Ansonia Aldermen inched closer to finalizing projects proposed for an upcoming $4.9 million bonding referendum at a special meeting July 30.
The aim of the meeting was to arrive at a consensus on the improvement projects, said Eugene Sharkey, Board of Aldermen president.
A final vote is expected at another special Aldermen’s meeting later this month.
The board had already approved the referendum questions, but the process slowed down after Republican Aldermen complained Democrats were rushing a referendum.
A public hearing on a scheduled June 25 referendum vote was canceled at the last minute as Aldermen bickered over details of the project.
Click here for a rundown of all the referendum questions as they were envisioned originally.
Police Station An ‘Armpit’
Much of the discussion at the July 30 meeting centered on the aging police station on Elm Street, and whether it makes sense to spend money on an inadequate facility or just build a new PD somewhere else.
A question in the proposed referendum asks voters to approve bonding $945,000 to make school security improvements and to buy land on Platt Street to expand the police station.
The city is also wants permission to replace windows at the police station and fix the decrepit boiler, along with the heating and air conditioning system.
But it was the potential land purchase that sparked debate on Tuesday.
“We have to make a decision,” said Alderman Edward Adamowski. “I don’t know where in the city we can put a (new) police station.”
Over the years, officials have considered the Ansonia Armory, Farrel Company offices and the Main Street parking lot as other possible locations.
The downside of buying the residential properties behind the station would be taking them off the tax rolls.
The lockers police officers use were taken from an old school, and the cell doors may be 70 years old.
Ansonia Police Chief Kevin Hale suggested spending $25,000 to hire an architect to look at potential sites and at the current site. He also suggested forming a committee to look into the matter.
The current police station also lacks adequate parking, Aldermen said.
Alderman Scott Nihill, a Seymour police detective, minced no words about the condition of the Ansonia police station.
“They have the armpit of this part of the state to work out of,” Nihill said.
Alderman Phil Tripp said he wants to see realistic value estimates presented on the Platt Street properties.
In order to take the properties by eminent domain, the city has to have the bonded money in place.
Tripp was impatient with the drawn-out discussions on expanding the police station.
“I thought we’d already gone down this road,” he said. “I’m getting déjà vu. Let’s just pull the trigger and do something.”
Several Aldermen said they agree that the police station boiler and upgrades need to be addressed.
It would make sense to have an independent consultant conduct a feasibility study on possible locations for a new police station, said Alderman John Marini.
“A study should be done first, before we commit to staying where we are,” Marini said.
Sharkey said Aldermen have to decide whether buying the private properties to expand the current station should be included in the bond proposal.
It would send a mixed message to the public to include a referendum question asking to bond money for repairs and land acquisition and at the same time say a new station may be built, he said.
Officials have been meeting with window company representatives to come up with a cost for reworking a 14-foot-high police station window that loses heat and wastes fuel. Options are to create two smaller windows or installing a fiberglass panel.
Final cost estimates are expected in time for the Aug. 20 special meeting.
Olson Drive Land Question
Sharkey recommended leaving $320,000 in the bond package proposal for the possible purchase of the Olson Drive property where a federally subsidized housing complex is located.
Ansonia is obligated to create 48 new subsidized housing units to partially replace the ones being torn down at the Riverside site, but the department of Housing and Urban Development and Ansonia City Hall have disagreed over how and where to locate the units.
HUD wanted the land redeveloped for housing. Ansonia wants the land left as open space. HUD apparently had a change of heart and is now willing to be flexible, officials said at a recent Ansonia Housing Authority meeting.
Mayor James Della Volpe told Aldermen that he planned to meet with staff from U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s office, and well as those from Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s offices.
Nature Center Pleads For Parking Lot Upgrades
Ansonia Nature Center officials asked for support to redesign the center’s parking lot, which they said is unsafe for the young children who use the center and produces runoff that pollutes nearby wetlands.
Question No. 3 of the referendum calls for appropriating $929,000 to improve the parking lot, dredge the center’s Redwing Pond, improve the Nolan Field Athletic Complex and buy land to expand the Riverwalk.
“The parking lot is a danger,” said Donna Lindgren, director of the nature center.
She said people drive too fast down the road and through the lot, often when very young children are running to their cars from the center.
Lindgren recommends installing “islands” within the parking lot to cut down on speeding cars.
Martin Wigglesworth, a nature center staff member, said it’s only a matter of time before a child is hit by a car near the parking lot.
“I’ve been there for a decade,” Wigglesworth said. “I’ve seen it come close.”
As it stands, the parking lot is often over-crowded during special events and cars are often blocked in by others.
“The parking lot really needs a redesign,” said Rich Wade, president of the Friends of the Ansonia Nature Center.
Also on July 30, Aldermen reached a consensus on spending the money to upgrade the Nolan Field parking lot and field house, but a committee was appointed to determine a cost estimate for buying a new scoreboard and sound system.
The scoreboard, which could cost anywhere from $20,000 to $71,000, would be money well spent for a football program that has garnered eight championships in the past decade and creates city-wide pride, Aldermen said.
They also agreed on the $483,000 appropriation for improvements to Woodbridge Avenue Extension, Beech Street, the Hilltop Hose fire company’s driveway and the West Main Street parking lot.