Board of Selectmen meeting was Feb. 3, 2020. At that point, the building committee and Tecton Architects presented a recommended design and site plan. Per the recommendation by the architects, the new building was to sit behind town hall and cost $14.7 million.

The architectural company has since recommended design changes on what has been learned over the period of the pandemic. Those architectural and cost changes will be reflected in a proposal to the town on Oct. 4.

Western Connecticut Council of Governments has also conducted studies on the efficacy of shared policing facilities since February 2020. After its study had been completed, it was determined departments should consider sharing animal control shelters and firing ranges.

The existing firing range in the Wilton Police Department headquarters has not been in use for “many years” due to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation, according to Burney.

It is “currently used as a storage room,” Burney told the selectmen.

Burney asked the architectural company contracted for the building if a standalone firing range building could be erected behind the Transfer Station. He said he had asked if the company had ever worked on firing ranges before, to which they responded “a few.”

“That’s a few more than me,” Burney joked before he pointed out that firing ranges are fairly simple to build with “a concrete slab,” a roof and a ventilation system.

While the project is set to be voted on in late January, the DPW director will not be reprising his current role in full at the turn of the new year. Burney, who has been in his role with the town for more than six years, is set to take a step back from his numerous responsibilities. Vanderslice did confirm he has agreed to continue overseeing a select few projects that are in the works, maybe most notably the new police headquarters project.

Selectman Ross Tartell asked Burney and Vanderslice if the board “needs to pay attention to money again,” to make sure “we can pay for all the raw materials.”

Vanderslice reiterated the total cost will be addressed on Oct. 4 in the contract review.

“I’m glad to see that this is back on track,” Selectman Joshua Cole said. “This has been long overdue for anyone who has seen the police station.”

Selectwoman Deb McFadden thanked the town’s police department for working tirelessly, including during the pandemic, in “non-compliant, cramped spaces” for “years and years.”

The board said that they hope to receive a lot of local attention on this, as it has been years in the making. Vanderslice said that the special town meeting scheduled to discuss this would likely also include the discussion on possible sale of cannabis in town post-moratorium and the prospect of the domed sports complex in town.

Correction: The story has been updated to reflect the dates listed are tentative.