Bill Scheer - PW and Engineering
NEW PUBLIC SAFETY BUILDING PROPOSAL: November 2018
Our town has a need that must be solved. The current police building that was always planned as a temporary facility needs to be replaced. The size, layout, features, and condition of the building cannot be ignored any longer. It cannot be reconfigured to conform to the proper standards without a significant and costly upgrade.
I am proposing a solution.
Our town has had quite a history of trying to solve this problem over the past 15 years. In 2004, a facility was proposed on the grounds of what is now called “Camp Niantic”. The proposal called for a building that would be jointly used by town public safety departments and the National Guard and State of CT emergency management. The cost to the town was about $6.5 million. The proposal was rejected by the Board of Finance and never made it to a referendum. In hindsight, it is too bad our town was not able to act on this plan. We certainly would have been in a better position today had we been bold enough to make this plan a reality.
It was during this time that the growing police force moved from the small building in the town hall parking lot (now the Probate Court) to a temporary facility on Main Street. The building was at one time a Connecticut Light and Power facility. Millstone Power Plant had purchased the building and had a “Discovery Science Center” there until leasing it to the town for $1 per year. A few improvements were made to the building before the police moved in. Again, 278 Main Street had always been considered a temporary police station until a permanent, more suitable solution could be found. Although from the outside, the building appears adequate and perhaps charming on our busy Main Street, inside is a logistical and safety nightmare. Environmental concerns, space needs, and deterioration of the facility must be dealt with. The police department is currently spread between this building, rented facilities in Waterford, and our dispatch center in Flanders.
About three years later, another facility was proposed. The building would be built across from Bridebrook Park on Route 156 on what is state owned land. The facility would house all the public safety departments under one roof including police, fire marshall’s office, emergency management, and dispatch. If the town ever had its own police force, it would have the room for records, jails, and other requirements. The cost for the new facility was $14 million. (actual 2007 dollar value). The proposal made it thru the Boards of Selectmen and Finance however the project was soundly defeated at referendum.
Once again, our town had not reached a definitive conclusion on what do with our police and public safety departments. This last plan was 11 years ago.
THE NEW PLAN
I am proud to announce and make public for the first time a new plan for an East Lyme Public Safety Building. With assistance from members in our community, department heads and specifically the police commission, I have negotiated agreeable terms for the purchase of an existing building that is perfectly suited for our needs, today and for the next 50 years.
The Town of East Lyme has entered into a purchase and sales agreement on The Honeywell Corporation building at 277 West Main Street. The agreement stipulates that we must meet the appropriation approvals that are clearly spelled out in our town charter and ordinance book. Namely, the sale cannot be finalized until it meets the approval of the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, a town meeting and/or a town-wide referendum. According to the agreement, we must be complete with our approval process in 120 days. There will be many public meetings and forums to give our citizens a chance to learn the details of the project and questions to clarify and concerns.
The agreed price for the purchase of the building is $2.775 million. A market and sales analysis conducted earlier this year indicate that this is a fair price for the building and the 14 acres that it sits on. An architect specializing in public safety buildings has already walked the property. His initial estimate for upgrading and repurposing the building to meet the standards of a police building is $3.2 million. In the end, this is a $6 million solution to our lingering problem…less than the combined facility proposed 14 years ago at Camp Niantic and less than half of the cost of our own building that was rejected in 2007.
The current building is still owned by Dominion Energy. I have sat down with leaders from Dominion and we have agreed to working together in a public/private partnership to find a suitable use for the building. The goal is to create a great retail, restaurant, and/or residential space in the heart of Main Street. Dominion is a valued partner and will work with our town to bring the right use for this space.
The location of the building will create some discussion. The location is on the Southwest edge of our town. While it would be ideal to have this facility in the middle of our town, it simply isn’t the case. The police will tell testify that it will not matter. Police officers that are patrolling throughout the town are the officers that respond to calls and alarms. In addition, the quick access to the Rocky Neck Connect makes access to all points in town just minutes away.
The Town of East Lyme and the Town of Old Lyme began discussions last year about the possibility of combining our police force in an effort to regionalize our services to provide better coverage, share equipment and facilities, and save taxpayer money. If the discussions progress to a real plan, the public safety facility will be ideally located. The discussions are still on-going.
COMMUNICATION GOING FORWARD
This proposal has been in planning for a long time. While the P&S agreement calls for a decision within 120 days (March 15th), we’ve been at work on this plan for over 18 months. The police commission along with members of a task have done research, gather pertinent information, and reviewed option so that we would be well-prepared once this announcement could be made public.
Through the use of social media, the town’s website, local media, and a series of public forums, I am hopeful to get the details directly to our citizens. I will be available to answer questions and research necessary details during regular business hours at the town hall for anyone who would like to discuss this plan. I will be scheduling a couple public hearings with presentations that will spell out the need to upgrade our facilities and why this plan makes the most sense.
Lastly, I wish to reiterate the importance of this project. The current facility is inadequate in ways that can no longer be ignored. The plan proposed is the least expensive plan that meets our current needs and will serve our needs for the next 50+ years. I wish we didn’t have to face this project…after-all, we are still finishing up the school rehab project. I wish it was something that the town had properly planned for years ago. But we must move forward.
This is the last big project for our town for years and years to come. I am proud of this project and I am grateful to those who have assisted me in putting this plan together..
Senator Paul Formica
There is something special happening in East Lyme/Niantic. Look at all the businesses that have opened or re-opened in the last 2 years:
The Pit (power in training) Marvel Decorators
Twist (yarns) Rebeka's
Tranquility Balance Lillian's
Bayside Apartments/Retail Haylon's Market
Niantic Toy Store Indigo Retail
Smoothie Bird Niantic Acupuncture
Black Point Jewlerys Orthopedic Associates
Castello's Italian Restaurant McIlheney's Fitness
Newest Issues and Answers show:
Chief Mike Finkelstein, June 20, 2017
PUBLIC SAFETY BUILDING UPDATE -- October 3, 2019
I would like to give everyone an update on the Public Safety Building project that was overwhelmingly approved by town residents back in February 2019.
The town has acquired the property and an architect has been hired to give the town options on how to move forward.
A BI-PARTISAN (non political) committee of dedicated volunteers from the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, Police Commission, members of the community and town department heads are in the process of reviewing options brought forward by the architect (I am not a member). The committee is tasked with providing me and the Board of Selectmen recommendations on a path forward that will remain within budget and within the original scope that was approved by voters. The committee will operate with the renovation budget of $2.2 million.
My opponent in this year’s election has been prematurely attacking the committee’s work (in an attempt to attack me and make this a campaign issue) before the committee has all the pertinent information to make an informed recommendation. The committee is following the prescribed process in developing a municipal building. It is slow and deliberate work, but the job will get done right and on budget. There is no intention from anyone on the committee to spend more than what the voters authorized. And there will be no need for it. There is a clear path to a successful outcome.
The preliminary report that has been referred to, ‘Building Alterations - Design Options’, is a rough draft cost estimate to renovate the building as “new”. The architect provided the committee this report as a starting point; however, it includes items that were never part of original scope(only to be used as a point of perspective). Many items have already been rejected including new parking lots, roof, HVAC, lockup facilities, etc. The news article failed to mention that and critics have chosen to ignore it.
The process outlined has remained the same with all municipal projects including the Boardwalk, the new Park on Main St, the bandshell and others. Similarly, when the elementary school design committee looked at renovating Lillie B. Haynes as ‘new’, the estimated cost was ~$40 million. We recently completed the renovation of Lillie B. Haynes for ~$12.5 million. Also, most importantly, please know that the subcommittee is working as fast as possible to get our police officers into a safe and secure building as soon as possible.
To conclude, it saddens me that my opponent would manufacture this issue in order to make a campaign headline. She has made no attempt to understand how the process works; she has the luxury of not telling the whole story. This is a “standard operating procedure” for challengers to an office where there is nothing to run on.
It has taken over 20 years to finally get our police officers into a new public safety complex. The delay was mostly due to partisan infighting. Let’s please refrain from repeating the same mistakes and complete the project that the voters approved and expect.
Dave Putnam - Parks and Rec.
Joe Bragaw - Public Works
Deputy First Selectman
TRAFFIC TRAFFIC TRAFFIC: July 21, 2015
After a better-than-terrific Celebrate East Lyme Day, I headed back to my office on Monday to receive no less than a dozen complains/concerns from our citizens regarding the increased traffic to our roads, beaches, and highway during the summer months. Maybe this frustration has been building for a while and CEL Day was the breaking point. Maybe the patience of our citizens is being pushed to the limit. I have a few thoughts and observations.
As a seaside town with four public beaches (including the state park) and a charming downtown village, there is no doubt that summer brings people from all over the state (and beyond) seeking relief and relaxation. In addition our population literally DOUBLES in the summer with our seasonal residents and their guests returning. With the addition of GPS technology in most new cars, people are finding the small roads and shortcuts that once were only known by locals. More and more, we are finding that when Rocky Neck is full, visitors start exploring and looking for alternatives…they will not be denied. They end up in our private neighborhoods, private beaches, and yes, our public beaches too.
Some of these issues have easy solutions, some don’t. I plan on spending the off-season working on a plan to guide sun-seekers with better signage (pointing them away from neighborhood public beaches and to public parking spots), shuttle buses to Cini Park, and bathroom facilities at Cini Park. In addition, with the crowds on the beaches and traffic all over town, we need to consider increasing our police presence on our beaches, parking lots and roadways. Our police force is over-extended during these three months…and it is time we had a conversation about our increasing needs.
TRAFFIC CONTROL: The increased traffic on our roadways is bringing concerns about drivers who run red lights, drive through stop signs, and fly down our narrow streets with no concern for pedestrians and kids. Again, this has increased exponentially with GPS mapping in cars (and on phones) and the increased use of our side-streets. I personally have witnessed 2 near misses of pedestrians using the crosswalks on Main Street and drivers who refuse to stop. While I have asked the police to step up patrols, they can’t be everywhere. I AM ASKING ALL CITIZENS TO SLOW DOWN, MIND THE TRAFFIC CONTROLS, AND DRIVE CAUTIOUSLY and DEFENSIVELY. Truly that is the only way to protect yourself and your family against aggressive drivers.
Another issue we are experiencing is that I-95 continues to resemble a parking lot on the weekends…and even during other times during the week. That is another reason we are experiencing frustrated and aggressive drivers on our local streets. It seems more common than not that in the Flanders section of town, you’ll find drivers rushing thru a yellow or red light instead of exercising patience and courtesy. Again, we will address increasing police presence in the future. In addition, I will meet with the State Traffic Control who own the traffic lights on our state roads and look to change the timing of the lights to better accommodate the increased traffic. In the mean time, USE CAUTION.
LIFE IS GOOD here in East Lyme. There is no doubt that we live in an amazing place. There ARE solutions to the problems that present themselves and I will personally spend time and energy to enact those necessary changes during the off season. In the mean time, embrace the goodness all around us, breathe deeply, and stay serene…because before you know it…we will be lining up for the Light Parade. yikes!our paragraph here.
"It is an honor to serve you. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime to give me your ideas or comments".
--- Mark Nickerson
Mark Nickerson - First Selectman
no guest - upcoming EL issues
Events Magazine, Spring 2017
It’s been far too long since Niantic Main Street was bustling with pedestrians, dressed in t-shirts and flip flops. It seems like “forever” since hazy, hot and humid weather was the daily forecast and residents and visitors visited our beaches, boardwalk, and parks. The cold temperatures of this winter and the winds coming off the sound blow away any thoughts of toddlers running in the surf and dads commanding the grills at backyard bbq’s. Yet, in no time at all, these summer scenes will once again be upon us. And we are already busy planning for the Summer of 2017.
All the great traditions of a Niantic summer will be back including the Niantic Boardwalk 5k in April, the great Memorial Day parade on May 29th, Celebrate East Lyme on July 15th, and the Niantic Triathlon in August.
In addition, we are planning to continue the popular Wednesday night beach concerts in August and Friday night family movie nights under the stars at McCook’s Park.
Working with the Niantic Lions, the Niantic Rotary Club and the EL Public Trust, the Park’s and Rec Commission will add a new performance stage (bandshell) to McCook’s Park this summer. Get ready for the inaugural season of great bands and performances at McCook’s great lawn. What a fabulous addition this will be!!!
At the town hall, our team is busy planning work for the warmer months to improve our roads, trim trees along our rural routes, and finally improve the old gas station on Main Street. While its frustrating that the demolition approval from the state has taken longer than expected, I am confident that the building will be removed and the property will be improved before the summer season. The town was unsuccessful in receiving a beautification grant (STEAP) from the state yet we have developed a plan to improve the property using local resources. This will be a terrific improvement to our Main Street.
Our Parks and Rec Department is among the very best. The variety of programming is amazing for a small town. There is literally something for everyone and I can’t encourage you enough to browse thru this great magazine and commit to try something new. I promise you will not regret it.
I am so grateful to be East Lyme’s First Selectman. It truly is an honor. Because of my position, I have the privilege of meeting and speaking with so many residents. I love hearing the different stories why our citizens love our town. I hear stories about the natural beauty, the beaches, the trails, the great schools, the quality of life, and the wonderful caring nature of our people who watch out for one another. I look forward to hearing your story too. If you see me out and about, don’t hesitate to stop me and say hello…or drop into the town hall.
I wish you and your family the very best. “I’ll see you on the Boardwalk”.
Some comments about our town budget in relation to the state’s budget crisis.
Our state’s economy continues to slide downward and Connecticut residents are increasingly paying the price. Our state government’s budget crisis dominates the headlines and creates anxiety and worry for all of us. It has put extreme pressure on families and small businesses across our state. It is far more expensive to live (and die) in Connecticut than ever before. And based on the state’s balance sheet, we have not yet hit our bottom.
Because of the state’s fiscal mess, these are tough days for municipalities too. We are caught between reductions in state aid, a mediocre business climate, and rising costs for goods and services. In our town’s budget, health care, liability insurance, energy costs, collective bargaining wages and associated benefits have all significantly out-paced the private sector’s cost of living. Containing costs on the municipal level has been a real challenge for most towns. I’m proud to say that East Lyme has been extremely successful thus far in weathering the storm.
BALANCE IS THE KEY:
East Lyme is a quality town. We all moved here and/or we choose to stay here because of the quality of life and the quality of our schools. Striking a balance between rising property taxes and maintaining the quality of our town is the key. Town leaders on the Boards of Selectmen and Finance as well as every town department head and team member are supremely focused on this mission. We must continue to work to keep our town as affordable as possible WITHOUT losing the quality of our education and town services. Already, we have created an atmosphere where that “equation” or “balance” plays into every single decision we make in our town...365 days a year. We don’t just consider these issues during budget season. Literally, the value of return of the tax money we spend (the ROI) is part of every conversation I have with every town employee and commission member throughout the year.
I delivered a ZERO PERCENT INCREASE in the town’s budget this year. We lost personnel through attrition and consolidation, and we were able to merge or eliminate some services that created new efficiencies. Needless to say, this is a bare bones budget. I’m also pleased that the Board of Education brought forth a no-nonsense budget to the table during the recent budget process. There is NO new programming, services or expansion of our town’s government. Most of our budget goes to labor and the benefits that are provided to our workforce. While we must continue to invest in materials, equipment, maintenance, roads, and other resources, we only do so only after an exhausting process of scrutinizing every detail and measuring each item’s value.
The entire town’s leadership---department heads, supervisors, commissioners and board members ---know that we are in survival mode right now. We are struggling to keep taxes and expenses as low as possible yet we are still trying to deliver the high quality of town services and programming that our residents have come to love and expect. I thank each and every member of our community for the support you give our town. I am always here for a conversation, a suggestion or comment. It’s an honor to serve you.
First Selectman's message to the town; the release of the draft budget plan. 0.0% increase!
Released February 7th, 2018
Our state’s economy continues to slide downward and Connecticut residents are increasingly paying the price. Our state government’s budget crisis dominates the headlines and creates anxiety and worry to all. It has put extreme pressure and created an atmosphere of worry on families across our state. It is far more expensive to live…and die in Connecticut than ever before. And based on the state’s balance sheet, we have not yet hit our bottom.
Because of the state’s fiscal mess, these are tough days for municipalities too. We are caught between reductions in state aid, a mediocre business climate, and rising costs for goods and services. Health care, liability insurance, collective bargaining wages and associated benefits have all out-paced the private sector’s cost of living…by far. Containing costs on the municipal level has been a real challenge for most towns. I’m proud to say that East Lyme has been extremely successful thus far in weathering the storm.
BALANCE IS THE KEY: Most of my reflection and planning for spending in our town is focused on the “value we receive” from the money we spend. Businesses call this “Return on Investment” (ROI) …we are no different. We are trying to strike a balance at all times…the balance of taxes vs. services delivered. With the loss of state aid and the natural rise in the cost of delivering municipal services, we are trying to strike a balance between raising taxes to pay for the services we value, eliminating services that we can no longer support, and increased pressure to uncover efficiencies through shared services (regionalization).
Losing large chunks of state aid and shifting that burden onto property taxes is the real issue for today and the near future. Obviously, making sure our town remains affordable and favorable will be the central challenge. Already, we have created an atmosphere where that “equation” or “balance” plays into every single decision we make in our town...365 days a year. We don’t just consider these issues during budget season. Literally, the value of return of the tax money we spend (the ROI) is part of every conversation I have with every town employee and commission member throughout the year.
We must prepare for the eventual loss of state aid (currently at $7.62 million) and the burden it will have on our property taxes. Living within our means might mean the loss of some town services in the future. Of course, when services are cut or standards are lowered, it will be impossible to please everyone. Eliminating traditional services, cutting back hours, and lowering service-level expectations will be met with criticism by some and applauded by others. The value of our services is in the eye of the beholder. Half our citizens might value and even rely on a particular service while the other half will call it wasteful spending. Although we have been able to maintain service and standards thus far, we will need to make some very difficult decisions in the coming years.
THE BUDGET: I am delivering a ZERO PERCENT INCREASE in the town’s budget. Needless to say, this is a bare bones budget. I worked alongside our finance director, Anna Johnson and met with each department head, agency, and commission to streamline all services that we deliver and expenses we must endure. There is NO new programming, services or expansion of our town’s government. Most of our budget goes to labor and the benefits that are provided to our workforce. While we must continue to invest in materials, equipment, maintenance, roads, and other resources, we only do so only after an exhausting process of scrutinizing every detail and measuring each item’s value.
The entire town’s leadership---department heads, supervisors, commissioners and board members like you---know that we are in survival mode right now. We are struggling to keep taxes and expenses as low as possible yet we are still trying to deliver the high quality of town services and programming that our residents have come to love and expect.
NO NEW PROJECTS…PERIOD. We are finishing projects in our town that we started 5+ years ago. Most of the town projects are being completed with state grant money. The new Main Street Park, bathrooms and dinghy docks in Cini Park, and the school renovation project are all projects that had their start several years before I arrived in this position 3 years ago. In fact, since becoming First Selectman, I have proposed no new building or project initiatives. This isn’t something I’m proud of, but it is necessary in order to survive through the state’s economic crisis.
The only project on our near horizon that we MUST focus on is a Public Safety facility. Our police department was moved to a “temporary facility” back in 19xx while the town formulated plans to build a permanent, professional and appropriate structure. Since then, two plans failed to win approval. We MUST either commit to invest money to renovate and expand the current facility or build a new facility. The current structure is not adequate in size or layout and its condition is deteriorating rapidly. Our town must make a decision in the coming year to renovate or build new. Planning is in the works now to determine the best course of action.
As I begin my forth year as East Lyme’s First Selectman, I continue to be amazed by the dedication and the efforts of our town’s Department Heads. They do an incredible job with their respective departments and they inspire their teams to deliver first class service to our taxpayers. A great majority of them live in our town and they understand first-hand the struggles of balancing services with increasing costs. Over the past several years, every one of these leaders has found efficiencies to hold down expenditures in their departments. This year is no different. I am fortunate to work alongside these professionals and I am often amazed at their attitude, persistence, and ability to lead their departments through this economic downturn. East Lyme continues to deliver municipal services with less…our department heads deserve all the credit.
Mark C. Nickerson, First Selectman