Despite neighborhood opposition and a budget deficit, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell said that the state will build a $15 million juvenile treatment center for girls on state-owned property in Bridgeport.
“This is a much-needed program for those young women and girls, who through no fault of their own, are going though difficult times and require treatment,” Rell said in a press release Tuesday. “It has been six years since the state has had an optimal, secure alternative for treating these girls.”
The money for the project is expected to be approved at the Jan. 8th state Bond Commission meeting.
At the end of October the project was pulled at the last minute from the Bond Commission agenda because of concerns raise by state Rep. Chris Caruso, D-Bridgeport, and other elected officials in that city.
In a phone interview Tuesday Caruso said Bridgeport opposes building the facility. He said more than 250 people turned out to a public hearing in November and spoke in opposition to the project.
The neighborhood group has been trying to meet with Rell for more than a month now, but Caruso said Rell has rejected their offers to meet.
“The total disregard for the people of Bridgeport is obvious,” Caruso said. “What is she afraid we’d change her mind?”
But Rell, who controls the Bond Commission agenda, seems determined to move forward with the project.
Caruso promised to continue fighting the project. “It ain’t over till it’s over,” Caruso said, quoting Yogi Berra.
In a divisive political city like Bridgeport, Caruso said it’s the first time he’s seen everyone from the mayor to the city council to the state’s legislative delegation agree on something.
Rell’s press release says the Department of Children and Families looked at alternative sites, but settled on the Virginia Avenue location because it met a number of their criteria. According to Rell’s press release its location at the junction of Routes 8 and 15 on a bus line makes it accessible for families, it requires little prep work so construction can proceed quickly, and the parcel can accommodate the facility.
Caruso said Bridgeport offered the state two alternative sites where they would have preferred the facility be built, but both were rejected.
Caruso, elected officials, and neighbors will hold a news conference at the site at noon, Wednesday where they will announce the formation of the “De-Rail The Jail Committee” and other plans.