Emergency-only road part of new plan

MILFORD – Design modifications to keep the new police station within budget once construction starts next year should mostly be invisible to the outside eye, but one change has been made that people definitely will notice: What was for decades a walkway for elementary-school children will become an emergency exit for police cars.

The idea was OK’d by the Board of Selectmen on Monday after members heard from Joe Stella, head of the volunteer Police Facility Building Committee, that the walkway between the Garden Street School and Elm Street is much wider than anybody thought.

Milford owns about a 20-foot right of way, compared with the roughly 8-foot walkway area between the current fences.

“It was a surprise,” Stella said. “But it helped us solve a problem.”

Turning the walkway into a one-way, emergency-only road for police vehicles means designers won’t have to create a similar road alongside a small apartment building on Garden Street, next to the police station site. Creating that road would have eliminated some of the apartment house’s parking spaces.

“We didn’t want to be a bad guy in this,” Stella said.

The emergency access road will also have a sidewalk, so it can still be used as a pedestrian cut-through from Nashua Street, as has been done since the now-demolished Garden Street School was built in 1926.

Building the road will require expanding onto a strip of town-owned, grassy land that currently appears to belong to the Community House, a historic building owned by the Regional Counseling Services.

The $2.95 million police station was approved by voters March 9, to replace the Garden Street School. Construction on the roughly 15,400-square-foot building, two stories with a full basement, is expected to start in the spring and be completed approximately a year from now.

As lead architect Gary Goudreau of Chester works on the design, Stella said Monday, questions are arising about how to stay within the budget, including the possibility of reducing the size of some rooms as projected for 20-year needs.

“Three million dollars doesn’t buy you what it used to. It sounds silly but it’s true,” said Stella.

He pointed in particular to soaring costs of material such as steel and brick.

“It’s frustrating,” Selectman Len Manino said. “We haven’t even started construction and we’re already getting ready to cut stuff out that’s critical.”

“We’re not cutting. We’re staying within budget,” Stella responded.

One cut that will not be made, he said later, is to remove a meeting room that will be used for police training as well as a public gathering area.

The room drew some questions when the police station was being debated.