Tesoro wants HQ building committee

The safety of officers and suspects is at the center of a proposed $1.2-million partial renovation of police headquarters. On Monday the Town Council will consider naming a building committee to oversee the project.

“In the past, renovations and repairs of town facilities have generally not required building committees,” First Selectman Vicki Tesoro said. But additional oversight, planning, financial management, and public participation are the best course for the town on all major projects, including renovations and updates, she said.

The funding already is in place for the project, which will renovate and improve ventilation, plumbing, electrical infrastructure, and locker rooms. It will also mitigate lead contamination in the firing range and replace the traditional bars in the cellblock. Police Chief Michael Lombardo said safety was the primary aim of the project.

“When the building was built, we didn’t have as many officers as we do now,” Lombardo said. “We need to expand the locker room and put in new showers and bathroom areas.”

The ventilation upgrades are necessary to meet modern standards in the area where the firing range is. When complete, the indoor shooting area will allow officers to shoot indoors while lead and other residues are whisked away.

Finally, replacing the cell block bars with a more modern safety glass will also enhance safety by eliminating the ability of a suspect to reach through the bars or to spit or throw things at officers. In addition, suspects in lockup can potentially use the bars to harm themselves, Lombardo said.

Tesoro said she supported the renovations to the building, which is nearly 40 years old. A building committee would simply add an additional layer of transparency, she said.

“That’s the guiding principle here. Let’s not spend more than we need to spend, and let’s certainly spend smarter,” she said. “The best way to do that is to have a building committee watching the process and reporting back to the town through the Town Council.”

According to the agenda for Monday’s Town Council meeting, the Police HQ building committee would consist of two Town Council members who are not from the same political party, two members of the Police Commission who are not from the same party, and one resident not affiliated with either panel. Nominees are council members Keith Klain and Edna Colucci, commissioners Lisa Labella and Angelo Magliocco, and Arthur Lemay.