Here’s Gov. Rell’s release after deciding to wait another month on funding the $15-million, 36,000-square-foot treatment and detention center planned for Bridgeport, which has been the subject of so much free election year publicity for people including Rep. Chris Caruso, who believes that the facility would be better off in Rell’s hometown of Brookfield or the Waterford district of Sen. Eileen Daily, a member of the State Bond Commission who would approve the Bridgeport project if it comes to a vote. Caruso’s release follows Rell’s.
“Governor M. Jodi Rell today said that she is willing to delay for one month a decision by the state Bond Commission on funding a secure juvenile treatment center for girls in the hope of locating a suitable alternative location within the city of Bridgeport.
But the Governor stressed that the facility is desperately needed and said if a new location cannot be identified she will go ahead with the current site at the Bond Commission’s next meeting.
Rebutting allegations that she has not visited the site, Governor Rell said she has been there several times – most recently yesterday, when she made an unannounced tour of both the Virginia Avenue location where the girls’ home is scheduled to be built and several potential alternative locations.
“This is not the first visit I have made to the site – but in light of the continued concerns some Bridgeport residents have expressed, I was willing to view that location one last time and look again at the alternatives,” Governor Rell said. “The alternatives I saw were not large enough. Perhaps there is still a suitable alternative out there, but time is running out. These girls are in need of a suitable treatment site – and they have been for years. The state has been without a place to provide services to these young girls since Long Lane School in Middletown was closed in 2003.
“I am asking the Mayor and city officials to provide a list of acceptable alternative locations, including city-owned land, that Bridgeport may be willing to donate,” the Governor said.
“Many of the concerns that people have about this proposal are misplaced,” Governor Rell said. “This is a place to provide treatment, not a correctional facility. It is like a home and school with extra security on the doors.”
Contrary to the inflammatory rhetoric used by opponents of the home, the project has been under discussion with Bridgeport officials and residents since at least July 2008. Meetings were held in October 2008 including a session with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) community advisory council for the city and with the pastor of a neighborhood church. State Representative Toni Walker (D-93), co-Chair of the Legislature’s Human Services Committee, toured the site in December 2008.
Opponents’ claims that the project has not been subject to state bidding procedures are also patently false. A public Request for Qualifications was issued by the state Department of Public Works on February 11, 2009, for project No. BY-YS-166-DB.
The Governor said the 10-member Bond Commission is expected to approve the project whenever it is placed on the agenda. State Senator Eileen Daily (D-33), co-Chair of the Finance Committee, has committed to vote for the project at the next Bond Commission meeting if the effort to find an alternative location is unsuccessful.
“The simple fact is the state has a responsibility to these girls,” Senator Daily said. “They have been getting the short end of the stick for too long. They need a place where we can give them the help they need to turn their young lives around.”
The 36,000-square-foot center will accommodate girls 18 years old or younger who have been convicted of a delinquent offense. The facility will be relatively small, with 16 secure beds and 8 beds for girls transitioning from the secure center back to community residential facilities. DCF has worked with the advocacy community to design the facility and the program exclusively to meet the specific needs of girls.”
“This is a significant short term victory for the good people of Bridgeport. While we appreciate the decision by the Governor to delay for one month a vote by the state Bond Commission, the next step is for all appropriate parties to meet and select an appropriate alternative site. All of this could have been avoided if the administration had acted in good faith.”