Published September 06. 2010 4:00AM
Montville - Town councilors are on the verge of deciding whether to seek a court injunction to stop a sexual offender treatment facility from opening on Route 32.
At a special meeting planned for Tuesday night, councilors will also consider whether to set a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would establish "child safety zones" or areas where sexual offenders convicted of crimes against children would be prohibited from entering.
Town Council Vice Chairwoman Ellen Hillman said she drafted the ordinance after searching for ways "to protect the public that doesn't vote: the children."
"There's a price to pay for the crime you commit," she said last week.
Town officials, business owners and residents are fighting a proposal to open a 24-bed sexual offender treatment facility on the property of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center.
They have submitted a petition with thousands of signatures opposing the project to the state. The facility would be operated by The Connection Inc., a Middletown-based nonprofit that provides sexual offender treatment programs and which currently owns a halfway house on the Corrigan property.
Opponents also met with state officials and asked state legislators to come to their aid. A bill was passed during the recent General Assembly session compelling the state Department of Correction to consider various factors when selecting a site for such a facility.
Despite these efforts, Montville has remained the location of choice and corrections and judicial officials have visited the town to explain its reasoning. These include the facility's proximity to a prison if one of the offenders needed to be returned to a correctional facility and its closeness to the Troop E state police barracks and a hospital.
This didn't sit well with Montville officials who in August filed several Freedom of Information requests with various state agencies and The Connection in an effort to learn more about how the Middletown-based agency was selected to operate the facility and why Montville was chosen at its location.
The council could decide Tuesday night whether to file a court injunction against the state in maybe a final effort to stop the opening of the facility,which is slated to accept clients in January.
Hillman said the "child safety zone" ordinance she is proposing would provide an extra layer of enforcement if the facility should open and its clients are allowed to leave the facility during the program.
"Hopefully there won't be any objection to it," she said Friday after sending a copy of the ordinance to fellow councilors and various departments, including the schools, to review. "In my opinion, it really makes sense. There are exceptions and doesn't infringe on anybody's rights."
Hillman used sections of similar ordinances from the towns of Newtown, Guilford and Branford, all of which have upheld court challenges, she said, to create the Montville proposal.
The ordinance prohibits sexual offenders from entering areas where children congregate, such as parks, schools, playgrounds, recreational and swimming areas and athletic fields and centers either owned or leased by a municipal or school authority.
There are some exceptions, though. A child sexual offender who has had his or her name removed from the state's sexual offender registry cannot be denied access, nor can someone who enters such a zone with the intent to vote in a referendum or election, so long as the person leaves the zone immediately following the vote.
Other exceptions are for offenders who are parents and need to drop off or pick up their child at school or speak to an official working within a child safety zone, so long as the offender leaves the area immediately after completing the meeting.
If an offender is found to be unlawfully in such a zone, the police can issue a $99 fine and remove the individual, according to the ordinance.