Groton - TVCCA will have room to increase the number of children in its child development facilities in town this summer by using a building that used to house a police substation.
Executive Director Deborah Monahan said Thames Valley Council for Community Action assumed responsibility for the child care center formerly run by the YMCA in Norwich at Central Avenue in Poquonnock Bridge.
"It's been an Early Learning Center," she said. "That's how we got involved in preschool."
Currently TVCCA operates two buildings in the three-building cluster. One houses a Head Start program, which Monahan estimated has about 36 children. The second building has two programs, a Little Learners program with 20 children 3-5 years old and a care center for 16 infant-toddlers.
The third building was used for several years as a police substation, home to the town's Community Policing program.
For now, TVCCA will use the former substation building for its infant toddler program and plans to add 20 new slots to its Little Learners program.
First, though, it will have to have two rooftop air handling systems installed and some interior remodeling done. Monahan said students from the Ella T. Grasso Southeastern Technical High School are prepared to do the work.
Police Chief Mike Crowley, who used to work in the substation as a community policing officer, said the program no longer exists in the form it once did.
"We used it as a community police networking station," he said. "An officer was assigned there five days a week and was available for guys to go there and do reports."
Crowley said the substation became a link between the Poquonnock Bridge community and the police, but also to other town departments that could help improve the neighborhood, such as zoning to public works officials. Neighbors sought officers' help in addressing domestic situations, bullying issues and drug activity. Kids played games and watched movies and did homework there.
"People had constant contact with cops," Crowley said. "We were able to respond to all aspects of the community, from street lights to parking to blight. We worked to improve the neighborhoods. Is it better today? Absolutely."
Crowley said the department still uses a community policing philosophy in several neighborhoods in town, and hopes to return to a time when the town can afford to hire officers and establish new community substations.
The Planning Commission recently approved TVCCA's application. The Town Council will hold a public hearing and vote on the lease agreement in May.
"We have some work to do to make it child friendly, and more important, child safe," Monahan said. "We hope to be in by July first."