Friday, October 29, 2021

Butler Township Residents Question Proposed Drug and Rehab Facility

On Wednesday night, a special public hearing was held for Butler Township residents and the Township's Zoning Board to discuss a proposed a drug and rehab facility.

FireTree Limited is currently in the process of purchasing the current Fountain Springs Country Inn property located at 52 Country Club Road in Butler Township near Ashland.

FireTree currently operates a drug treatment and rehab facility called Conewago Place in Pottsville and is looking to relocate that facility to Butler Township..

Residents learned of this potential sale when the Township advertised a rezoning meeting of the former Country Club property for the new site.

The response has been mixed to the proposal based on comments posted on Skook News as well as Coal Speaking on Facebook in relation to the topic.

On Wednesday night, the Zoning Board held the meeting at the Fountain Springs Fire Company in order to allow as many Butler Township's residents to attend.

Nearly 100 residents from the Township and surrounding areas attended with most there to oppose the proposal.

Township Solicitor Brian Urban of Urban Law presided over the hearing  which also included legal representation by FireTree and a law firm that represented 15 families that lived near the property.

Urban opened the hearing and advised that a 2 hour time limit would be imposed and a second meeting would be held if needed.

FireTree's legal counsel spoke first and introduced Maryann Johnson, the Pottsville Facility's manager.

Johnson answered questions that pertained to the Pottsville facility's record involving crime at the facility to which she said no incidents have occurred.  The opposing council brought a list of 160 calls from the facility to 911 that Johnson said most were automatic fire alarms.  Johnson also said many of the calls to police were for reporting drugs being found on those arriving at the facility, which they are required to do by law.

Butler Township residents were also allowed to ask Johnson questions.  Residents questioned the criminal history of those in the facility.

Johnson said while they wouldn't let someone who had been charged with murder in the facility, they would allow someone that is on the Megan's Law list or someone with sex charges, which concerned many residents.  Residents questioned where the facility drew the line in terms of the criminal history.

Johnson also told residents that there are participants of the program that live in the facility as part of their prison sentence, such as someone on parole.

Residents also asked fi there are any guards at the facility, to which Johnson said there are monitors but all of the residents are allowed to leave freely.

Also representing FireTree was their President Bill Brown.

Brown answered questions and spoke of the success of their facilities in Indiana facility in Blairsville, PA, as well as Hershey, PA.  He also spoke on the struggle of finding locations for their facilities because of zoning.

Brown said the Butler Township property would allow the participants of the facility to move about outside more, which they do not have at the current location in Pottsville.

Residents had questioned Brown on the company's success rate, to which he reported that 80% succeed, but he did add they lose contact with participants after about a year.

Residents also questioned Brown if he lived near any of the company's facilities, to which he replied "no".

The opposing council focused on the sale itself and expiration of the sale agreement on Friday, October 29th, 2021.  Brown said if a decision was not made at that meeting, FireTree would be requesting an extension.

FireTree's council concluded just before 9:30pm , when a decision was made by the board and Solicitor Urban to hold a second meeting that would  allow the opposing counsel enough time to speak.  While residents of Butler Township were allowed to ask questions during this meeting, they were not able to make comments on the subject, and will get to do so at the next meeting.

Urban said the meeting will be announced within the next 30 days.

We captured most of the meeting in the video below.