Town's battle against sex offender facility takes a hit

Montville - A bill that would have changed the process and criteria the state uses in selecting a town for a residential sex-offender treatment facility was tabled by lawmakers in the General Assembly on Friday, leading one town councilor to say the proposed legislation is dead.

The bill essentially would have halted the construction of a sex-offender facility planned for the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center. The town has spent more than $87,000 in legal fees in a lawsuit with the state aimed at halting the construction of the 24-bed facility.

With the General Assembly's session scheduled to end Wednesday, Town Councilor Dana McFee said, the bill is likely dead. In an email he received from state Rep. Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard, Reynolds said the bill faced a filibuster because it related to a construction contract that was already signed.

McFee called tabling the bill a difficult blow for the town.

"To pull it, they threw in the towel," McFee said.

McFee and Mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz said the town will continue to work on a memorandum of understanding with the state that will clearly spell out the Department of Correction's plans for the sex-offender facility.

In a March meeting in Hartford with DOC Commissioner Leo Arnone and other state officials, Arnone said the facility would not house the "worst" sex offenders. He also outlined several procedural plans for the facility that would assure the safety of town residents.

Jaskiewicz said the town continues to go back and forth on a draft for the memorandum of understanding with an official from the state Attorney General's office. He said the future of the town's lawsuit against the state will hinge largely on the memorandum of understanding.

In January, a New London judge dismissed the town's initial lawsuit aimed at halting the facility's construction. The town appealed the judge's decision and in early April, the Town Council voted 3-2 to continue its lawsuit against the state.

Jaskiewicz said another hearing in the case is scheduled for June 14. Meanwhile, McFee said a clear memorandum of understanding could allow residents to live with the sex-offender facility.

"I still don't want it in Montville, but if they hold true to the (memorandum of understanding) they were talking about in Hartford, I think Montville will be safe and we can live with it," he said.

jeff.johnson@theday.com

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