by Dan McClelland
The village and town planning board hosted a public hearing on September 25 on the creation of a substance abuse outreach and recovery center, proposed for 64 Demars Blvd.
The building was at one time the headquarters of the LaValley and Woulf oil business and has housed various bars and other businesses in the decades since.
Planner Paul O’Leary said a public notice about the new facility published in the Free Press last month generated a call from an adjoining property owner who wanted to know what the project is all about. He said once he explained it to the caller, they were fine with it and had no issues.
The meeting was chaired by planning board member Jim Merrihew in the absence of Chairman Shawn Stuart, who was on vacation.
Lee River,s executive director of the applicant, Community Connections of Franklin County, briefed the planners on the project. Accompanying Lee was Suzanne LaVigne, the county’s community services director.
He said last fall a community focus group was formed in Tupper Lake to explore drug and alcohol abuse and how to help people who suffer from them. The primary purposes of the group is to get people connected to public services and to have a place for them when they are experiencing episodes, he noted.
“We will be also working with parents,” whose child may have an abuse problem, and helping them connect with available services to help their child.
“They can stop and talk with one of our staff and they will help them get connected to services.”
He said parents often experience great stress when their children are in trouble and having someone able to walk them through the various steps to recovery and the services available to help can lift some of that burden.
Various services are available to people here. “We can help them find housing, for example,” Mr. Rivers told the planners. Sometimes the new center and its sponsoring agencies can help provide financial help to pay the rent the first month or so.
“We also want to make sure they are not hungry, have access to food, to help transport people to services,” he gave as other examples of assistance.
“The recovery aspect is actually a coffee house, where they can come and help each other.” There will also be professional recovery advocates to assist substance abusers.
“We will be open seven days a week, 9a.m. to 5p.m.” He explained people often need services on the weekends, thus the seven-day a week operation. “They now will have some place to go” every day of the week.
“That’s an overview of what we intend to do to help people here. I could spend an hour explaining all we hope to do.”
With no comment from the public, the hearing was closed.
In the regular part of the monthly meeting board member Tom Maroun said he thought the new center was a good thing for the community. Doug Bencze called it “an asset.”
Jan Yaworski said she appreciated what the agency was doing to help folks in trouble here.
Jim Merrihew wondered about after-hours services, should someone need help late at night or early in the morning.
At pager service will be available to connect people to St. Joe’s Rehab Center and its staff, Mr. Rivers noted.
He said he and his staff are currently working with the village code officer to make building improvements. In addition to interior renovations, there will also be exterior siding improvements as well. The building has been freshly stained.
The project was unanimously approved by the planners.