Renovations to the Darien Police Department are still on track and on budget despite a few surprises in the existing building and a design overhaul of the shooting range.

George Reilly, chairman of the police department building committee, said more than 80 percent of the project has been completed and about 80 percent of the budget has been used. He said the new addition is operational, with the exception of the shooting range, and work would continue in the existing building which was completely gutted.

"We have been very lucky with this project. We had to use some of the contingency budget but on a fairly limited basis," Reilly said.

The only surprises the committee has encountered to date include a little more asbestos in the original building, which Reilly said has been eradicated, and a design issue with the shooting range. Republican Selectman Jerry Nielsen said the amount of asbestos was a surprise as was a few issues discovered behind the walls.

"Our biggest deterrent was the unknown in the existing building. There was more asbestos and some pretty crazy stuff behind the walls that needed straightening out," Nielsen said. "There was nothing too crazy, and by that I mean too expensive."

The issue with the shooting range being improperly designed presented a more complex issue, but was fixed after the department received a donation to further upgrade the facility.

"It was designed for pistols and should have been designed for rifles," Reilly said. "That did require some redesign, but the Darien Foundation heard about the facility and offered us funds to upgrade the facility beyond what we even hoped for."

Democratic Selectman John Lundeen asked why the shooting range wasn't designed as intended. Reilly said the design problem was most likely due to a miscommunication during the initial conversations about building a new facility.

Lundeen was also curious why it was necessary to design a rifle range for a small town police department.

Reilly said he wasn't sure but Democratic Selectman David Bayne said even if the department didn't use rifles often they still needed a facility where they could train with them.

With the state-of-the art shooting range, Bayne suggested looking into renting out the facility to neighboring police departments as a means of bringing in more revenue for the town. Reilly said it would be possible to rent the out facility, but didn't expect it to bring in a significant amount of revenue.

"I wouldn't add it as a significant line of revenue in the budget," Reilly said.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson suggested the facility could also be offered as a mutual aid resource to other departments at no cost.

Work on the police department is expected to conclude by July.

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