Montville's questionable fight

It is understandable that the Montville Town Council is not yet ready to pull the plug on a lawsuit that seeks to block a 24-bed residential sex-offender facility the state plans to soon open on the grounds of the Radgowski Correctional Center on Route 32 in town. Montville officials will meet with members of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration on March 29 to express their concerns. The council probably views the lawsuit as the only lever it has to pry a policy change from the new administration.

Unfortunately for the council, it's a very small lever.

From a political standpoint, there would not be much of an upside for Gov. Malloy to reopen the matter. The legislature mandated construction of the $2 million facility, leaving the location up to the Department of Corrections. The law's intent is to provide a better transition to society for sexual offenders facing release. Individuals under court-ordered probationary supervision would also be housed there.

Local lawmakers now lined up in opposition once voted for the facility, they just don't like the spot. Of course, no state legislator would welcome it in their community, which is why the administration will not be eager to restart the process. It would only mean fighting the issue anew somewhere else.

The town has a weak legal position. Earlier this year a Superior Court judge dismissed the town's lawsuit, recognizing the wide discretion the state has in locating facilities mandated by the legislature. The town has appealed.

At its meeting Monday, the Montville council tabled discussion of ending the litigation, pending the meeting with the administration. Perhaps the governor will order a change. We'd love to be surprised.

Also pending in the legislature is a bill filed by local lawmakers that would reopen the site selection process. It's hard to imagine that bill getting much support outside southeastern Connecticut.

Unless there is a change of direction from the administration, or a surprise legislative victory, the Montville council should end the appeal. The litigation has cost the town about $85,000. The town would be throwing money away by continuing to litigate such a weak case.

The town's better option is keep pressure on the DOC to live up to its promises: to operate it as a secure, locked facility; to return sexual offenders to their home communities, not dump them locally; and to maintain open communications with the town.

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