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The Board of Selectmen has tentatively approved issuing a license that would allow a police dog training group to use the vacant former Newtown Hook & Ladder firehouse at 45 Main Street for the training of police dogs for municipal police departments in the region.
Following discussion at a September 18 session, the selectmen agreed to submit to the town attorney for certain revisions a proposed licensing agreement, which would allow Superior Canine Services, LLC, of New Milford to use the former firehouse for police dog training. Under the terms of the proposed license, the firm would have the use of the building for a $1 fee for a nine-month term.
In discussing the proposed agreement, Selectman Will Rodgers pointed out that “the building is compromised,” in noting its structural deficiencies. In the past, a structural engineering firm determined that the red-brick firehouse is structurally unsound, and then cautioned the town about it being used to store heavy fire trucks.
Mr Rodgers wants the license to contain wording stating that the dog training firm agrees to use the firehouse in its physically compromised “as is” condition.
Newtown Hook & Ladder, which had long sought new quarters due to the two-story building’s various deficiencies, moved out of the town-owned firehouse in September 2016, and relocated to a new facility about 1,700 feet away, at 12 Church Hill Road.
The vacant firehouse has been used by a local construction firm for equipment storage. The building, which is situated on a slope, has garage bays on two levels.
The building would be a central dog training facility used by municipal police departments in the region, Police Chief James Viadero told the selectmen. It would not be a permanent facility, he added.
First Selectman Pat Llodra said that after the proposed license is modified by the town attorney, the document would be reviewed by the selectmen before they formally act on it.
At a selectmen’s meeting earlier this month, Chief Viadero had told the selectmen that the old firehouse’s layout is perfect for police dog training exercises, to store dog training equipment, and to hold classroom sessions for police dog handlers from across Fairfield County.
Much of the dog training would be supervised by Frank J. Reda, a retired Norwalk police officer who now operates Superior Tactics & K9 in New Milford. The firm provides police with seminars in areas including narcotics detection, explosives detection, device recognition, post-recognition action plans, tactical patrol work, and tracking.
The company also offers a course known as CUSTOM, or “Canines Under Superior Training and Outstanding Municipalities,” which provides police with national certifications in patrol work, including advanced tactical operations, building searches, evidence recovery, criminal apprehension, rural and hard-surface tracking, as well as certifications in narcotics detection and explosives detection.
Chief Viadero has said that the old firehouse’s proximity to Fairfield Hills is important because many visiting police dog teams use the town-owned campus for tracking exercises.
The police chief assured the selectmen that the training agency is fully insured, and all participating officers and others would sign “hold harmless” agreements to eliminate liabilities to the town.
Police who would use the firehouse for training would park their vehicles in the western parking lot at 45 Main Street. The firehouse site is adjacent to Edmond Town Hall.