NEWTOWN — As construction continues on the new police station at 191 Main St. South, progress has been as uneventful as the unusually mild winter.
Robert Mitchell, chair of the Public Building and Site Commission, told Voices that he’s pleased with the project so far. “When Newtown went through the architectural interview process, we wanted to engage a firm that not only had the knowledge to design the new police department but would interface with us and the potential construction manager seamlessly.”
He described the selected architects. “Kaestle Boos Associates, Inc. provided us with a process that would ensure we [the town’s representatives] were integral to the design through the construction. They addressed how they would do our project. It was perfect and answered all our questions before we asked them.”
He added, “This has continued through the beginning of construction. This is the fourth major project that KBA has provided the town. All have met our goals and expectations.”
Charles Boos, founding principle of Kaestle Boos Associates, New Britain, explained the firm’s desire to participate in the interview process. “We are probably the most experienced public safety architectural firm in the northeast.”
He referred to a decade-long history of work in Newtown. “We’re happy to work on a project that involves the design of an important community asset. Buildings like this stay around for 30 or 40 years; they are buildings that go on for a long time. There is an urgency to get it right.”
Mr. Boos estimated that the town was able to save 15 percent of overall costs by taking advantage of the existing building rather than constructing from the ground up.
According to him, the building has good bones and the renovation process was simplified by the fact that the space was fairly open, reducing the amount of demolition required.
“The building lent itself well to the addition and site requirements. There will be public parking separate from police vehicle parking and access to Rt. 25 will be unchanged. All of this works well.”
Mr. Boos described the interior features, “This is Police Station 101, with three distinct circulation concerns: one is public access which is limited, the next is circulation and security of prisoners, and the last is internal police function. By addressing those three elements, we will have a functional and secure police station.”
Principal Scott J. Mangiagli, AIA, LEED AP, BD+C of Kaestle Boos Associates pointed out, “There will be a community meeting and training room, an important element where the public and first responders can interact in a proper setting.”
The new police station will be able to double as an emergency operations center and plans have considered storage requirements.
A proper sally port will allow the safe transfer of prisoners into the facility, providing a garage with double doors that can be remotely closed before a prisoner is allowed to exit the police vehicle.
“There will also be controls between the garage and booking area so the opportunity for escape will be almost nil.” Mr. Boos said. “Every town has different needs and it’s important to tailor a building to the needs of the municipality and police administration.”
The new police station will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and take into account the need to keep everyone in the building safe, including prisoners.
Construction will install new electrical and mechanical systems, new energy efficient windows, and a new roof.
Representatives from the police department were consulted in the design process to ensure that the facility would work for the immediate and long-term future and Kaestle Boos Associates used several methods to facilitate communication during the design process.
Mr. Boos said, “Not everyone knows how to read plans. We used basic virtual reality in our meetings with the police chief and captain. As they moved through the spaces, functionality became clearer. This method can keep costs down.”
He added, “Newtown has always been a very desirable client because the Public Building and Site Commission is made up of people that know the business. That makes a difference, when you can speak the same language.”
He is also pleased to work with Consigli Construction and expects the work to be completed by mid-November. “Residents will be able to come to the dedication and see what they bought and how the design looks ahead for years to come. Some projects get into trouble because they don’t accommodate for female officers; we see growth in that area of law enforcement and the facility needs to grow in the same way.”
Police Chief James Viadero said the officers are eagerly anticipating the chance to move into the new police station. “This has been long in coming and will give the officers the space they need to do their jobs better.”
On a personal note, the chief is grateful. “I thank the voters for their support and confidence in what we’re doing. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal agreed, “For the better part of the last decade or more, we’ve talked about this. We’ve known for a long time that the present location isn’t meeting the needs of our police department and therefore the needs of the community. Of the 12,000 voters who considered the question, almost 8,000 were in favor of paying for this project. That is impressive.”
He added, “I also feel good that we spent time hammering on the budget and going through a value engineering process before we approved a Guaranteed Maximum Price.
“There are always little things that come up in any project but from a schedule and budget perspective, I feel good and am eager to see the project come to completion. We will have a facility that meets the department and community needs for generations to come.”