Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti said he’s still confident the city will acquire a Main Street property for the purpose of relocating the police department downtown.
But exactly when and how it will happen remains an open question.
The city wants to buy 65 Main St., the former headquarters of the Farrel Corporation, as part of a downtown redevelopment project.
In March Cassetti and other officials announced a plan to move the police department out of its current headquarters — a former elementary school built in the 19th century — to the top floor of 65 Main St.
The mayor said at the time that the police department could be in the new space by the end of this year.
Clearly, that will not happen.
On Tuesday the mayor conceded his original estimate was too optimistic, but he still thinks the deal will get done.
“I was very optimistic and I’m still optimistic,” Cassetti said. “Sometimes things happen out of our control. It’s going to take some time. We’ll get it done, though.”
In May Aldermen approved spending up to $3 million to buy 65 Main St.
No Deal Yet
But since the Aldermen’s vote, months have gone by with no deal getting done.
In August, Aldermen instead voted to “explore” taking the property by eminent domain if the city and the owner couldn’t arrive at a bargain.
The owner of the building, Shaw Growth Ventures, then briefly closed a parking lot on the property used by several downtown businesses.
The city and the company each accused each other of using bullying tactics before agreeing to keep the lot open to the public until Dec. 27.
The lack of progress left some readers on the Valley Indy’s Facebook page scratching their heads after the state announced a $200,000 grant to assess environmental contamination at the property last week.
“I do not understand?” William Phipps wrote. “Back in the spring, I was under the impression that the PD move was close to a done deal.”
The mayor said Tuesday that some sort of deal is still close at hand.
“We’re still negotiating with them,” Cassetti said. “It’s basically a done deal. We’re going to be meeting with them in the coming month to get things rolling on that.”
The Valley Indy left a message for Vasilios Lefkaditis, Shaw’s managing partner, Tuesday.
The mayor said the main sticking point in talks was that Shaw wanted the city to forgive a blight lien connected to the property as part of the deal.
“They wanted me to get rid of the blight lien, but I’m not doing that,” Cassetti said. “That’s a bargaining chip.”
Lefkaditis had previously said the city had agreed to forgive the blight lien, but then stopped communicating with him.
The mayor declined to comment on whether he thinks the city will reach a deal with Lefkaditis or end up taking the property by eminent domain.
He also wouldn’t say when he thinks the city will acquire the property — except that it probably won’t be in 2017.
“It will be next year,” Cassetti said. “I don’t want to say (a specific date). I want to get through the negotiations and get that building. Once we get the building then I could have a better sight on where we’re going.”
The mayor and Sheila O’Malley, the city’s economic development director, said the $200,000 state grant will help the city get a better handle on exactly how much it will cost to clean up any contaminants in the building.
“We know there’s some asbestos, so some containing and removal of that will have to be done, mainly in the walls of the garage,” O’Malley said.
The mayor has prioritized moving the police department out of its antiquated Elm Street headquarters to a more central location since his first campaign for mayor in 2013.
But officials switched from that location to 65 Main St. earlier this year when the housing authority’s plan to redevelop Olson Drive were thrown into question.
Meanwhile, 65 Main St. had gotten a new owner, Shaw Growth Ventures, which had filed a foreclosure lawsuit against the developer who had bought it from the Farrel Corp. in 2013.