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Drug Clinic Gets Green Light

http://www.citizen.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090123/GJNEWS02/701229676/-1/CITNEWS

By John Koziol

January 23, 2009 –  Laconia City Planner Shanna Saunders has approved a request from Metro Treatment of Concord to open a methadone treatment facility in the former Tangent Tool Building in the O’Shea Industrial Park.

But in recognition of numerous concerns expressed by citizens, the City Council and the Laconia Police Department, the company will have to pay for a police officer and cruiser to be on-site during all hours of operation and also install a video security system, Saunders wrote in her Notice of Action on Thursday.

The company has proposed operating from 5 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 6 to 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

City Manager Eileen Cabanel calculated it would cost Metro Treatment about $2,200 a week to hire the required police detail.

A for-profit company, Metro Treatment operates similar clinics in Keene, Concord and Manchester. It is an affiliate of Colonial Management Group of Orlando, Fla., which has 54 substance abuse treatment centers nationwide.

Reached while traveling in Missouri, Joseph Sullivan, who is CMG’s development director, said simply, “huh,” when told of the conditions Saunders imposed, adding that he would not comment further until he returned to New Hampshire next week.

Back in December, Sullivan told a packed city council chamber that there is a need for Metro Treatment’s services locally and that the Laconia location makes sense because it is in a relatively quiet industrial area.

Saunders has said that, despite its unpopularity, the clinic is a permitted use under Laconia’s zoning laws and, because the size of the clinic is less than 5,000 square feet, she could decide the matter without it having to go before the planning board.

The approval by Saunders – technically, she granted permission for a “change of use” for a healthcare facility in an industrial zone – was expected but it still disappointed Mayor Matt Lahey and Police Chief Mike Moyer.

“I fully expected her to go by the letter of the law and I’m hopeful that they [the conditions in Saunders’ approval] will address the concerns that have been raised,” said Lahey.

An attorney, the mayor speculated that an abutter to the proposed clinic at 72 Primrose Drive could the appeal the approval on zoning issues to theLaconia Zoning Board of Adjustment or site plan issues to the planning board within 30 days, but was unsure whether a non-abutter would have standing to do so.

As to the City Council, which has petitioned Gov. John Lynch to have the Department of Health and Human Services examine whether state oversight laws were stringent enough to local concerns, Lahey said he does not know of “any action” that the council could take unilaterality to prevent or, conversely, to allow the clinic.

Moyer told the Laconia Police Commission that, while he was unhappy with the approval, he respected Saunders’ decision and was “confident” that the conditions of approval “will make the clinic as safe as we can provide.”

Those conditions will not come cheaply for Metro Treatment.

Effective July 1, 2008, the city charges $46.75 an hour for an off-duty police officer and time-and-a-half on Sundays to work a detail, with a four-hour minimum. A police cruiser will set back Metro Treatment $25 for the first four hours and $25 an hour thereafter.

In explaining the rationale behind the conditions she set, Saunders reminded Metro Treatment that its proposal had generated “much concern” in the community.

“In our research of other methadone clinics in the state there appear to be clinics that are safe, well-run, and involved in community activities and services, and there are clinics that have problematic track records in their communities.”

“We encourage the applicant to work with the local community members to become a positive force in our community. The Middle School is locate adjacent to North Main Street where many clinic patrons will be driving to and from the clinic. There is an opportunity for the clinic to work with the School Department to provide crossing guards or other safety measures for the students.”

She added that the Laconia police and fire departments “would also be happy to meet with the clinic to discuss opportunities where it could participate on public outreach and education for both targeted populations of the community and the community at large.”

“W

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  1. March 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    By the way, Kristan, just in case you didn’t know, “angels4drugawareness” is the group formed by those lovely folks from the Topix board–you know, the ones who said they would rather go to prison for murdering us than allow us to express an opinion? Those folks.

  2. January 26, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Exactly Billie!

    If someone is going to be doing something “illegal” the LAST place they are going to do it is at the clinic!

    This is just a last ditch effort to slap CMG in the face so they won’t set up shop. What they are forgetting is that CMG has lawyers who know what can and can’t be asked of a clinic!

  3. billiesowers
    January 25, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I hope they do!! How will they ever afford to pay those prices?? At my clinic we have a full time security guard who works 7 days a week. There are never any problems at the clinic.

  4. January 24, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    What do you all have to say about this clinic’s location being very near Laconia Memorial Middle School? As a parent I want this added police presence.

  5. January 23, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    It’s NUTS!

    I am thinking CMG will fight those conditions.

  6. January 23, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    Do they require constant police presence at the local taverns? Do they require it at AA and NA meetings, or at standard rehabs? Why not just require a security guard? Or is this just seen as a way for the city to make some quick cash off the clinic?

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