Montville forges on in fight against sex-offender facility

Montville - The Town Council voted 3-2 Monday night to continue its fight against the residential sex-offender treatment facility proposed for the grounds of Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center.

The council voted 3-2 not to end its lawsuit, with councilors Candy Buebendorf and Billy Caron voting to halt it. Russ Beetham, Ellen Hillman and Dana McFee voted to continue the suit. Chairwoman Donna Jacobson was sick and not at the meeting while Councilor Gary Murphy abstained, citing his employment with the Department of Correction.

Several of the councilors argued Monday that the town's lawsuit has bolstered its opposition to the facility in recent weeks.

The decision came just several hours after Mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz, Caron, Jacobson and some residents traveled to Hartford to attend a General Assembly hearing on a proposed bill that would create a list of criteria the state must consider when building a sex-offender treatment facility. The proposed bill would force the state to consider proximity to parks, schools and child-care facilities when determining a site. It would also require the state to compile a list of five proposed sites before settling on a final location.

During a meeting last week, Department of Correction Commissioner Leo Arnone and Tim Bannon, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's chief of staff, told town officials about new security measures the state is willing to implement at the proposed facility.

McFee argued that the meeting was a sign of progress.

"If (the state) changed who they're going to put in there because of the fight, that money was well spent," McFee said about the approximately $87,000 the town has spent in legal fees.

Beetham changed his stance on the lawsuit in recent weeks. He voted in favor of continuing the appeal Monday, saying the town should wait to sign a memorandum of understanding with the state before ending its litigation.

Hillman also argued to keep the town's appeal going, although she said the town has been waiting on a memorandum of understanding from the state for several months.

But Buebendorf, who was the driving force behind Monday's special meeting, continued to argue against the lawsuit.

"It's time to withdraw our appeal and work on a (memorandum of understanding with the state) that will provide the security Montville citizens deserve," she told the council.

Jim Andriote, the founder of Independence for Montville, presented minutes from a March 2009 meeting of the Montville Prison Safety Committee. He said that was the first time the sex-offender facility was proposed and said Jaskiewicz should have told the council about it earlier.

Jaskiewicz said later that he told state legislators representing the town of the proposal and had little other recourse at the time because the funding for the facility was not yet in place. Once that changed, he said, he alerted the councilors and legislators again.

Jaskiewicz said the town has a May 4 pretrial conference on its appeal. The town should not incur substantial legal fees in the meantime, councilors said.

jeff.johnson@theday.com

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