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Substance abuse program plans move to Locust Street

July 03, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The W House of Hagerstown Foundation Inc. plans to move its substance abuse program for women into a larger building on Locust Street regardless of whether it gets a requested $350,000 loan from the city of Hagerstown, W House Executive Director Christina Trenton told the Hagerstown City Council Tuesday.

The organization has purchased the 11,000-square-foot property at 519 N. Locust St. to replace its present 2,500-square-foot home on Antietam Street. The Locust Street property was previously the site of Ted's Rent-It Center.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner told Trenton he is being "strongly lobbied" against approving the loan by people who live near the Locust Street property.

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Metzner wants to support the loan but "without being tarred and feathered and run out of town," he said.

But knowing that the program will move to Locust Street regardless of whether it gets the loan will make it easier for him to vote for it, he said.

The W House received permission to put the program at the Locust Street property at a September meeting of the Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals.

Councilman Penny May Nigh said many people who live near the Locust Street property did not know the substance abuse program was moving there.

Nigh opposes the site selected and the city loan. She is concerned that the availability of drugs in the Locust Street area will tempt program residents, she said.

Switching locations will not change how easy it is to get drugs, Trenton said.

Nigh said she has a petition of 75 people opposed to the program moving to Locust Street.

Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said he supports the loan.

Councilwoman Carol Moller and Councilman Kristin Aleshire said they have not decided how they will vote on the loan, which is scheduled for a vote at the city's July 23 meeting.

Metzner and other council members said Trenton should meet with residents living near the Locust Street site to address their concerns.

Trenton said she plans to meet with a Neighborhoods First group in the area next week and will explain to them that there will not be an increase in drug sales or prostitution as a result of the program moving.

The total cost of the W House project is $1.13 million. The 14-year-old nonprofit organization has received $702,177 in grants from the state government and $86,211 in foundation and corporate grants, Trenton said.

If the group does not get the city loan, it will seek additional funding from other sources, she said.

The program plans to use the new property to double its bed capacity from nine women to 18, she said.

The extra space will allow the group to serve 40 or more women a year, Trenton said. W House averages a waiting list of 10 to 12 women, she said.

The Antietam Street home is too small to allow mothers to have their children with them, Trenton said. Six to eight children can be with their mothers at the new home.

Council members briefly discussed the request at a June 11 meeting but wanted to ask questions of Trenton before taking a vote.

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