Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 28 January 2011 00:00
The Port Washington Police District has canceled their contract of sale with Publishers Clearing House for the property on Channel Drive, which the district had planned to use as the site of a new police headquarters facility. There was an escape clause in the contract, stating that if the district received significant public input against this project, they could pull out of the purchase.
In an open letter to the community, the Police Commissioners noted that they re-evaluated their plan and canceled the sale due to the concerns voiced by area residents at the Dec. 2 Public Meeting. These concerns included the cost to build a new headquarters facility, the funding of the project through bonds and how it would affect local taxes, and a lack of communication with the community. In addition to the worries expressed by the Port Washington community, Port Washington North Mayor Bob Weitzner spoke about the village’s concerns at this meeting. He said that the village had been planning on buying this specific property on Channel Drive, which is located within Port North. Their plan was to use this property for a new Village Hall and Village Court, and that this property would also be incorporated into the BayWalk Project, providing a park area for everyone in Port Washington. He explained that the village had grants riding on the purchase of this property, and was disappointed that the police district did not notify the village of their plans.
A motion was made by Police Commissioner James Duncan to cancel the purchase at a public board meeting at the end of December, and the motion was unanimously passed by Commissioners Angela Lawlor-Mullins, James Duncan, and Sal Zimbardi. (Editor’s note: at the time of this meeting, which took place shortly before the New Year, newly elected Police Commissioner Dave Franklin had not been sworn in yet, and therefore, was unable to take part in this decision). In the open letter to the community, the police district said that they specifically negotiated the contract to include a cancellation clause so they could receive feedback from the community. “Our goal was to have immediate public input, so that an informed decision could be reached as to whether to proceed or not. We could not make any public presentation unless we had procured property,” the police commissioners said. In addition, the letter thanked the community for providing input, and said, “As we have in the past, any decision of this magnitude will be presented to the community.”
Bob Weitzner, mayor of Port Washington North, said, “I applaud the police commissioners for listening to the community and for making the right decision to cancel the contract and re-evaluate their plan. I hope everyone understands that the community spoke out against this project, not just the Village of Port Washington North,” he said, and added, “I wish them well in their efforts to find a viable solution to improve their headquarters that suits the needs of the Police District, and is acceptable to all of Port Washington.”
Police Commissioner Dave Franklin, who was sworn in after this decision was made, said, “I am glad the project was canceled, as it would have had a great financial impact on the community. The other commissioners and I will meet in the near future to explore new and less costly options.”