Old Quarry Road site chosen for proposed police, fire facility: 'Major step forward' for Ridgefield

RIDGEFIELD — After a two-year search, town officials have selected a location for a proposed new combined facility for fire and police services.

The location, at 36 Old Quarry Road, is in a wooded area owned by the town.

"We did extensive research — both the Board of Police Commissioners and the Board of Selectmen," First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. The search involved lengthy discussions and visits to multiple possible locations, including sites on Prospect Ridge, Danbury Road, Copps Hill, and East Ridge, he said. 

"This will become a public safety administration building where police and fire will be in one building," Marconi said. "It's a major step forward for the town of Ridgefield."

If approved by the town's residents, the new facility would offer 70,000 square feet of space, which is nearly double the square footage of each of the current fire and police buildings.  

The project is still in the early stages, he said, and it's too early to discuss costs.

New central location needed 

A central location would "achieve efficiencies," Marconi said, by hosting both services under one roof.

"They can develop a much more professional on-the-job partnership," he said of the public safety departments.

Additionally, he said, Quarry Road is located in the center of town, which is "critical to our services. About 65 percent of our calls out of Catoonah Street (the town's fire department location) go to that area of town."

The new building would include a garage for the fire trucks that would allow them to be staged for "much quicker delivery of service," Marconi said. "It'll be drive-thru type. You come in one door, line up, go out the other door."

The town's fire and police buildings, which are each over 100 years old, are due for replacement, he said. 

"The police building (on East Ridge Road) was originally built as an old Victorian home. In the '60s, when the state police organized the state of Connecticut barracks, regional Troop A was right here in Ridgefield, in that house." Marconi said.

"They remodeled it, put the jail cells in. When the state police moved to Southbury, which is where they are now, we said we'll buy it because our police department was located in the basement of Town Hall," he said.

Traffic is also a "concern" on the block of the town's current fire department, Marconi said, because ambulances have to turn onto busy Main Street.

"In an emergency situation, a second seems like an hour when you're waiting for an ambulance," he said. 

While both buildings for the police and fire departments have undergone significant improvements in the past, it's now time to build a new facility, Marconi said.

"There have been upgrades, there have been additions, but it's time that we at least get into the 20th century," he said.

The town had previously considered a joint public service location, but the timing wasn't right, Marconi said.

"In 2008, we looked at the possibility and brought it to the voters to renovate the police station, and it failed three to one — overwhelmingly failed," he said, pointing out that it was the start of the recession.

"They didn't want to invest in such a large expense," he said.

But town residents view the issue in a different way now, Marconi said. 

"Our world has changed  — and police and fire work more closely today than they ever did before," he said.  

He added, however, that the town agreed in 2010 that it would not bring the project forward until the town's debt was paid down on all the school projects completed in the early 2000s. The debt totaled about $134 million, Marconi said.

Next steps

The police chief and the fire chief will review the Old Quarry Road site to make sure it can accommodate enough technology and personnel to fill the town's needs for the next 30 years, Marconi said.

The town has spent about $80,000 on architect fees for the assessment work. 

The project will be reviewed at multiple public hearings, a town meeting and a referendum for approval by voters.  

Marconi said he would like to keep the current police and fire buildings for historical reasons. The buildings could be repurposed at some point for senior or affordable housing, he said.