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Is 350 New Inmates Worth Some Extra Money From The State? That And More Is Discussed In Today's Editor's Notebook

July 20, 2011 by John Rook

If you've ever thrown a rock into a river, you know what a ripple effect looks like.
From that one point of impact, small waves pulsate outward until it seems they stretch into infinity, or at least until they reach the shore.
That's what Connecticut's budget debate is causing in Cheshire.
If public employee unions, who agreed to change their bylaws earlier this week in an attempt to possibly renegotiate a concessions package with the state, do indeed agree to the deal being offered by Gov. Dannel Malloy's office, it will mean a $70 million shortfall will be made up. That means potential layoffs, to the tune of 6,500 employees, might be avoided, which means prison guards across the state will keep their jobs, which means the need for prison closures might end, which means Cheshire will probably not see an influx of 350 inmates in the coming months.
Yet, with that somewhat positive news comes a more negative ripple effect: without the increase in inmates, the state will be less inclined to help Cheshire pay for the planned upgrades at the Town's Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Leverage is everything. If the state decides to move 350 inmates to the Cheshire Correctional Institution, something it has denied it would ever do short of an emergency, it would give the Town an advantage in negotiating how much, if any funds, the state should allocate towards work at the plant. Town Manager Michael Milone has already made the case. If the state wants the Town of Cheshire to account for an increase of wastewater sent to the plant because of more inmates, the least it can do is cover a good chunk of the costs. After all, Milone would no doubt remind the state that it had denied, as recently as May, that it would ever move inmates to Cheshire in any great number.
But, if those inmates suddenly stay where they are, it's hard to imagine the state would look upon Cheshire with any new-found sympathy, despite the fact that the prison does account for a good amount of wear and tear at the treatment plant facility. They would no longer be imposing on the Town and, thus, would probably decide to keep their funds up in Hartford.
In a way, you could make the case that an influx of inmates might be the best-case scenario for Cheshire. If the state were to pick up 25 percent of the cost for the plant's upgrades, that would go a long way to limiting the Town's own out-of-pocket expense.
Yet, despite that, it's hard to root for 350 more inmates in town, isn't it?

*Restaurant Week throughout the state is usually a big hit. Bigger cities, such as New Haven and Hartford, and smaller towns, such as Wallingford, set aside one week a year where local eateries offer discounted menus to patrons in an effort to attract customers. It appears that Cheshire might be picking up the baton as well.
In tomorrow's Herald, the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce has a small press release announcing that it is planning a Restaurant Week in Cheshire for the end of the summer. That would seem to be the perfect time to run such an event, since the middle of summer usually finds Cheshire empty. Residents seemingly set sail for vacation beginning in the later part of June and don't come back until the end of August, just in time to get ready for school and the hustle and bustle of the fall and winter months.
Plus, a Restaurant Week should help to promote Cheshire's restaurants. The town isn't big enough to be home to numerous eateries, the way Waterbury or New Haven is, but there are a number of good, locally-owned restaurants that offer a wide variety of food types, from Italian to asian.
There have been small signs that the economy is slowly beginning to improve, however that improvement has been sluggish, at best, and non-existent for most. Despite optimistic comments from state and national leaders, business owners continue to be wary. Anything the town can do to promote business, to get people into Cheshire, buying products and services, is a good thing.
Maybe, the way to a local economy is through the residents' stomachs. It is certainly worth a try.

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