The town filed suit against Securecare Realty and iCare Management Monday, the real estate and consulting companies that are respectively slated to own and manage the proposed prisoner nursing residence on West St.
Although officials did not divulge this information at Monday's Town Council meeting, strong indications were given that legal action was imminent. The filing of the lawsuit subsequently led to the last-minute cancellation of the public meeting to discuss the plan, which was to be held in the high school auditorium Thursday, after representatives from the two companies were advised by their lawyers not to comment on matters connected to the case.
However, the cancellation did not prevent dozens of residents from assembling at the school and holding their hold own impromptu forum in the foyer. The crowd was joined by Mayor LaRosa and most of the Council, state representative Tony Guerrera, and state senator Paul Doyle.
Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Michael Lawlor was also present to represent the governor's office, though he only made brief remarks and could not respond to questions due to the pending litigation. He stated that information about the plan "has been available on the state Health and Human Services website" since 2011, although the Rocky Hill location for the facility was not selected until recently.
Although the state is driving the plan, the nursing home will be owned and managed by private entities so that the state is eligible to receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funds. The project is anticipated to save the state approximately $6 M on care for the inmate-patients.
The proposed convalescent center is intended to accommodate terminally-ill prisoners and psychiatric patients.
Public officials declared their intention to fight the proposed facility via every avenue available. After the mayor provided details of the lawsuit, for which the first hearing is scheduled on Jan. 14, Doyle cited steps that he and Guerrera intend to take to block the state's action.
"Representative Guerrera and I will introduce legislation against it. We'll try to stop it there," he vowed.
Guerrera reinforced their shared opposition to the state's move. "Let me be crystal clear—no ifs, ands, or buts about it—we are opposed to this facility."
He added, "we understand these individuals need care, but this isn't the right location for them."
LaRosa bolstered the representative's point. "We don't want them in the heart of three residential neighborhoods," he declared.
The crowd seemed mostly satisfied that their elected officials were taking aggressive action to halt the state plan, but many wanted to know what they could do to aid the effort. After further discussion, ideas for two initiatives emerged that elicited support from the public leaders.
A hard-copy petition will be circulated among town residents with the goal of obtaining thousands of signatures in opposition to the plan. The petition will then be presented to Governor Malloy at a rally that will be held some time after the first hearing.
"I'm with you. Let's do it," Guerrera stated of the planned demonstration. However, he pointed out that for the protest to be effective, the town community needs to turn out in force.
"It can't just be 50 people," he admonished.
Meanwhile, the mayor hinted that the town's next maneuver would be to seek an injunction to stop construction that is currently in progress at the 60 West St. site, although he stopped short of saying so.
"I don't want to say too much about our next move," he said, cutting himself off mid-statement.
However, Rocky Hill has already signaled its intent to exhaust every legal means available in order to prevent the facility from ever becoming reality.
"Quite frankly, this is going to be won or lost in the courts," LaRosa summarized. He then added a more confident prediction.
"We are going to win this in the courts."
The first arguments in the case of TOWN OF ROCKY HILL v. SECURECARE REALTY, LLC; ICARE MANAGEMENT, LLC will be heard by the State of Connecticut Superior Court on Jan 14, 2013.