City backs drug rehab center site

Jenny Lancour | Daily Press The building, pictured above, is a former parsonage in Escanaba that Catholic Social Services of the U.P. plans to purchase to renovate into a rehabilitation center for drug addicts and alcoholics. On Monday, the Escanaba Planning Commission approved a special land-use permit to allow the building to be used as a recovery facility for residents of Delta County.

ESCANABA — A request to transform a former rectory in Escanaba into a recovery center for drug addicts and alcoholics was unanimously approved by the planning commission Monday after several people spoke in favor of the project and its location.

Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the U.P. plans to develop property at 226 S. Lincoln Road into a drug rehabilitation center and sought approval of a special land permit allowing for the special care facility to be housed at the location.

A previous request to convert an Escanaba home into a re-entry recovery house was denied Sept. 14 by the planning commission following comments from business owners who supported the program but not the downtown location among residences and close to bars.

Terry Saunders, who has been working with CSS to develop a drug rehab center in Escanaba, called Monday’s vote of approval and the community’s support “a blessing from God.”

“I was anxious,” Saunders said after the planning commission meeting at city hall. He added that people ask God for his blessing, but they’re not always sure if they will get it.

Kyle Rambo, CSS executive director, said after the meeting, “This means a lot to a lot of needy folks here. This project addresses a critical need in our society. It’s great to see the community support.”

Rambo said CSS plans to close on the property at the end of the month and renovations will begin as soon as possible to develop the building into a rehab center.

He added that a manager for the program has already been identified and trained for the center, which will provide re-entry and recovery services to six full-time and two part-time residents daily.

According to the special land use permit application, the intent of the recovery house would be to “prepare, empower, and support individuals with incarceration stigma and drug/alcohol addition” to achieve their life-long goals, establish meaningful relationships, participate in the community, and learn to be self-sufficient.

Prior to the planning commission’s unanimous support for the project to be housed at the location on South Lincoln Road, several members of the public spoke in favor of the special care facility including a recovering drug addict, a relative of a drug addict, and a spokesperson for a similar facility in Iron Mountain.

Escanaba resident Connie Osier commented the community needs to seriously commit to addressing the local drug problem for economic growth. She noted Delta County’s Drug Court has begun to address the issue of addiction and a drug recovery center will further the cause to help those in need.

Jean-Paul Rudell, a local attorney who is working with the county’s drug court, said, “Everybody involved in the drug court is very supportive of this effort.”

Escanaba Public Safety Officer Lt. John Gudwer told commissioners the department supports the rehabilitation facility and helping people from the community. He said the department would help monitor participants.

Gudwer noted the area has a need for a drug recovery center, especially for those who get out of jail and have no where to go for recovery services and support.

Newly-elected council member Peggy O’Connell-Schumann, who opposed the facility’s previously-proposed location downtown, said the new location is perfect and one she strongly supports.

Judy Kinkaid, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, at 600 S. Lincoln Road, described the recovery center as a “very good idea” and “a perfect opportunity to do something” about the local drug problem.

Kinkaid added she and other area religious leaders will volunteer their services and welcome those in need to participate in their churches’ activities.

A letter the city received from Central Methodist Church, at 322 S. Lincoln Road, supported the drug recovery center, stating the former parsonage will be put to good use as a special care facility for addicts, also noting several churches are within walking distance.