NORWICH - Last Monday, the influential lobbying group Connecticut Conference of Municipalities released its legislative agenda for the 2014 General Assembly, which convenes Wednesday.
And a controversy born in Norwich late last year over the placement of registered sex offenders in the city has led the 159-member agency to recommend significant changes to current policy.
Among CCM’s 12-page priority list is a three-pronged approach suggesting that state officials notify a community’s police chief and chief executive officer when an offender resides or plans to reside in their town; allow municipalities to adopt local ordinances restricting their placement within designated distances of schools, day cares and other facilities; and develop a “comprehensive inventory” of halfway houses, supervised living facilities and rehabilitation centers that receive state or federal funding.
In November, state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-19th District, and Norwich City Manager Alan Bergren met with CCM to talk about the proposals, for which city leaders and the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments pushed.
“Our organization supported the city extensively and the membership felt very strongly in agreement, and that’s why we put them into our legislative program,” said Kevin Maloney, CCM’s director of membership.
Former Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom and officials from surrounding towns voiced objections starting last September over the placement of offenders into city apartments upon their release from a treatment facility known as The January Center, on the grounds of Montville’s Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center.
Mayor Deb Hinchey, a former social worker, said she wants to more closely review CCM’s recommendations before commenting on them.
“We need careful planning on this issue,” she said. “It affects victims; it affects neighborhoods.”
CCM is also recommending several policies aimed at fostering regionalism to help strengthen local economies.
“CCM’s state legislative priorities … are focused around the notion that healthy towns, cities and regions are key to Connecticut’s recovery,” said Ron Thomas, the agency’s director of public policy and advocacy.
That includes empowering councils of governments to make land-use decisions on regionally significant projects, consolidate services and increase investments in the state’s Regional Performance Incentive Program through the Office of Policy and Management.
“Regionalism is a buzz word that a lot of people are using, but the state has to be able to make it work, too,” said Salem First Selectman Kevin Lyden, who is also chairman of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments. “When you look at dispatch centers and things like that, these are things that are going to have to continue. We have to look for ways to save our taxpayers money.”