Middletown, agency lack money so far for rehab house at fire station

Neighbors not happy with proposed halfway house’s residential location.

“The program may or may not go ahead,” Adkins said via email. “We haven’t taken it to Planning Commission for rezoning yet. The funding for renovations and operations is not fully secured yet, so the project is in a holding pattern until additional details are worked out that would allow us to start thinking about rezoning and leasing and other items again.”

David Null and other residents of the surrounding neighborhood hope the project never moves forward.

“To be perfectly honest, I don’t want a bunch of junkies around here,” said Null, a Wildwood Road resident living around the corner from the former fire house at 2600 Titus Ave. “You’re going to have junkies visiting junkies.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if they just went ahead and did it,” Null said of city officials.

“I personally don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Jackson Street resident William McCoy, a lifelong city resident. “They can’t afford to keep the emergency services up, but they can afford to convert it over to a halfway house?”

Adkins promised in a recent blog entry that while “the city is making the building available” for at least five years, with the ability to extend to 10 years, “none of your city income-tax dollars will be used for renovations or operation of this facility.”

Officials from Community Behavioral Health did not respond to requests for comment.

Butler County is being hit hard by the heroin epidemic, both city and county officials have noted.

Under the most recent lease version, which Adkins noted is subject to change, Community Behavioral Health’s proposed rent would be that it “shall provide a post-recovery residential center to provide wrap-around services to addicts returning from rehabilitation.”

“Instead of hitting these drug dens and get this scourge off the street, they’re wanting to put them right across the street, which is a scary thought,” McCoy said. “The people that want help should be able to get help, but to use a public facility like that? I think that should really be vetted through the people, and what the people want to do with their property.”

Karen Dearth, a Wildwood resident, said her home has been in her family since the early 1960s, and, “I’m very much against it. There are any number of elderly people in this neighborhood.”

“I applaud anyone who tries to straighten his life out,” she said, but suggested, as some of her neighbors did, that a commercial area, rather than a residential neighborhood, would be a better location for the halfway house.

McCoy also said city officials have not raised the issue with neighbors.

McCoy called it “one of those things where they’re just going, making their own decision, without taking it by and seeing what the public (thinks).”

“It’s never asked: ‘Does the public agree? Can we take a vote? Can we come and voice our opinions?’” McCoy said. “It’s a public property. It should be up to the public to decide and vote on where they want to go with it … That would make it much more transparent.”

RELATED: Use of emergency legislation raises transparency concerns

City Council has not discussed use of the fire house in public since late January, after which Adkins complained the Journal-News and other media reported on the matter prematurely.

Asked Monday by this news outlet when City Council gave its approval for the property to be used as a halfway house, Adkins answered by email: “There was no formal action by Council. I asked them to let me know if they objected to my exploring the repurposing.”

Asked when he sought that input, he answered that happened during council’s Dec. 1 session, when he asked council to support a Cincinnati-style needle exchange and support use of the Tytus Avenue fire station. He said nobody on council objected to the repurposing.

“I’m not happy it’s happening,” said Wildwood Road resident Aaron Welch. “Not in the community areas. Maybe in areas of the city that can deal with it better.”

“I don’t like it,” added Stephanie Dalton, a mother of four. “I have children and I don’t want them exposed to needles.”

“I hope they don’t do it,” Dalton added. “They need to do one by the hospital so they’re close enough for treatment.”

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