Walking into the Ansonia Police Department’s public entrance, there’s a water fountain.
Under the water fountain there’s a wastepaper basket.
Nobody was sure whether the basket was there to catch drops from a leaky water pipe, but it sure looked out of place.
The same can be said for the rest of the Ansonia Police Department.
Not the officers, mind you, but the building they work in. It was built in 1894 for schoolchildren, and it shows.
And that’s why city government is asking voters to approve borrowing $12 million for a new police department building on Olsen Drive.
In total, voters are being asked to approve $18 million for various projects Nov. 8. Click here for a list of projects.
The police department opened its doors to the public twice last month to give voters a chance to look at the place.
The Valley Indy stopped by Saturday, Oct. 22. Residents Lisa and Mike Auddino were finishing up a tour.
They were embarrassed by what they saw.
“They need a new facility, and quick,” Lisa said.
“The building is a mess. There’s no storage. There’s stuff all over the place,” Mike said.
“They protect us. They need something better,” Lisa said. “This building is falling apart and they deserve better. They risk their lives every day for us.”
The Auddinos pointed out parking is a major issue at the police department’s Elm Street address. There are too many police cars for the property.
In the winter, police close a street so they can get all the cars out and have a plow remove snow.
The back of the police department is missing bricks, because ambulances can’t navigate the narrow driving path and keep sideswiping the building while trying to turn the corner.
Inside, the jail cells are not safe for officers, because the cell doors open toward them, instead of sliding open. The old-fashioned cells were not designed to deter inmate suicide attempts.
A roach was seen scurrying under a metal toilet during the Valley Indy’s visit.
Chief Kevin Hale said the air circulation is such that the air from the cells is shared with the the people operating the dispatch center. The smell is not rosy.
In the men’s locker room downstairs, officers hang their bullet-proof vets and boots out in the open to keep a lid on odors. The lockers themselves are old, giving the place the feel of an abandoned junior high.
Hale and his command staff are constantly rearranging spaces. There are three rooms to store police evidence. One of the rooms shares space with a hot water heater.
The “sally port,” where police cars enter the building to unload prisoners, doubles as storage.
Prisoners walk from the police car up a steep concrete incline that is anything but ADA compliant. At the top of the landing they pass the animal control officer’s traps.
The “roll call” room, where officers starting a shift receive news about recent crimes, has at least three other functions happening at the same time. A witness to a crime may be giving a statement to an officer across the room during “roll call.”
It’s distracting, Hale said.
An old bathroom was converted into a tiny holding cell for juveniles. It’s a little more than a closet.
Here’s a video report published last month by WTNH. The article continues below.
Downstairs there’s an old fallout shelter under the stairs, complete with old wooden stretchers. It would be interesting to explore, Hale said, but he realized there’s asbestos in there, so no one is allowed to open the door.
“We opened it one day and I could see there were MREs (ready to eat meals) from the 50s,” Hale said. “I was ready to walk in and there was a bag right by the door that said ‘asbestos cement.’ Who knows what else is in there, but we’re not going in there.”
The phone lines entering the building are a mess, thanks to a flood, Hale said. It’s pictured below.
The building has its bright spots.
A few years back the city replaced the boiler inside the building in a previous referendum, because it was simply not working. If voters approve the new police station, it remains to be seen what the building will be used for.
The new police station is supposed to go somewhere on Olson Drive, most likely in the area of the Tinney Community Center.
However, the final location hasn’t been specifically nailed down, as the city is still talking to the Ansonia Housing Authority and federal housing officials.
The Olson Drive property was formerly government-subsidized apartments.
Hale said having the police station on Olson Drive would benefit the neighborhood.
“That part of Ansonia is a troubled area and it has been for some time,” Hale said. “Lester Street, part of Grove Street, Howard Avenue, High Street — it’s going to help those areas.”
The new building will be 22,000 square feet. The current building is 17,000 square feet.
“But, half of our current building is usable,” Hale said, pointing to wide hallways and 18-inch thick walls that eat up usable square footage. “We’re actually using about 8,500 square feet of our building.”