Kent police await new offices

(Original publication: December 12, 2003)

KENT — Almost four years ago, the ceiling fell in on the Kent Police Department. The collapse showered a sergeant with debris and exiled the force to two trailers in the parking lot, where the officers are still doing business.

On Monday, Supervisor Annmarie Baisley said, the walls of the department's new quarters will begin to rise at the site of Kent's new town center — 77 acres on Route 52 that will also contain a new town hall and a new library.

All of the buildings are in various stages of completion as the town struggles with the project's funding. But the tangible progress on the new police station should result in occupancy by the officers sometime next year and comes as a relief to the 26-member force.

"I can't tell you how jubilant we are," Kent police Lt. Alex DiVernieri said. "This is a long time coming."

The project's expected final price tag — about $10.3 million — is about $2.4 million, or 30 percent, over its original April 2001 estimate. The town has sought extra money from the county and federal governments, but those funds aren't yet in the town's coffers. Baisley said if the additional money doesn't materialize, the town will be forced to borrow to complete the project.

Money requested by U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, is in limbo until Congress reconvenes next month, Kelly's chief of staff said yesterday. Lawmakers will then begin writing an updated version of the Transportation Equity Act — something that was supposed to happen this year — and will include Kelly's appeal for $750,000.

"The request is in," said Michael Giuliani, Kelly's chief of staff.

Another portion of the cost overrun is expected to come from the Putnam County Legislature, which in October approved giving Kent $500,609 to help complete the project. Most of that money — $410,000 — will come from funds Putnam received for signing the 1997 watershed agreement with New York City. The agreement's funds are meant to be used for water quality-improvement projects and, on the Kent project, will pay for the project's storm water and erosion control needs.

The expenditure is subject to city approval, which the county asked for in an October letter to the city's Department of Environmental Protection. Yesterday, a DEP spokesman said a decision has not been made yet, but is expected in about two weeks.

"It's still under consideration," DEP spokesman Ian Michaels said.

The remaining $90,609 would come from the county's contingency funds. The remaining additional expenses, Baisley maintains, would be defrayed by the sale of both the library and the current Town Hall, which now partially houses the Police Department, town court and Planning Department.

Municipal office space would increase from about 3,600 square feet to 11,000 square feet in the new Town Hall, which also would consolidate most town departments in one location. Since 1991, many of the town's offices have been in a Route 52 shopping center. The library's space would more than triple, to 10,600 square feet. The police department would move from its useless office, where the ceiling collapsed March 8, 2000, to an 8,400 square-foot facility.

Kent doesn't have a downtown. The land and buildings, one resident said, will give the town "a focus point."

"I think it's one of the best things for the town to be moving forward," Wanda Schweitzer said. "It's a foundation for the town of Kent."

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