Local officials have successfully galvanized public support through the actions they are taking to fight the state's proposed detainee facility on West Street.
Senator Paul Doyle and Representative Tony Guererra fulfilled their promise Friday to introduce legislation into the General Assembly to try to prevent the center from opening. Their bill would prohibit the state from releasing incarcerated or institutionalized persons into a private convalescent residence without municipal consent.
Meanwhile, Mayor LaRosa and the rest of the town government are forging ahead with a lawsuit against the site owners, iCare Management of Manchester. Attorneys for the town made initial appearances in Superior Court on Friday, Monday, and Wednesday.
But, although they have gained residents' confidence on the issue, leaders are repeatedly confronted with the same question in public forums: why did the town learn of the planned facility only two months before its scheduled opening in February?
According to the CT Mirror, the process began in 2011 when the state issued an RFP for "clients under state care who are difficult to place." Eventually, iCare secured the bid.
At this point, officials say, the state made the unusual move of tasking the vendor to find a location for the facility. Had the state been responsible for site selection, the plan would have been revealed months earlier, and it would have been subject to public hearings, zoning board review, and other, required procedures.
Charging iCare with the responsibility of site procurement allowed the state to make an end-run around channels that would normally have to be followed, officials maintain.
The vendor did not settle on the West Street location until October, and the purchase was not completed until November. But, even then, it appeared on land transfer records merely as an innocuous LLC transaction.
Only in December did the state publish a press release about its plans—after a reporter from the Hartford Courant broke the story.
LaRosa explained the state's additional incentive to operate through a private owner. If the intended facility is located on state-owned land, it would be classified as a correctional center, not a nursing home. This would render the state ineligible to recoup the $6 M from Medicare and Medicaid that it hopes to save on treatment of the facility's convalescent population.
Labeling the facility a nursing home also allows the state to circumvent Rocky Hill's regular zoning process. West Street is not zoned to accommodate a correctional institution.
LaRosa disagrees with the classification of the facility as a nursing center.
"This is not your typical nursing home. They're going to be locked down, and if they're locked down, to me, that's a prison."
The mayor also contends that iCare should still have to go through normal zoning procedures in order to open, even if the facility is deemed a nursing home, because the nursing home permit for Haven Health Care Center, which formerly occupied the site, expired in 2011. This claim represents one of the central arguments of the town's lawsuit.