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The Board of Selectmen received and tentatively approved a request from Police Chief James Viadero to license the former Hook & Ladder building behind Edmond Town Hall for a regional police K9 training facility.
The request came amid the board’s September 5 meeting.
The facility was previously and temporarily licensed to a local landscape construction firm and used for overwinter equipment storage last year. But Chief Viadero said the building’s layout is perfect for both practical police dog training exercises, as well as a location to store K9 training accessories, and to hold small classroom gatherings of officers and handlers from across Fairfield County.
According to the Chief, the Newtown police would hold the license for use, but much of the training would be directed by Frank J. Reda, a retired Norwalk police officer who now operates Superior Tactics & K9 in New Milford.
According to company information, its Law Enforcement sector provides police personnel with seminars in narcotic detection, explosive detection and device recognition, post-recognition action plans, tactical patrol, and tracking and tactical team integration with canines.
The company also offers a complete handlers course named CUSTOM — “Canines Under Superior Training and Outstanding Municipalities,” which is described as a comprehensive course where upon completion officers will be nationally certified in the areas of patrol functions to include advanced tactical operations, building searches, evidence recovery, criminal apprehension, rural and hard surface tracking, and Dual Purpose certifications to include narcotic or explosive detection.
Its trainers are nationally recognized experts with decades of expertise in K9 training and deployments and have successfully seized millions of dollars in assets.
Chief Viadero said he envisions hosting a regional training center in Newtown, after multiple departments visited for various training offerings that included utilizing the now-vacant Inn at Newtown on Main Street, various buildings and the grounds at Fairfield Hills, and the vacant Hook & Ladder building. He said the proximity to Fairfield Hills is key, as most visiting K9 teams use the town-owned campus for tracking exercises.
After receiving requests from Superior K9 trainers and various K9 officers to use the former Hook & Ladder headquarters as a training facility, he decided to request a license for its use.
Chief Viadero said his department plans to meet with trainers and other officers on the site about twice a month. He said there would be a measurable benefit to Newtown as a result of offering services, as other towns offer Newtown in-kind services.
The chief said he is only considering the facility as a temporary location to hold training and classroom meetings, which would be scheduled on a month-by-month basis. He assured the selectmen that the training agency is fully is insured, and all participating officers and others must sign hold harmless agreements to eliminate any liabilities to the town.
He said local officers and participants would handle cleanup and maintenance at the site.
Town Hall Board of Managers representative Sheila Torres questioned whether the presence of law enforcement vehicles would impede other town hall patrons’ parking or access. Chief Viadero replied that any vehicles involved would be require to park in the furthest rear lower lot, and that no more than 10 to 15 officers with dogs would be training at any one time.
Following Selectman Will Rodgers motion to research and draft a license for the police department’s use, the motion passed unanimously, with a provision made by Selectman Herb Rosenthal that the agreement be passed before the town’s municipal insurance agency for review and advice.
First Selectman Pat Llodra agreed to send the agreement through for review, and said the town would finalize the agreement based on any feedback she received from the town attorney and/or the liability carrier.
CIP And LOF
During the meeting, selectmen received the latest Capital Improvement Plan draft from Finance Director Robert Tait. Besides a new and cleaner formatting that breaks out capital requests by department, Mr Tait also built in a “what if” scenario that made contingencies in the event Newtown experienced a significant decline or total loss of state intragovernmental aid.
He also created a scenario that extended the CIP out to ten years, instead of its current five-year span, showing how certain projects in the coming five years might be bumped out within the ten-year timeline, to achieve minimal budget impact while at the same time keeping anticipated debt service costs under control.
The “what if” version of the five-year CIP randomly removed previously earmarked projects to achieve about a $16 million reduction in total capital costs, but indicated that the scenario was exclusively for illustration purposes to show how the town might achieve that cost reduction within a five-year window if forced by budget constraints.
Mr Tait then discussed the ten-year scenario under which about $50 million in capital projects are removed from the existing CIP, and metered out into years six through ten. By doing this, the finance director said the town could reduce its annual debt service ratio to nearly 7.5 percent — assuming an annual two percent budget increase each year.
The selectmen were also scheduled to hear from organizers of the LOF Adaptive Skiers about requested changes to a temporary license the group holds to use town property off Bridge End farm Lane in Sandy Hook. But the group’s representative Joel Zeisler was unable to attend, so selectmen agreed to hold any discussion until their next scheduled meeting on September 18.
Mrs Llodra said the requested changes involved rain date substitutions and adding dates when the group was unable to use Lake Zoar because of chemical treatments being applied to control invasive underwater plants.
The first selectman said she received a letter from Mr Ziesler requesting to change the “reasonable times” of LOF operations from 9 am to 7:30 am, and departure times from 3 to 2 pm on weekends, and changing weekday start times from 8 to 9 am, with departure times remaining the same at 8 pm.
Mr Rodgers reacted saying Mr Ziesler would have to convince the selectmen why hours needed to be changed after Mr Rodgers solicited the hours Mr Zeisler originally desired.
“I’m predisposed not to entertain changing weekday hours,” Mr Rodgers said. “I’m willing to hear what he has to say about weekend.”
Mr Rosenthal said he favored delaying further discussion in the event any members of the community might want to comment on how suggested changes might impact them.
Mrs Llodra said she will proceed conservatively, as she has learned from experience, “that when you give an inch, the other party takes a mile.”
“The license is the license until there is public discussion of any change,” Mrs Llodra said. “I will meet [with Mr Zeisler] about the chemicals and about a reschedule outside of the rain dates request.”