“To consider and take action upon a recommendation of the Bethel Board of Selectmen and approved by the Bethel Board of Finance to appropriate a sum not to exceed Thirteen Million Four Hundred Ninety Two Thousand ($13,492,000) Dollars for the funding to complete the design and construction of a Police Station complex located at the corner of Judd Avenue and Dodgingtown Road (Route 302), Bethel, CT.”
Report by Paula Antolini
December 9, 2015 8:19AM EDT
Click on photos to view larger.
Referendum for Proposed Bethel Police Station Set for Dec. 17th
Last evening Bethel voters assembled to decide upon town issues at a Bethel Special Town Meeting that occurred at 7:30 p.m. in the General Purpose room of the Clifford J. Hurgin Municipal Center at 1 School Street in Bethel CT, regarding the recent notice “To consider and take action upon a recommendation of the Bethel Board of Selectmen and approved by the Bethel Board of Finance to appropriate a sum not to exceed Thirteen Million Four Hundred Ninety Two Thousand ($13,492,000) Dollars for the funding to complete the design and construction of a Police Station complex located at the corner of Judd Avenue and Dodgingtown Road (Route 302), Bethel, CT,” and also to vote on the referendum date, which was moved to a machine vote at the Dec. 1st Board of Selectman meeting. (View complete notice below article.)
Public comments were taken in a standing-room-only General Purpose Room packed to capacity and most voters were in favor of the station.
Only one person spoke out against building the new Police Station, Frank Infurchia, a former Bethel Board of Education Chairman. His main complaint was that the commission never looked at other towns to compare a number of items such as size of building in reference to number of citizens, crime rate, size of police force. “We don’t need to triple the size,” Infurchia said, regarding the new building. He also felt that the location chosen to build the new police station was ruining what he called a “park” setting.
Police Chief Jeffrey Finch made a point of wanting to immediately address Infurchia’s comments, which he thought were misleading.
Finch said (addressing Infurchia and the audience), “With reference to the comparison of other towns, you’re talking about comparing us, square foot and officer, to other towns that have buildings that are grossly old and in need of replacement. Newtown, for instance, has already gone to the paper and put plans into work to build a building almost 29,000 square feet, and they don’t have 63 officers, they only have 40-something. Brookfield’s building was bigger than ours for years and they’re not happy with it, they’re building something else. Danbury just built a new police department, it went from 25,000 to 75,000. I think the ratio that he [Infurchia] puts forth is misleading.”
Finch continued, “With reference to the location, a lot of us think it’s very good and you’ve heard some of the reasons why. But let me make it clear to you also that one of the first things I did when this started in 2004, was to invite Dr. Chesley down to the police department to look at these plans, and I asked him, “Do you have any problem with these plans being up there next to the high school?” He looked them over, and looked them over, and said, “No.” And neither does the present Superintendent, neither does the Chairman of the Board, of the Board of Education, have a problem with that. Is everybody, are they all wrong? Are they all mislead by me? I didn’t write these plans or draw these plans, neither did the First Selectman.”
“With reference to the open field,” Finch said, “Many of you will benefit from looking at these pictures if you haven’t seen them before.” (He motioned to the large photos of the Proposed Police Station on display in the corner of the room.) “When you drive down Judd, look at that big, yes it is, an attractive open field, that’s not where we are. We’re way up over the crest and down the other side. There’s no rolling hills or beautiful Forsythia or anything else, it’s all scrub brush, that’s where we are. And yes true, the field will always be compromised, so to speak, by the building there, but the open fields you see up there? We’re not going to be taking any of it, it’s going to be there.” (A man in the audience shouted out, “The people will still have a place to walk their dog.”) Chief Finch replied, “You can still walk your dog.”
Finch said, “And the last comment I’d like to make is crime, yes crime is down. If you look at the National statistics violent crime in Connecticut went from something like 900o incidences down to eight-thousand-something, it was 7 percent. So instead of 9,000 that you had in 2013, now you only got 8,400 in 2014. You all feel a lot safer? If you look at the National crime rate it went down two-tenths of one percent. You all feel safer? You think crime only happens in the big cities? This is a highly mobile society. We’ve all been here long enough to know that crime can happen anywhere, and it does. Bethel IS a low crime town. We don’t have a lot of violent crime in this town, but we do have a lot of crime, and a lot of minor crime that takes a whole lot of time for the police officers who work here. It’s not something that’s going away, it cycles, and it’s going to go up and down as the years pass.”
VIEW Chief Finch’s comments here:
First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker, Selectman Richard Straiton and Selectman Paul Szatkowski responded to questions, as well as other town officials, and Police Chief Jeffrey Finch and other members of the Bethel Police Department responded as well. The architectural firm was present and also the town attorney Martin Lawlor, to clarify points. Some of the same issues were discussed, of the size of the facility, and whether not not the station should be located on the Judd Avenue property.
A final vote was taken and a date for the referendum was agreed upon of December 17, 2015, between the hours of 6:00 a.m and 8:00 p.m. in a machine vote, to vote via referendum upon approving the building of the $13.5 million, 26,000sf Proposed Bethel Police Station on Judd Avenue.
The Legal Voters of the Town of Bethel, Connecticut, and those persons entitled to vote therein, are notified to assemble at a Special Town Meeting to be held in the Clifford J. Hurgin Municipal Center – General Purpose Room, 1 School Street, Bethel, Connecticut 06801 on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. for the following purposes, to wit:
1.) To consider and take action upon a recommendation of the Bethel Board of Selectmen and approved by the Bethel Board of Finance to appropriate a sum not to exceed Thirteen Million Four Hundred Ninety Two Thousand ($13,492,000) Dollars for the funding to complete the design and construction of a Police Station complex located at the corner of Judd Avenue and Dodgingtown Road (Route 302), Bethel, CT.
Said funding shall come from bonding, bond anticipatory notes, temporary borrowing and/or other appropriation as recommended by the Comptroller of the Town of Bethel, to be reduced by any available grants obtained by the Town of Bethel, if any. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statute Â§ 7-7, the Bethel Board of Selectmen by resolution on December 1, 2015 have removed this Item No. 1, funding to complete the design and construction of a Police Station complex from vote by the body of this Special Town Meeting and adjourned this vote to a Town wide machine vote to be held on the date as established by this body of the Special Town Meeting between the hours of twelve o’clock noon (12:00) PM and eight o’clock (8:00) PM unless the body of this Special Town Meeting approves earlier hours for the opening of the Town wide machine vote pursuant to Connecticut General Statute Â§ 7-7. Design renderings of the “Police Station Project” are available for review during normal business hours at the Clifford J. Hurgin Municipal Center, 1 School Street, Bethel, CT.
2.) To take any and all action legally necessary or appropriate to accomplish the above intended results. Dated at Bethel, CT this 1st day of December 2015.
BETHEL BOARD OF SELECTMEN Matthew S. Knickerbocker, First Selectman Richard C. Straiton, Selectman Paul R. Szatkowski, Selectman