Questions and Answers about the Public Safety Complex proposal
Q. What’s physically wrong with the current building?
A. We have several mechanical, environmental and safety issues with the current facility that need to be corrected immediately. Mechanical: after years of repairs and fees, our Heat, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system needs to be totally replaced. In addition, the large genreplaerator is beyond repair and would need to be totally replaced and rewired. (Both the HVAC and generators have failed during critical times during the past year). The roof has been patched almost yearly when leaks occur, but like any flat-roof, time has come to replace the roof. Lastly, the bricks/mortar on the building would need to be replaced or resurfaced. The walls actually leak when the wind blows from the south.
Because of the constant water leaks from the roof, walls, and from the ground, there are some serious concerns of health issues from the personnel that work in this environment. Remediation of mold and mildew have occurred but it has not been enough.
Q. Arrests in East Lyme have been on the decline since 2010. It doesn’t really look like we need a massive investment in order to increase deterrence or something like that.
A. Crime trends are used for modeling in staffing and/or deployments of personnel; they are not part of the mitigation strategy for life/safety and operational effectiveness. Call volume for police (and fire/EMS) are at an all-time high in East Lyme and across our region. Our public safety personnel are called upon to serve the community in many ways that crime statistics will never show.
Q. Will it be a problem that it is not centrally located?
A. Unlike fire stations, police stations do not need to be centrally located. Patrol cars on the road are the officers who respond to calls. There are dozens of communities in our area where police stations are not located in the geographic center or commercial center of a town/city. Our police force wholeheartedly endorse this project.
Q. Is an increase in civilian personnel required to operate the new facility in support of the department?
A. No increase in civilian personnel is required to occupy this building
Q. Are new radio repeaters part of the $6 Million?
A. A new tower and all associated equipment are part of the $6.0 Million request.
Q. The cost numbers are not adding up. We can basically build a brand new building for the retrofitting cost they’re quoting.
A. The average cost for new Public Safety construction, in 2018 money, is $516 per sq foot. This is a fact. We have taken all public safety construction projects over the past several years and averaged the price. No construction project was under $500 per sq foot. A 30,000 sq foot building in 2020 would be approximately $15 million plus escalation costs.
Q. Why do we need 17 acres?
A. We don’t NEED 17 acres. The building sits on a 17-acre lot. That opens up opportunity in the future for other municipal needs. The police will need a secure parking lot for personal vehicles, police vehicles and an impound lot. The current location’s paring is not secured and therefore not in compliance with minimal police standards.
I’m hopeful we can move our school bus depot to this spot. (Currently the busses are improperly parked on our aquifer. The current spot (across from the middle school) was supposed to be a temporary situation.
In the future, we may be able to use the extra acreage for a dog park, a kayak launch into the Four Mile River or sell some of the property and recoup some of our expense (it is zoned Industrial).
Q. I am aware the East Lyme is leasing the current building from Dominion. I’ve heard it said that the town will “profit” from the sale of the building. How is that possible? Who gets the sale commission?
A. It is true that the town is leasing the building from Dominion. This was to be a temporary agreement (3-4 years) to bridge needs of the town as it explored a permanent public safety facility. It has been 14 years. As part of that original agreement, the town can purchase the facility for $1. We have not exercised this option due to environmental clean-up needs that were discovered in a Phase 2 study. The plan is to buy the building once we receive a state grant for a brownfield clean-up of the property. (This property is well-qualified). When appropriate, the town will sell the property for economic development on our Main Street. Profits from the sale will go to reduce the debt of the new project. The broker for this transaction is Nathan Lamb of CB Richard Ellis out of Chicago. He handles all Honeywell real estate transaction in the U.S.A.
Q. The video says that commercial building costs are $512 per sq foot. This is completely absurd based upon everything I’ve seen. Building Journal says we could build it for $4.8 million. So even if you believe everything the town is claiming about need why isn’t it built brand new (exactly to our spec) on the land we already own across from the prison? That would save over $1M and it is a better location.
A. Recent data from 15 public safety projects in Connecticut show that the average cost is $516 per sq foot. Out-of-state Public Safety projects are showing an average cost of $531 per sq foot. The parcel of land, across from the correctional facility, was gifted to the Town in 2005 with
deed restrictions that it can only be used as open space, no construction allowed. The proposal and referendum in 2007 was to build a facility on State of CT land adjacent to the open space. That proposal was $14 million. See Comparison Tables and Charts.
Q. Could we relocate the building and land departments downtown. Then relocate the police department in the lower level of the town hall?
A. Since the Town Hall is in the Millstone 2-mile evacuation zone, a critical infrastructure building should not be located in that zone. Additionally, the police space requirements would take the entire town hall building. The Main Street building is less than half the size of the current town hall.
Q. It would be nice to know how they determined the price of the property. What it cost in 1998 should have no bearing on determining a fair price for a 2018 sale.
A. In May of 2018, two East Lyme commercial real estate brokers visited the building and then conducted a market analysis to determine the current market value of the building; that is how the $2.775 was determined. They used “comps”; comparing the space, quality and location of the building compared to other office buildings in the state to determine the value of the property.
Q. The Town should have just condemned Niantic Center School, torn it down, consolidated the kids to a new campus built around the Middle School/Haynes grounds and used that Niantic Center School property for a Police, Fire, Ambulance, Town Hall campus. We could have sold off the old properties to alleviate the final bill, everyone would have brand new facilities and it would be centrally located. Instead we want to spend $6 million to move to the border of town, which only makes sense if we are policing Old Lyme now.
A. That exact plan was discussed and was one of the original elementary school plan solutions. There were actually 2 scenarios, one was to evacuate Niantic Center, the other was to abandon Lillie B. Haynes school. Both of these options were seriously considered. The problem: both of these options would have cost $85 million for the school construction alone. Space needs would have required drastic renovation to one of the schools (build as new) and a much larger, new Flanders School built behind the current school. In addition, a significant renovation project would have been needed to prepare the abandoned school for police, town hall, etc.
The town chose to reduce the cost of the school projects to a simple renovation of all three schools at a reduced price. This option was chosen because we had a need to also build a police station (at the time, we were assuming the cost of a new building would be needed at $12 million). It was always part of the plan.
Q. I kind of liked having the police in the middle of shopping & all. Walking around at night, I felt so safe. Shame they’re moving to the edge of town.
A. While the outside of the building and its location might be “charming”, inside, it is inefficient, unsafe, and is not necessarily in an appropriate location. You may feel safe having a police station on Main St while you are shopping and dining, but because many of the police functions are in other locations (dispatch, lock-up), the police building is not open to the public 64% of the time.
Q. What services cannot be completed now as a result of limitations of the current building?
A. Services that are provided are done so inspire of our location. Our police deliver outstanding service to our community while hampered with space needs, services located in other locations, and unsafe and unhealthy working conditions. The building was never designed to function as a police or public safety facility. The renovation of the building was meant to last no more than 3-4 years while we built a new facility. Security of the facility, our employees, & visitors to a police station should be a primary concern. The current facility fails on every point. Additionally, the building has continued to develop environmental concerns for the 25 employees that work there.
Q. Why now?
A. The town failed twice to have proposals for a new facility approved. 15 and 12 years ago. The current police station was supposed to be a temporary situation while we settled on a permanent solution. In the meantime, our elementary schools were showing serious signs of failure. A decision was made to “leap frog” the school project over the police station. We always knew that the public safety building was a necessary project in the near future. In the meantime, the current police building has reached a point of failure in many of the “systems” and our infrastructure needs have changed. The Heating and Air Conditioning system MUST be replaced. It failed several times last summer. Additionally, the generator is beyond another repair. The police station did not have electricity during power outages last year. (no phones, no computers, no lights. not good). We have had significant water in the building over the past couple years. The roof has been patched annually but is at the point of needing a new roof. The southern wall leaks and the bricks and mortar would need to be “repointed”. Lastly, water rose up from the floor last year when it was discovered that the building actually sits on a store drain. Rising water in the building during a significant rainfall in the early summer caused significant damage to weapons, ammunition, rugs, and other material.
Q. How long has the new building being considered vacant?
A. It is fully occupied and operational; the current tenant plans on moving sometime in January 2019.
Q. Has a comprehensive study been completed on the building being considered to identify capital projects which may be needed as a result of age and/or vacancy (this does not include the remodel costs)?
A. No capital projects are needed due to age. The building is in terrific shape. Newer HVAC, roof, carpeting, and a new fiber optic line in to the building.
Q. How many bids will be considered for the remodel?
A. Typically three or more. This is part of our purchasing plan that the Board of Selectmen updated this past year (but was in common practice for decades). The town’s building committee will oversee the bid process.
Q. What happened to the land that was previously purchased near Bridebrook Park?
A. We never bought any land. We were gifted 9 acres across from Bridebrook Park. It is mostly wetlands and has a conservation easement on the land. We were going to use this property to access state land behind it (which was never obtained). To build a new, modest building anywhere in town would be $10-12 million. This site and its accompanying plan were rejected twice by voters 12 years ago.
Q. This has been called “a 15-year problem”. What does that mean?
A. Proposals to build a public safety facility in not new in East Lyme. We have had serious proposals to find a permanent solution to this problem twice. The first police building project was proposed almost 15 years ago. Another project was proposed 12 years ago. The police are in a “temporary facility” leased from Dominion for $1 per year. They were moved there in anticipation of one of these proposals being approved and implemented.
Q. What about public forums where we can ask the hard questions?
A. A public forum was held on December 10th, and another is scheduled for January 15, 2019. Citizens can direct questions to the task force at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. The current owner of the property paid $1.45M in 1998. The town would like to buy the property for $2.775M. That is almost doubling the owner’s money. So, the owner gets to walk away with a cool profit of $1.35M in East Lyme taxpayer money (before taxes).
A. The present owner of the building, Honeywell International, acquired the INNCOM International business and assets, including building and land, in June of 2012. Since INNCOM International is a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, what you see on the assessor’s web site is only INNCOM International, not the true owner, Honeywell International. There is no passive or active ownership by prior owners.
Q. According to FHA.gov a property in our MSA bought for $1.45M in 1998 is only worth $2.5M. So that indicates that we’re hoping to overpay by $.225M over market.
A. Fair market value was determined by two East Lyme commercial real estate brokers. Comparison values were applied to other office buildings in Connecticut. Recent upgrades to the HVAC, roof, carpeting and the fact that most of the furniture will be left for town use was also considered during the negotiations.
Q. If there is an idea baked in that Old Lyme is going to help shoulder some of this $6 million, then I think it would be extremely wise for EL to get that agreement nailed down before moving forward, because as of now, my understanding after speaking with town officials yesterday, is that OL is likely a ‘no’ on regionalizing.
A. The genesis for purchasing this building is to relocate the ELPD ASAP and save the taxpayers $9 million by NOT constructing a new building. This building is needed regardless of what Old Lyme does. Although we do not anticipate the Old Lyme task force agreeing to merge with East Lyme (due to politics and other issues), I think it is likely in the future.
Q. I still believe it is the better idea to start with building a new facility for the actual needs today. Buying a property that is not up to code for what is needed and trying to restructure it is a step backwards. Any future needed addition of needs can be addressed in the future.
The land across from the Correctional Facility was gifted to the Town in 2005 as open space and deed restrictions prohibit any construction. The Honeywell building is 100% up-to-code. The renovation is for adding dispatch and other police related areas.
Q. What’s wrong with the Triumph building in the Industrial Park area?
A. We seriously looked at the Triumph building. It is twice (57,000 sq feet) as big as necessary and it is an industrial manufacturing space that would need a lot of work to convert. There are many structure and environmental deficiencies. The cost to convert only 1/2 of it would be prohibitive (more than twice the cost of this proposed facility). We would be better off building a new facility than trying to clean-up the Triumph site and then retrofit it into a public safety facility.
Q. What would be the cost to reconstruct the old public works building? It is definitely centrally located we already own it.
A. The buildings at the old public works site (end of Roxbury Road) are all being used. we have already demolished several buildings on that site. There is not enough space in current buildings to handle needs today or in the future. Building a new facility on the site is an option, but an expensive option. $10-12 million plus the cost to demolish remaining buildings to ready the site. The lower portion of the site is in a flood zone and has flooded often over the years. Only the top tier of that site would be available.
Q. Why don’t we build our own new building?
A. Just like building new schools instead of renovating the ones we have, building a new building would be ideal. But the cost is prohibitive…it will be at least twice the cost.
Q. Has the town approached the Department of Corrections to discuss use of their vacant buildings?
A. Yes, the Department of Corrections has been engaged and found that the buildings are in shambles. The buildings at Gates have been left abandoned and uncared for over the past several decades. They cannot be renovated and would need to be razed. Therefore, the cost remains at twice the cost of this proposal.
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