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Approve Police Facility Design

Published: April 19, 2017

To the Editor:

I am writing as an individual and not on behalf of the Legislative Council of which I am a member.

Under our new charter the Legislative Council has limited authority to approve appropriations. After our Capital Improvement Plan process I moved to add the Police Facility Design to the list of projects going to referendum based on the logic that if we were sending our most expensive projects to the voters, we should consider the cumulative cost of all phases. That does not mean I do not support the project, rather the opposite is true, and I will be voting in favor of the Police Facility Design. I believe the voters should have the same opportunity to have input early in the process on our largest projects.

There is a clear need for a new police facility demonstrated in our space needs study. The current facility was put into service when the department was almost half the size it is now. The facility houses 45 sworn officers and 17 civilian staff members, including dispatch. Site limitations mean there are few to no free parking spaces. The facilities are cramped. Much of the structure and mechanicals are on their last leg. Our police department does an admirable job for Newtown and the current facility does not meet or support that high standard.

I believe we can have both voter input and capital investment in our community and that we do not need to shield projects from the voters. If we do a good job of advocating and articulating the need I am confident voters will join me in supporting the Police Facility Design.

In practice we will be asking a series of questions in what amounts to a gated process over subsequent referendums to the effect of: “Do you support the concept of a given project enough to support the design work?” To be followed a year later by “Given the detailed results of the design work, do you support the construction?” I believe this is the best way to get voter input on phased projects.

With all the new projects going to referendum there could be some voters experiencing a bit of sticker shock. A few points worth noting: these projects all fit within our debt service policy, which limits our debt, and we have been diligently following as reflected in our strong credit rating. These projects are bonded over 20 years and there would be minimal impact in this year’s budget. Debt service in this year’s budget is down this year because of actions we on the council took last year. We have been working toward reducing our debt as a percentage of our budget and these projects fit within that plan.

On Tuesday, April 25, please join me in supporting our police department by approving the Police Facility Design.

Ryan Knapp
11 Jeremiah Road, Sandy Hook          April 19, 2017

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