Mayor LaRosa is accustomed to having to remind members of the public to limit their remarks to 2-3 minutes during the open-comments portion of Council meetings. Often he does so prior to an individual taking the stand to inveigh against officials for some town policy or action.
Monday, however, the private citizens in attendance almost uniformly came to protest the proposed inmate convalescent center at the former home of Haven Hospital, a position with which the Council is in total agreement, so any time-reminders the mayor issued were not directed toward hostile speakers. Still, the forum offered a preview of the verbal artillery that is expected during Thursday's public meeting in the Rocky Hill High School auditorium.
The mayor opened the comments session with a reaffirmation of complete solidarity from he and his colleagues.
"Let me preface your statements by saying that you are preaching to the choir. This Council is a united front. We're 100% in accord," he promised.
A succession of speakers nonetheless rose to add their own condemnations of the proposal.
Tony Coco sounded ominous concerns about his children's well-being. Some parents further raised the vivid specter of "prisoners or the mentally-deranged" running loose in the community.
Homeowners attached property values to safety among their list of cited concerns. And many speakers made an extra point to bash Governor Malloy, whose administration is pushing the plan.
John Zagroba also complained about the lack of "due notice" of the plans provided to the town by the state. Residents have learned only this month about the intended nursing home for prisoners, which is ostensibly set to open in February.
One woman, who asked that her name not be used, drew a connection between the proposal and Friday's gruesome tragedy in Newtown. She wondered how a facility of the sort proposed could even be considered in the aftermath of such an event.
Zagroba partially disagreed, calling the concept of a correctional convalescent institution a "good idea" in theory, but declaring that the 60 West St. location was the "wrong place."
After the public comments, councillors adjourned to executive session to be advised of the legal recourse available to them by Town Attorney Morris Borea. They remained in seclusion for nearly an hour.
When the body emerged, it adopted a resolution to empower the attorney "to take any option with regards to the proposed facility."
The town, it seems, is ready to fight the state's plan in court.
A public forum to discuss the proposed facility will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at Rocky Hill High School, 50 Chapin Ave.