Berlin finance board puts off action on cell door replacements

Published on Thursday, 1 March 2018 21:15
Written by Charles Paullin


BERLIN - No action was taken by the Board of Finance on Tuesday on replacing the barred jail cell doors at the police station.

“I think we should table it,” said finance board Chairman Sam Lomaglio, after discussion of the still-unclear plans for the future of the police station and other possible funding sources for the project.

The motion up for consideration would allocate $30,000 to Bismark Construction Co. to provide estimates on replacing the four barred doors with Plexiglas doors.

The Town Council approved waiving the bidding procedure to enter into a contract on Feb. 8, saying the project needed to go forward to reduce overtime cost and liability issues to the town and police department.

The police department has spent $46,000 on overtime costs since September 2016, Deputy Chief Chris Ciuci said at that Feb. 8 meeting, to have an officer watch the barred cell doors.

The officer was put there on the evening and afternoon shift in response to a suicide attempt using the bars. An officer in the station caught the attempt on camera and saved the detainee, police officials said.

Police officials think Plexiglas on the doors will allow the officer watching the cells to go back out on patrol.

“I’m not happy about it,” Mayor Mark Kaczynski told The Herald on Thursday, referring to the immediate lack of safety of detainees, and the liability and incurring overtime costs to the town.

He said the finance board needs to “understand their job is not to set priorities, their job is to find a way to pay for it.” The finance board’s job isn’t also to challenge the council, he said, adding he’s unsure if any funding from the state may be available for the project.

Lomaglio said he heard House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz being able to find funds and suggested Aresimowicz come to the next meeting.

Police Commission Chairman Robert Peters was also unhappy with the delay.

“They need to fund (the project) or find a way to fund the overtime costs,” he said.

With the estimates, the town can package its cell door replacement project with those of the Trumbull and Orange police departments, which are also looking to have similar work done on eight and seven cell doors, respectively, said Finance Director Kevin Delaney on Tuesday.

Such a move would make it more appealing to have the only two manufacturers who do the work, come to Berlin to complete it. Otherwise, it may be difficult for one of the two manufacturers to work only on the four doors in Berlin, he said.

All finance board members, except for Sal Bordonaro, were hesitant to go forward with the project.

“I think we should move forward with it,” Bordonaro said, adding that officers should be out on patrol.

The questions on the future of the police station stem from a proposed study on expanding the police station to the neighboring Board of Education offices in the basement of Town Hall, and proposed police station projects in recent years that failed to win voter approval.

The Public Building Commission on Feb. 8 was asked to have a study conducted on the expansion to the Board of Education offices.

“If we spend $40,000 to $45,000 a year in overtime, in five years the cost of this project will be paid,” said Delaney on Tuesday.

Delaney said the actual construction of the cell door replacements should cost about $250,000, based on estimates for the other towns’ projects.

Having taken no action Tuesday, the finance board now has 30 days from Feb. 8 to approve funding for the project. If funds are denied or no action is taken by March 8, the item will go before a joint meeting of the Board of Finance and Town Council, during which a supermajority of nine votes would be needed for approval.

Kaczyanksi said the topic will be discussed at the next council meeting on Tuesday, March 6, in the Town Council Chambers of Town Hall, 240 Kensington Road.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin on Thursday, 1 March 2018 21:15. Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2018 21:17.