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Halfway house decision will take months

October 28, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

TRI-STATE -- It might take at least six months to award a contract for a halfway house in or near the Tri-State area, according to a federal prison official.

A planned halfway house for federal prison inmates must be within 40 miles of Martinsburg, W.Va., and Hagerstown officials have expressed concern it could end up downtown.

East Franklin Street property owner Alan Greenwald said a month ago that he considered leasing his building for the planned halfway house.

Last week, though, Greenwald said he has backed off, has put his building on the market and is considering moving to Los Angeles to return to singing and songwriting.

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The federal Bureau of Prisons' deadline to receive proposals for running the halfway house was Oct. 1.

Rebecca Canfield, a contracting officer for the bureau, wrote in an e-mail that more information might be available in about six months.

"It is a negotiated procurement and therefore, takes that long to get it to award," Canfield wrote, referring to when the contract would be awarded.

The contract starts May 1, 2010, according to a solicitation packet posted at the bureau's Web site. It's a one-year contract with four one-year option periods.

About six weeks ago, Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith wrote to Canfield, objecting to a possible halfway house downtown.

Smith wrote that Hagerstown already is coping with crime connected to three local state prisons, the city has made progress in revitalizing the downtown and the halfway house would be seen as "dumping" prisoners from outside the area in the city.

The day before the proposal deadline, Greenwald -- whose limited liability company owns 24-26-26 1/2 E. Franklin St. -- said he was considering a lease arrangement for his building.

Bannum Inc., a Florida-based company that runs other halfway houses, had expressed interest in his property, he said.

At the time, Greenwald said he supported the idea of a halfway house to help inmates start over.

In an interview last week, Greenwald said Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development director, "looked absolutely petrified" that he was considering a halfway house lease and told him other local businesses were threatening to close if he did.

"I talked it over with my investors and we all decided that we're going to take a different direction for the property," Greenwald said.

Everhart didn't return a phone message left at her office Wednesday.

Greenwald has proposed turning the former Meda's Tavern into a restaurant, deli, retail spaces and condominium units, but said he's become frustrated by obstacles.

"I personally would like to sell the property and just move on," he said.

The federal halfway house would have 12 to 24 beds. Two-thirds to three-quarters of the beds would be for men.

Mike Deming, whose development company owns 29-33 E. Washington St., has said he listened to an offer for a halfway house lease, but decided it wouldn't be a good fit for the property.

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