$200,000 GRANT TO PAY FOR TRAINING SCHOOL SOIL STUDY
BY BILL BITTAR
REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN Thursday, April 17, 2014
SOUTHBURY — State officials took another step toward finding new uses for the Southbury Training School campus Wednesday, when Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced the approval of a $200,000 grant to fund a brownfield assessment of the property.
First Selectman Ed Edelson said there is no set date for the state to close the facility, which includes cottages, a large administration building and maintenance buildings.
“We want to see this work done,” he said of the environmental assessment. “We think it will help encourage more people to look at it and to have more creative ideas of how to use it.”
At its peak, the training school, which opened in the 1930s, served more than 2,300 men and women with developmental disabilities, but admissions were closed in 1986. Fewer than 400 people live there now, and the state has offered all clients the choice to move to community homes. Aside from a repurposing of the campus and its buildings, 1,000 acres will be preserved as farmland and another 45 acres will be conveyed to the town — but only to be used for affordable elderly housing.
Edelson said the housing will be known as Pierce Hollow Village, adding the town is paying for an environmental evaluation of the property. A task force is working on a report of future uses for the campus and is expected to make a recommendation to the governor.
At a recent forum, people offered several ideas about how the property could be used, including a college campus, a veterinary and agricultural facility or possibly a veterans rehabilitation center.
A committee exploring possible improvements to the dog pound is also looking at Southbury Training School as a possible location for a new facility. Future use of the property may be impacted by possible restrictions on uses due to a federal preservation designation that puts the entire campus on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Edelson.
One thing officials want to avoid is allowing the campus to fall into disrepair like the former Fairfield Hills Hospital property in neighboring Newtown.
At the former psychiatric hospital, which closed in 1995, most of the 16 buildings sat unused for nine years.
Newtown bought 186 acres of the property for about $4 million in 2004, but the community has struggled to redevelop the site primarily due to the high cost of tearing the buildings down.
TRAINING SCHOOL STILL SERVES DISABLED CLIENTS EFFECTIVELY
The April 17 article “$200,000 Grant to Pay for Training School Soil Study,” concerning “finding new uses” for the Southbury Training School (STS) campus, ignored the most obvious uses for the campus.
The article pointed out the state has offered current STS residents “the choice to move to community homes.” “Choice” means just that, and the guardians of many residents have determined that the best place to live and receive care is STS. What the article failed to mention is the fact that approximately 3,500 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Connecticut have requested placement in care. About 1,000 of them are deemed “high priority,” but still they wait. Many have unique physical and intellectual needs. Some are elderly and require the equivalent of nursing-home services not available at community facilities.
In fact, the level of long-term care and services STS provides its residents should be available for other I/DD individuals in desperate need of such care.
Though it’s nice to dream about all the cultural, recreational and other uses that could become the future of the historic STS site, I find it unacceptable for elected officials and the Southbury community to ignore the rights of our most vulnerable citizens. The fact remains that this segment of Connecticut’s population is not going away.
I challenge anyone to visit STS to see why the most obvious uses for the campus cannot be ignored.
The writer is communications consultant for the Home and School Association of the Southbury Training School.