Troop I to stay open

House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114), right, speaks during a press conference to announce the Connecticut State Police Troop I barracks in Bethany will remain open Thursday in front of the barracks as state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus (R-89), left, and state Sen. Joseph Crisco Jr. (D-17) stand by her side. Troop I was proposed to be closed earlier this year to help fill a $350 million to $370 million gap. –LUKE MARSHALL

House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114), right, speaks during a press conference to announce the Connecticut State Police Troop I barracks in Bethany will remain open Thursday in front of the barracks as state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus (R-89), left, and state Sen. Joseph Crisco Jr. (D-17) stand by her side. Troop I was proposed to be closed earlier this year to help fill a $350 million to $370 million gap. –LUKE MARSHALL

BETHANY — State and local officials gathered in front of the Connecticut State Police Troop I barracks Thursday morning to deliver a message: Troop I will remain open.

“Republicans, Democrats, and the governor’s office at the end of the day, agreed this wonderful troop that has been here for many years is much too valuable to the area and to the state of Connecticut to close,” House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-114) said during a press conference at the barracks.

Troop I, which is located at 631 Amity Road in Bethany, serves 19 area municipalities. Out of the 19 towns, three — Beacon Falls, Prospect and Bethany — don’t have their own police department. The three towns participate in the resident state trooper program.

Closing the barracks was among a host proposals on the table to close a projected budget gap of $350 million to $370 million in this year’s $19.8 billion state budget. It was projected that closing the barracks would save in excess of $1.3 million, though a detailed breakdown of where those savings would have come was never provided by Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office. If the barracks were closed, the troopers would have been redeployed to help cover overtime shifts at other barracks

The legislature approved a plan Tuesday to fix the budget deficit, and closing the barracks was not part of the plan.

“As we know they (the troopers) are an invaluable asset to public safety, not only in Bethany but in the surrounding towns,” state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus (R-89) said.

The decision to keep the barracks open was met with approval from town leaders in Beacon Falls and Prospect.

“Keeping Troop I open, from a response time standpoint, is a measurable quantum improvement from what happens here in Beacon Falls,” Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik said in an interview following the press conference.

Bielik said closing the barracks would have increased response times by two to three times.

“From a time-management perspective, not to mention public safety, this makes our daily operations in Beacon Falls much easier and safer,” Bielik said.

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said it’s comforting to know the barracks will remain open.

“I’m very pleased that the state representatives and senators listened to us,” said Chatfield in a subsequent interview. “I want to thank everybody who had anything to do with keeping [the barracks] open.”

Town officers would have had to transport people they arrested to another barrack’s holding cell if Troop I closed, he said, which would have meant the town would be without that officer for a longer period of time.

“I feel more comfortable now that those barracks will remain open,” Chatfield said.

Legislators warned that although the barracks were spared during this round of budget cuts, its future is not guaranteed.

“I’m not going to stand here and lie to anybody about it. Everything, I would say, is on the table going forward. We are facing a $550 million deficit next year and a $3.6 billion deficit the two years after. It’s not a good time financially for the state,” Klarides said. “When those cuts come on the table we have to fight for what we think are priorities in the state, and certainly Troop I and public safety is.”

Crisco said he and his colleagues will be ready for the next fight to keep the barracks open.

“We have to remain vigilant. As I was telling my colleagues, we are very experienced now. We expect to be successful again,” Crisco said.