EAST LYME — Town officials will weigh which features can be included in plans for a new police station given the significant cost of required code compliance and accommodations for accessibility, as they review architectural plans to convert the former Honeywell office building into a new public safety facility. Those plans were part of a presentation Thursday night by architects hired by East Lyme.
At a referendum in February, East Lyme voters approved spending $5 million for a plan to purchase the Honeywell office building at 277 West Main Street and to renovate it as a consolidated center for the town’s public safety and emergency services.
Proponents of the plan said that the current police building at 278 Main Street is in poor condition, has no room for expansion, and would not be worth the cost to fix.
At a meeting of the town’s Public Safety Building Vision Committee on Thursday, architects from the Hamden-based architectural firm Silver / Petrucelli + Associates presented a $5.8 million plan for renovations.
But after spending $2.8 million to purchase the building, the town only has about $2.2 million budgeted for renovations. Now the building committee will need to decide how to reconcile a $5.8 million architectural plan with the $2.2 million of funding approved by voters.
During the Thursday night presentation, Silver Petrucelli principal William R. Silver said that the $5.8 million represented “conceptual numbers to show you the big picture.”
Architect Brian Cleveland of Buchanan Architects, said similarly that this plan included “wish list” items. Cleveland explained that town officials had already made clear that they were unlikely to pay for some of the items, including about $1 million for a secure sally port entrance for vehicles and detention-area buildout.
“We try to be realistic with these values with you to help you determine your priorities, whether there’s additional funding or sources, or whether we truly scale back on the scope of the project,” Silver said. He added that the contractors will provide more detailed estimates as the planning progresses.
“We need you to basically take some of these conceptual numbers we’ve provided to you and basically figure out where you want to go from here,” Cleveland asked committee members.
Renovating to current standards
Based on conversations with town emergency officials and committee members, the architects presented two plans containing all of the facilities the town officials described as important.
Those plans still include features that town officials have already indicated will likely be cut to get the project under budget, including detention cells and the secure entryway for vehicles.
Selectman Paul Dagle, who chairs the Public Safety Building Vision Committee, told members of the committee they would have to review the plans thoroughly and find areas to scale back.
“I think we all need to go look at this and then when we come back to have an open discussion going through it line item by line item on what we don’t need or can reduce,” Dagle said.
But Dagle emphasized that the plans would still need to comply with building codes.
Cleveland explained during the presentation that police stations are required to have structural reinforcements for resisting earthquakes and similar extreme events. The architects’ estimates for installing these at the Honeywell building were $245,000.
Cleveland also said that “there are dramatic improvements that would need to be made to the accessibility functions of the building.”
According to Cleveland, the Honeywell building was constructed in 1986, prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar regulations, and would require improved accessibility. Currently, the building lacks wheelchair access and an elevator between the first and second floors.
The building also does not have a sprinkler system, but would likely require one if constructed today, Cleveland said. The building also has two exit staircases that feed into the same lobby. Current code would also likely require one of those staircases to exit directly outside.
There are two different methods that builders can use to determine code compliance for renovating an old building, explained Cleveland. One method involves a complex point system that assigns value to different qualities of the facilities.
As for the alternate method, “very simply put, anything that you do, you need to bring up to code — period,” said Cleveland. “If we put up a wall, whatever it is, that has to meet whatever the code there currently is. If we’re doing improvements to a business area and that business area needs to have a sprinkler system, then we need to have a sprinkler system.”
Dagle and First Selectman Mark Nickerson said at the meeting that they would be meeting with the town’s building inspector in the coming days to discuss which codes the town would have to comply with.
In discussing the total costs, and cuts that town officials would need to make, Nickerson emphasized the town was not looking for a brand new building and should focus on essentials.
“Some things need to change around, but we’re not renovating as new,” Nickerson said. “We’re renovating so we can move in.”