Sex-offender facility ruling faces appeal

Montville - The Town Council Wednesday night voted to appeal a judge's decision to dismiss the town's lawsuit against the state aimed at stopping the construction of a facility for sex offenders in town.

Councilors emerged from a closed-door executive session and voted 5-1 with one abstention to continue fighting the state's efforts to build a treatment facility for sex offenders on the grounds of the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center. Mayor Joe Jaskiewicz said the council believes that continuing the fight is ultimately the best path for the town.

The town has spent about $65,000 so far to fight the proposal.

Councilor Candy Buebendorf, who also voted against filing the initial lawsuit, provided the sole dissenting vote. In the past she has said that although she adamantly opposes the plan, she is concerned that the town does not have a strong enough case to prevail. Councilor Gary Murphy, an employee of the state Department of Correction, abstained to prevent any perceptions of conflict of interest.

The appeal will be filed either today or Friday, according to Mike Carey, the town's attorney on this issue.

Resident Gary Pike, who attended the special meeting, expressed his support for fighting the judge's decision. He said he thinks there are still a lot of misconceptions floating around about the facility and that the public should be more outraged over it.

"A lot of people think these guys are going to be behind bars, but this is a system of reintegrating them back into society, and we are the community where they're going to take their first steps," he said. "To do this to any community, you have to wonder what kind of planning was behind it."

Town officials have had similar questions since plans to build a $2 million, 24-bed facility in Montville were announced early last year. It would be built on the prison grounds, but the offenders, half of whom would be finishing their sentences and half of whom would be on probation, would be able to leave for work.

Officials have fought it every step of the way, questioning the criteria that led to Montville being chosen. Among other issues, they claim that the state failed to take into account the site's proximity to several nonprofits, schools and other child-care providers.

Residents and officials held rallies, circulated petitions, met with representatives from the state and the Department of Correction, and even lobbied the state legislature to pass a bill that would limit where these types of facilities could be built. But none of these efforts derailed the plan, and in September the town council voted to sue the state.

But on Jan. 4, a Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the town did not have a case strong enough to bring to trial. Now that the town has decided to appeal, briefs for the case must be filed within 35 days.

Councilor Billy Caron proposed setting up a public informational meeting for all residents within the next month to bring people up to speed on the situation and where the town stands.

"Our main concern is safety, of course," he said. "But the bottom line is the public needs to be informed."

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