A backhoe parked by a large pile of dirt stands in front of the sidewalk behind the Monroe Police Department, where yellow caution tape cordons off the area by the main entrance. A large concrete slab that had served as the base of an old lattice radio tower is on the lawn, replaced by a gleaming white monopole reaching over 100 feet into the sky.
After nearly eight years of planning and studies, the town finally broke ground on a $4.1 million renovation and addition to the police station, which should modernize its facilities.
Public officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony outside the building police share with Monroe Town Hall at 7 Fan Hill Road on a breezy Thursday evening, under a deep blue sky.
Police Chief John Salvatore was hired in 1998, a time when much of the building upgrades were already needed.
"It's refreshing. It's exciting to see the actual work beginning," Salvatore said. "As much as we understand there will be an inconvenience during construction, we're happy to be inconvenienced, because we anticipate having a state of the art facility for our people to work in to better serve the community."
The first phase of the project involves the north end of the building with an emergency exit, dispatch area, training room and records office. The main entrance and back parking lot are closed off to the public during construction. Visitors must access the police station by going into town hall and walking downstairs to the lobby. At night time, they can ring a doorbell and speak into an intercom to come in from the door by Church Street.
Anthony Vigilotti, senior construction manager of Dolphin Construction, has a year to complete phase one, but believes it can be completed within 10 months.
"Now you can start scratching off the days to the final date," Salvatore said.
Since State Rep. DebraLee Hovey secured a $500,000 state grant for the project in 2004, movement on getting things underway stalled. Hovey worked with fellow legislators to have the grant re-authorized three times so it would not expire.
During Thursday's ceremony, First Selectman Steve Vavrek said, "I think it's a great day for Monroe. We're moving forward. It was a longtime in coming and I thank our police department for sticking it out. I also want to thank our state representative who got the grant, and the building committee for how hard they worked."
J.P. Sredzinski, chairman of the building committee, attended the ceremony, along with fellow committee members David York, Ray Giovanni and Elizabeth Edgerton.
"I'm excited to see the project moving forward and look forward to this being done as effectively and efficiently as possible," Sredzinski said.
Police Capt. Michael Flick, Public Works Dir. Douglas Arndt, Fire Marshall Bill Davin, Finance Dir. Carl Tomchik and Clerk of the Works Frank Bent attended the ceremony.
Sredzinski said, "This has truly been a team effort between public works, land use, the police department, finance and human resources. This will show the town of Monroe their town staff can work together to get the job done right."