Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.
Roughly 70 residents packed the Ella T. Grosso meeting room for a public hearing Tuesday night to discuss the proposed upgrades to public safety buildings, as well a new senior center.
Prior to the public input section of the meeting, the Board of Selectman gave a presentation on the proposed plans, which include demolishing the current EMS facility on Spring Street and building a new one.
Selectmen also are proposing building a new police headquarters at a location that is currently unknown due to a contract not being finalized yet.
Once the Police Department clears out of the current headquarters on Volunteer Drive — which is shared with the fire department — then that building will be renovated and become the sole headquarters for the Fire Department.
Selectmen outlined the financial plan for the upgrades, which calls for a combination of bonding and payments from the town’s assets.
Construction of a new police station is projected to cost $15.6 million. Fire Department upgrades are projected to cost $7.47 million, and a new EMS facility is projected to cost $6.6 million, which the town would pay for using cash.
The projected cost for a new senior center remains to be determined.
Almost every resident who spoke during the hearing was in favor of the upgrades, with some saying the work has been long overdue.
South Center Street resident Gail Stegman said seniors deserve a new senior center.
The Board of Finance recently approved giving First Selectman J. Christopher Kervick $20,000 for a deposit for a down payment on the undisclosed location.
Kervick said at Tuesday’s public hearing that he is choosing not to disclose the location in an attempt to avoid a bidding war, thus saving the town money.
Per the selectmen, the town is roughly three months behind schedule in getting the plans in the works for the purposes of bonding.
Selectman Paul M. Harrington explained that beginning July 2022 the state legislature is changing the length of time for which municipalities can bond money.
Harrington said if the project gets moving before next month, the town can bond the project over a 30-year span, rather than a 20-year span.
Built in 1974, Police Chief Eric Osanitsch said in March last year that the station is out of compliance in every way. The building has gone 47 years without a renovation of any kind.
It doesn’t meet accessibility standards in the Americans with Disabilities Act, lacks both office and storage spaces, and does not have a locker room for female employees, Osanitsch said.
Lt. Paul Cherniack said the department has simply outgrown the current station.
“We have a much larger department than we had in the 1970s,” he said. “Plus, the building is past its life expectancy. Everything is dated to the ’70s.”
Cherniack noted that the holding cells came from the previous headquarters, which was even older.
“I think what people forget is when we take prisoners in, we are 100% responsible for their well-being and we need facilities that can help accommodate that. That is their basic right, that we provide food, medical assistance, and proper psychological assistance,” Cherniack said.
During the hearing Tuesday, Sebastian Garofalo, a sergeant in the department, said the locker room for female officers is a closet.
Following the meeting, Kervick took to Facebook to thank residents for a productive discussion.
“Windsor Locks doesn’t cower when faced with problems, we solve them. That attitude seemed to prevail last night. Very encouraging,” Kervick wrote.
For updates on East Windsor, Windsor, and Windsor Locks, follow Joe Chaisson on Twitter: @TheJoeyChaisson, Facebook: Joe Chaisson, and Instagram: @JIJoeChaisson.
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