Bremerton moratorium may mean end of methadone clinic talk
BREMERTON — Methadone treatment for opiate addicts might not be available in Kitsap County and even more specifically in Bremerton in 2012.
The Bremerton City Council voted 7-2 to extend a moratorium on the permitting of methadone treatment centers, effectively nixing one proposed for Burwell Street and Montgomery Avenue.
Ron Jackson, executive director at Evergreen Treatment Services in Seattle, had planned to place a new facility in the former Skookum building but said earlier in the week that he had to be able to know by Aug. 24 if he could sign the deal to buy and renovate the site for a Jan. 1 opening. The moratorium would run well into January.
People argued on both sides of the issue Wednesday at the council's regular meeting, with moratorium supporters saying the city needs more time and opponents saying addicts who need the treatment might not have six months to give.
"These people need help sooner than later," said Lee Templeton, a resident at Catholic Community Services' Benedict House.
Marie Campanoli spoke on behalf of Skookum, saying she knew it appeared self-interested for Skookum, which is trying to sell the building, to speak in opposition to the moratorium. She said that an empty building would be worse in terms of crime than what a methadone treatment clinic would bring.
Dave Beck, slated to be the clinic director, said the delay could force Evergreen to focus its next efforts in other communities.
Beck said it wasn't a threat, but some took it that way. Beth Shea, a Charleston District business owner, said it was "fear-based and scare tactics" and that it was unfair to put that on the council.
Real estate agent Bryan Petro said that the clinic's medical emphasis should mean it would work near Harrison Medical Center and that there were several properties in that area that could meet Evergreen's criteria for a center.
Todd Best, a Bremerton business owner, said the city needs "to have the same tenacity to get a Starbucks on that corner as a clinic."
Jackson began looking at sites in Bremerton at the invitation of Scott Lindquist, Kitsap County Health District director. Lindquist said a study showed at least 450 people in Kitsap County could benefit from methadone treatment to overcome addictions to other opiates. Evergreen had also been invited by the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe, but there was concern that remote location on the S'Klallam reservation would not be central enough for many Kitsap residents and that state law would prohibit more than one treatment center per county.
Methadone treatment for opiate addicts requires clients to come to the center each day to take a dose of methadone on site.
Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent helped Jackson in the search process, escorting him to some properties. Jackson said that he visited many sites and that the Skookum building in the Charleston was the most suitable, because it was the right size, didn't have loitering magnets like fast-food restaurants in the surrounding area and was on a bus line. Jackson had planned to pay $360,000 to buy the property and another $400,000 to improve it.
The center would have initially been permitted to treat up to 350 patients daily, six days a week. Jackson said it would take years to get up to 350 patients, but Evergreen has been successful at getting approved to treat more patients when it needed to at other facilities.
Councilman Roy Runyon was one of two council members to oppose the moratorium and chided the council for not acting sooner. He said the council knew there was a need for a center as long as a year ago and they knew Jackson was looking for a site. Runyon said he suggested the council's planning committee look at the zoning issues long before Jackson picked the former Skookum building. "Nothing happened. I guess I was wasting my words," he said.
Runyon drew clarity from Bremerton's assistant city attorney Ken Bagwell that Evergreen would be subject to the city's chronic nuisance ordinance. That ordinance allows that when a single property is a chronic law enforcement problem the city has several options at its disposal, up to closing down a business if it can get approval from the superior court.
"The bottom line is the city does have the authority to close down a building ... if we deem it a 'chronic nuisance,'" Runyon said.
Other council members echoed the sentiment made by moratorium supporters, though, that the city needed more time to find the right place for this kind of facility.
"It's just a case of studying the facts," said Councilwoman Carol Arends, whose district is home to the proposed site.
Councilman Greg Wheeler said it was a shame the council was in that position and that Evergreen might not locate in the city but said, "We really aren't in a position to speed up a process to meet deadlines in that way."
Runyon was joined in opposition to the moratorium by Councilman Nick Wofford, who earlier said he was still undecided on the issue because he knows people who have benefited from methadone treatment to treat opiate addiction.
Wheeler, Arends, Will Maupin, Dianne Robinson, Adam Brockus, Cecil McConnell and Jim McDonald voted in favor.
The city's Department of Community Development is charged with studying the issue of appropriate zoning and locations for a clinic like Evergreen's.
At the end of six months, the council could extend the moratorium for another six months if city staff asked for more time. Bagwell said there is no limit to the number of times the moratorium could be extended by another six months.
Original link http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2011/aug/17/moratorium-may-mean-end-of-methadone-clinic-talk/#ixzz1WQyAGpks
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