Home > 1, All Posts, All things MAT, Don't know!, Family and Friends, NIMBYism > Updated: Neighbors, planning board members blast selectmen over methadone clinic – Daniel Dunkle – Rockland – Camden – Knox – The Herald Gazette

Updated: Neighbors, planning board members blast selectmen over methadone clinic – Daniel Dunkle – Rockland – Camden – Knox – The Herald Gazette

Updated: Neighbors, planning board members blast selectmen over methadone clinic – Daniel Dunkle – Rockland – Camden – Knox – The Herald Gazette.

Warren — A group of about 30 residents, several of them planning board members, voiced concerns, criticisms and questions about a proposed town methadone clinic Nov. 17 during a selectmen’s meeting at the town office.

The methadone clinic has been proposed at the former school, sometimes called the “old brick school” at 44 School St. next to the Warren Baptist Church.

For the most part the questions and concerns raised in the often heated meeting were not about the clinic itself, but the way town officials have handled the issue.

Several members of the public voiced concerns about the lack of public input in the process, the potential impact on the residential neighborhood, and the amount of traffic that would be caused by hundreds of methadone clinic patients.

Town Manager Grant Watmough and the selectmen have so far refused to reveal much information about the proposal, and selectmen argued at the meeting that they could not legally speak to the issue because it was discussed in a closed-door meeting.

Vixen Land Holdings LLC has a purchase-and-sale agreement on the building, according to Watmough, and the company has been represented at a planning board meeting and in negotiations with selectmen by local businessman Bob Emery.

The Warren Planning Board voted unanimously Nov. 4 to approve a site plan for professional and business offices in the school building. However, planning board Chairman Peter Krakoff said Nov. 17 that a methadone clinic was never discussed during the planning board meeting in which the school was approved for business offices.

Emery has not returned phone calls.

“This leads into what the planning board was presented, which was not a methadone clinic,” planning board member Michael York said. “Which was not a clinic at all. It was professional buildings. …I gotta tell ya, if what I’ve heard is true, I’m thoroughly disgusted, absolutely thoroughly disgusted at how this business has gone down.”

Selectmen repeatedly argued that they could not legally say anything to the planning board about what they discussed with Emery in a closed-door meeting.

“What we like is for people to come before us with an honest interpretation of what their business plans are, not under something else,” York said.

Code Enforcement Officer Bill O’Donnell argued that under the town’s land use ordinance professional offices can include offices for doctors, psychologists and counselors. He noted that doesn’t include personal services.

“According to our land use ordinance, that clinic is legally allowed to be there,” he said. “…In that building will be a doctor, a pharmacist, a nurse, administering a drug that is not a narcotic. It is an inhibitor.”

“You’re a pretty smart guy about that, but that’s what killed my brother last year,” Main Street resident Rob Graham said.

Krakoff argued that dispensing methadone falls under personal services and is prohibited.

“I’ve been on the planning board where we’ve had a gravel pit, that we had 20 times more warning on somebody putting a gravel pit in than a methadone clinic, in the downtown of Warren, that nobody finds out about until it’s a done deal,” York said. “Wow!”

Main Street resident Jill Luks argued the location is wrong because it is too close to the church, residents and a daycare center down the street. She asked selectmen to call a special town meeting so that a moratorium could be placed on this facility or any similar facility, so the town can discuss and plan for where methadone clinics should be located.

York asked if the selectmen have the ability to stop this project and have a moratorium.

Watmough said a town meeting or moratorium could only regulate any future methadone clinic proposal.

In answering questions posed by Krakoff at the meeting, Watmough said the selectmen went into a closed-door executive session Oct. 6 to negotiate with the potential buyer of the school. The people in that closed-door meeting included Emery, O’Donnell, Watmough, the town selectmen, a representative from CRC Health Group and a realtor.

Selectmen decided the same day to sign the purchase-and-sale agreement, and the document was drawn up the next day, according to Watmough.

The planning board was presented with plans for business offices Nov. 4, after the selectmen learned about the project in the executive session. O’Donnell also attended the Nov. 4 planning board meeting.

“How can your planning board operate if the information coming before us is not the true information?” York asked.

“How do we know what you were going to get for information?” asked Select Board Chairman Wayne Luce in response.

O’Donnell said York was not at the meeting on the school building. York said that was right, but noted that he had been in contact with the other planning board members on the issue.

Ed LaFlamme of the Warren Sanitary District spoke up at the meeting, stating that he had been asked to sign off on Vixen Land Holdings’ site plan review application for the town’s sewer system. He said at the meeting that he was told it was business offices and he was not informed that it was going to do medical work. He said from a sewerage standpoint, that changed the project. He said he would consult the Warren Sanitary District board about the issue and with its approval send a letter to the town withdrawing his approval of the project.

Town officials said Nov. 17 that letter may be grounds for sending the project back to the planning board.

Jennifer Carter of the Warren Baptist Church said those proposing the methadone clinic met with about seven church members recently, saying that as good neighbors, they wanted to talk about their operation. She said they started by saying the clinic would offer alcohol and drug counseling, and then added they would be dispensing methadone. She said the meeting included Emery and the people who wanted to lease the school building.

“This was totally a shock to us,” Carter said. “We had no clue what this was about. So we had no opportunity to even sort of gather our thoughts together as a group.”

She raised a number of concerns about the place proposed for the clinic. She said there are signs that it is a drug-free zone right on the corner of the church lot.

“I know it’s no longer a school, but the church is there,” she said. “We have a lot of children, a lot of functions. How would that impact the church?”

“What about the people on Main Street whose backyards abut this property?” she asked.

York argued that it was a done deal because there is a signed purchase-and-sale agreement.

“It’s not done,” Watmough said.

The issue was not on the agenda for Wednesday night’s meeting. The select board fielded the questions and concerns during the public participation portion of the meeting.

Selectmen voted 5-0 to hold another public information meeting on the issue as soon as possible.

In addition, Selectman Christine Wakely made a lengthy motion stating selectmen would obtain and have available information on the purchase-and-sale agreement and information on what would be involved in getting out of the contract and the penalties for getting out of the contract at the information meeting. Selectmen passed the motion by a vote of 5-0.

At the beginning of the meeting, Graham said Watmough was knowingly deceptive about the planned methadone clinic. He said he heard a rumor that a clinic was being proposed for the school property and he went to the town office to ask about it. He said Watmough told him he had heard the same rumor.

Graham said he told Watmough a methadone clinic would draw as many as 250 addicts on a daily basis. He said the town manager told him he thought that was an exaggerated number.

Graham said he then went to Emery’s business, and Emery told him yes, it was a methadone clinic and the number of clients was 253.

The resident said he called the town manager to confront him about this information and Watmough called him back and acknowledged there had been a closed-door meeting.

“The trust and community well being of the fair and honest citizens of the town of Warren is placed in you, the selectmen,” Graham said. “There is no room for dishonesty in our town office.”

In a room full of residents, Graham then asked selectmen to fire Watmough.

Wakely responded, saying, “I don’t think that you have all of the facts that you need to make some of the statements that you have.”

Luce said he hasn’t heard Watmough’s side of the story, but agreed with Wakely that the selectmen and town officials were bound by the restrictions of the closed-door meeting they had.

Selectman Arnold D. Hill said he thought the board should sit down and discuss the issue with the town manager.

“I totally disagree with him,” Watmough said on the phone Nov. 18 when asked about Graham’s statements. “Other than that, no comment.”

“I am surprised the planning board didn’t do a more thorough review of the proposal,” Watmough said in a phone interview Nov. 18. He noted that he has served on a planning board himself in Union in the past.

“If someone came in with a vague application, we would try to get specifics,” he said.

O’Donnell confirmed in a phone interview Nov. 18 that he had been in both the Oct. 6 closed-door meeting and the Nov. 4 planning board meeting.

He contends that he could not inform the planning board during that meeting that the proposal was a methadone clinic because it would involve revealing information from a closed-door meeting.

Asked if he could have guided the planning board to ask specific questions of the applicant, he said, “That would be like a lawyer leading the witness. What is said in executive session stays in executive session.”

In July, Turning Tide methadone clinic President and Program Director Angel Fuller-McMahan said Turning Tide in Rockland had 278 patients altogether. Fuller-McMahan said at that time methadone clinics typically begin to make a profit at about 300 patients (in the case of clinics that are for-profit rather than nonprofit). The clinic was licensed to have up to 500 patients.

Guy Cousins, director of the Maine Office of Substance Abuse, said he has been contacted by CRC Health Group, which is interested in the former school in Warren. He said he has been contacted by a number of organizations looking to fill the void left after the Turning Tide methadone clinic in Rockland was closed.

He said CRC had some conversations with the Turning Tide clinic in Rockland, but is acting independently of Turning Tide in this project.

He noted that with no clear resolution for Turning Tide’s ongoing issues, CRC decided to look for a place that was less problematic.

He said it is unlikely that the state would approve having two methadone clinics that close together in one area. At this point it appears there will either be a methadone clinic in Warren or in Rockland.

Cousins said the school building is in fine shape and large enough to accommodate the operation. He added that based on the information he has, CRC has a clear vision, noting that it would provide counseling as well as methadone treatment.

For more information on CRC Health Group, visit crchealth.com.

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  1. November 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    AMEN and can I get a YES YES!!!

  2. Kerry Wolf
    November 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Well, as usual Nimby run amok amok amok. God forbid (literally) we should be ANYWHERE near a CHURCH! Why, we might accidentally get SAVED and end up in HEAVEN with all the NICE, RESPECTABLE people! And that would just be ……yucky. And Jesus don’t like yucky. Everyone knows that! Why, Jesus was all about making moratoriums so that no “lowlifes” could come to Jerusalem and making sure that he was always at least 2,000 feet away from the rabble at all times…..didn’t he?

    I loved the guy who said methadone is not a narcotic, it’s an “inhibitor”.

    Where do they GET these people?

    SOunds like this is gonna be a tough one. Be sure and keep an eye out for the follow up article about a year after the clinic opens talking about how not a darn thing they worried about happened.

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