The South End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone meets tonight (Thursday) 6 p.m. at the University of Bridgeport Student Center. The agenda includes “Democratic Town Committee elections” and “Revision of Bylaws.”
Revision of bylaws? What could that mean, considering the previous heated meeting to consider a proposed “Community Benefits Agreement” between the developer of a controversial 120-bed halfway house for male offenders and the South End NRZ. The benefits agreement guarantees a $50,000 charitable contribution if the project is approved.
The halfway house proposal is a hot issue for the South End and West End, something not lost on the challenge slate of candidates running for Democratic Town Committee seats in the 131st District.
Attorney Chuck Willinger on behalf of Community Solutions Inc., operator of halfway houses for transitional offenders, made his pitch two weeks ago to several dozen neighbors why they should embrace the halfway house project and the benefits agreement. Willinger was backed by Carl McCluster, chairman of the South End NRZ, who is also pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in the South End. During the meeting a number of vocal opponents to the halfway house made their feelings known including Jim “Sonny” Fox, a candidate for City Council in 2011, who screeched that Pastor McCluster was selling out the neighborhood for the dough.
The vote by the South End NRZ did not go the way chairman McCluster had hoped, according to several residents who attended the meeting. A new vote on the issue is expected to take place in March. Nothing like a mulligan, eh?
CSI is appealing in Superior Court the Planning & Zoning Commission’s rejection of the development. CSI is trying to resurrect the project by building neighborhood support. For more on that and other NRZ issues check out its website www.southendnrz.com.
Minutes from the last meeting posted on the South End NRZ website:
South End NRZ February 2012 meeting, February 7, 2012
Attendees: Marguerite Williams, Carl McCluster, Greg Breland, Kim Ford, Dexter Upshaw Jr., Elizabeth Torres, Engracia Rivera, Effie Riddick, Hugh Spurgin, Isaac Williams, Angie Staltaro, Denese Taylor-Moye, Frances Newby, Stelios Lampadarios, Kesha Allen, Mack Allen.
Location: UB Student Center
Meeting began at 6:10pm
• DTC Forum request from candidates. Carl recommends we have a meeting on February 23, 2012 at 6:00pm in the student center, to accommodate before DTC elections.
• CSI – Attorney Charles Willlinger attended the meeting to present a case for CSI to develop a half way house. CSI presented a revised Tripartite proposal . CSI is proposing an adult re-entry facility. On September 2008, Received zoning approval.CSI then applied for two extensions. The second extension was denied. CSI is appealing denial. Additional information Charles Willinger provided on behalf of CSI is CSI is only accredited re-entry provider in CT. The DOC hired CSI to train CT personnel. CSI started in 1962 and operates in 10 states. CSI will provide security and employ 16 people per shift. Various topics in the Tripartite proposal including safety, property values, the NRZ’s role in the development oversight committee. Greg stated 83% of beds are in Bridgeport but only 30% of inmates are from Bridgeport. The response from attorney Willinger was that 75%-85% of the residents would be from Bridgeport. Denese asked why Bridgeport? and does CSI provide training and follow up with where they go. CSI provides programs with a 15% turn around rate. CSI would like to put residents back into community from which they came. Other questions from the floor were related to security, local opportunities, and demographics. Mary-Jane Foster speaking on behalf of the University of Bridgeport stated “We do not think this is a good use for the facility.” Kimberly Ford asked how long residents stay in the CSI program? Answer: Average of 120 days. Kimberly representing the Housing Authority informed us that the BHA does not provide housing for people with criminal records. Kimberly followed up asking how does CSI provide graduates with housing. Carl McCluster whom at first lead the opposition against the development of the half way house now supports it after reviewing and considering the positive things the NRZ can do with the Tripartite proposal. A motion was made to move to a closed session for the implementation committee but soon after withdrawn. Mack Allen moves to approve the Tripartite proposal. Michael Voytek is an attorney representing the NRZ. A vote was taken to approve the Tripartite proposal. The results of the vote were nullified based on absence of a Quorum.
• Barbara Kelley asked for the support of the South End NRZ.
• South End NRZ will be taking nominations in march and voting in April. Notarized letter is required if absent.
• Donna Hilliard hosted small business breakfast and will take advantage of city efforts.