NORWALK, Conn. – Tentative plans to build a new facility at Veteran’s Park, combining a welcome center, a police and fire department marine base, and a community space were announced by Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik and Deputy Chief Susan Zecca at Wednesday night’s Planning Commission Department Capital Budget Review.
The NPD’s current marine base at an old rented building on Water Street is beset with flooding, explained Kulhawik. Noting that the Recreation and Parks Department’s 2022-23 budget includes funds for a welcome center, he extolled the advantages of a new shared structure at Vet’s Park that would also contain office space and storage areas.
“It would make sense,” opined Commission Chairwoman Frances DiMeglio.
“It would be ideal,” said Kulhawik.
Pointing out a change in the budgeting process, the Chief stated, “For as long as I can remember, cars and vans has always been in the operating budget, but the new CFO said he wants it in the capital budget.” Requesting 12 new police cars, he explained, “Each year the number of cars changes, based on a plan that was put together to keep the fleet at a certain age. It varies between nine and 12.”
Asked if the department was considering hybrid vehicles, Kulhawik replied, “Ford just came out with a hybrid version of the police package, but it’s something that people haven’t used yet, and I’m afraid to go out and get 12 without any history. New York City police just bought a bunch of them, so everyone’s looking at them. If it works, we’re going to look at them for next year.”
Other NPD budget requests included:
- Replacement of the 14-year-old indoor firing range’s failing mechanism, which is no longer supported or warranteed. The manufacturer is defunct.
- Purchase or lease of a “simulation system” which fosters de-escalation by putting the officer in a virtual reality where his or her reactions cause changes to occur
- Purchase of a laser device that rapidly maps and recreates crime and accident scenes
- Purchase of a new radio system
Also addressing the Commission, Redevelopment Agency Deputy Director Tami Strauss requested $300,000 for the RDA’s “façade improvement program” which restores historic buildings’ exteriors to their former grandeur. Citing the stained glass window restoration at South Norwalk’s Canaan Baptist Church, Strauss said that the program “increases the value of everything around it, because the neighborhood looks better. It’s a neighborhood improvement as well as a building improvement”
Apart from budget requesting, Struss took time to predict an elaborate future project involving the SoNo train station: “For two or three years from now, we’re looking at a multi-modal solution at the South Norwalk train station so that it can handle all different sorts of ways that people get to and from the train station. Whether it’s private car, Uber, Lyft, bus, an on-demand service like our Wheels2U, or a shuttle van, right now the station’s not really configured to handle all of that, so we’ve been collaborating with Transportation Mobility and Parking and the Mayor’s office to look at a holistic approach to planning and engineering the train station to accommodate traffic, 21st century modes of transportation and getting more people to and from the train station without putting too much pressure on the parking, and being able to handle all those different types of transportation.”
She also introduced the Commissioners to the RDA’s new executive director Brian Bidolli, whose credentials include experience with TIF (tax increment financing) and who is studying the applicability of that particular financing tool to Norwalk’s needs.
A public hearing on these and other capital budget items will be held at 7 p.m. next Wednesday Feb. 5 in the Community Room on the 1st floor at City Hall. You can read about the capital budget requests on the city’s website.