Residents came out in opposition to the proposed 176 bed Residential Treatment Center at last night’s Conditional Use Hearing.
Much of their opposition was based on having to deal with issues relating to the existing Work Release Facility already in operation at the same location along Main Street.
While I am not pleased with the Work Release Facility, especially following the changes permitted by the 2015 Council that allowed a new type of “resident” and an increased population to occupy the space, what was before Council was a Conditional Use Hearing on a different type of facility.
One might argue that because the landlord of the Work Release Facility would be the same landlord for the 176 bed Residential Treatment Center, expectations would be that similar problems would occur.
In actuality, it is the tenant that can either be a problem, or a welcome addition to the community, depending upon how responsible they are to the community.
Conditions of Use helps ensure a quality tenant and one who can meet those conditions, operating the treatment center.
It is the job of the present Council to do its best to ensure the new Treatment Facility isn’t a repeat of the existing Work Release Facility. This Council inherited problems from the decision of the 2013 Council that enacted Ordinance No. 966 and changes to that Ordinance the 2015 Council approved.
The present Council is not responsible for having enacted Ordinance No. 966, but we have to deal with it. It may be only one of the many reasons a couple of those who were on Council in 2013 were eventually voted out of office.
I think the applicant realizes that this Council is not the same Council they came before in previous years. I doubt a majority of the present Council would have agreed to lowering the bar of what would be sent us, or increasing the number of beds at the Work Release Facility.
But with regard to the Residential Treatment Facility, a Conditional Use Hearing is not for the present Council to deny the use that Ordinance No. 966 permits. I think some residents believe that to be an option. It is not.
A Conditional Use Hearing is to address issues of the use and to place reasonable conditions upon the applicant that would mitigate those issues.
Such an example of an “unreasonable” issue would be one fearing a riot in the proposed facility.
While a physical altercation between a couple of patients at existing alcohol and opioid facilities has probably occurred, I haven’t found any report – from any source – of any type of riot, anywhere, in any treatment center.
These places are not made up of Attica prison inmates.
What this Council can address through the Conditional Use Hearing process are those areas that are legitimate concerns, such as parking, security, hours of operation, and many others.
Conditions of Use will be forthcoming and I have complete faith in our solicitor to present reasonable conditions upon the applicant.
In the meantime, the problems with the existing Work Release Facility are being addressed.
Mayor DePaul has contacted the Work Release Facility and some improvement has been made.
I am in contact with a representative from Northampton County, having informed them that they are failing in their obligations to be a responsible tenant in West Easton.
I’m expecting the Deputy Warden of the facility will be a guest at the upcoming Council meeting on February 26th.
Even Mr. Mickey Thompson, COO of West Easton Development, has addressed issues at the Work Release Facility, which he saw first hand.