Last year's language was watered down to eliminate a requirement that the Legislature approve the cost-benefit analysis before any facility could be closed. This year's language is similarly watered down. No legislative approval is necessary. Whatever “study” the administration hands in is fine.
The cost study required in the current state budget is due July 1, and involves only three of the four state facilities slated for closure. That was another “watered-down” feature of last year's budget language. The Fernald Developmental Center, which is the first facility on the administration's closure list, was taken out of the proposed study in the budget conference committee last year.
This time around, the proposed House budget language doesn't name any specific facilities, which would seem to be an improvement. And it would require that the new study be completed by December 1, 2011, which might buy a few extra months for facilities in the districts of Reps. Anne Gobi of Spencer and Vincent Pedone of Worcester, the principal co-sponsors.
But, there's little chance this year's budget language, even if it somehow does get passed, will be enacted in time to affect Fernald, which is slated to be closed as early as July 1. In the year since the passage of the current-year budget, Fernald has seen its remaining population plummet. Staffing and conditions at Fernald have deteriorated close to the point of no return.
Ironically, Senator Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, whose district includes two of the state facilities marked for closure, was a member of the conference committee last year. Brewer personally removed the Fernald Center from the cost-benefit study requirement. Now, Brewer is quoted in The Springfield Republican as saying he will work to get the new study requirement approved in the Senate.
Having a cost analysis of the closure of the facilities in his district is a “wise idea,” Brewer said. “We’re in this to try to help the people stay in the places they call home. Some of those people have been there 60 years,” Brewer is quoted as saying.
It's unfortunate that Senator Brewer didn't feel that way about the residents of the Fernald Center. But then again, they're not in his district.
At it’s finest.