Editorial: Knowledge counters fear
Editor’s note: Craig Press Publisher Renee Campbell was unable to attend this week’s meeting of the Editorial Board and did not participate in the development of this position.
Late last week, the Moffat County School District voted overwhelmingly to enter negotiations for the transfer of the Yampa Building — which houses MCSD administrative offices and, formerly, the Early Education Center — to the county under the management of Memorial Regional Health. The purpose of the proposed transfer is to facilitate the opening of a comprehensive, residential treatment center for people with substance abuse disorders.
Probably few would disagree that Northwest Colorado has a serious problem with drug abuse and addiction, and having a comprehensive addiction treatment center right here in Craig would serve as a major step forward in the fight against this growing health crisis.
In addition, the proposal stands to boost the local economy, creating jobs for some 20 people at a rate of about $30 per hour, according to MRH Vice President of Operations Jennifer Riley. Furthermore, the proposal would ensure we don’t inherit yet another vacant building to add to an already lengthy list of such structures.
At the same time, however, a number of residents have voiced concerns about the proposed location.
Though no one has told us they object to the notion of having a treatment center, some have said they feel a building so near the downtown corridor — not to mention Craig Middle School — is not an appropriate place for a treatment center.
Others have expressed fears for their personal safety and concerns about the potential impact upon their property values.
It would be easy to dismiss such objections out-of-hand. Public approval, after all, is not required. The district can transfer property to any entity it pleases, so long as that entity has government backing; MRH is such an entity. Further, MRH is completely within its rights to then use such property as its board deems appropriate.
So, from a purely legal standpoint, residents have little — if any — say in the matter.
But in this case, is the easy way the right way?
People’s fears are real to them, even if those fears might seem trivial to others, and in our experience, fear is very often tied directly to a sense of not knowing. And while we applaud both MCSD and MRH for their efforts thus far to cast light on these unknowns, we think more could be done. Many questions are still drifting around the community with regard to the proposed treatment center.
Some of the questions we’ve heard include the following:
• How will the renovated building look? Are there conceptual drawings that could be shared with the public?
• Will the historic façade of the building be retained?
• Will court-mandated patients be admitted, and if so, how will they be monitored?
• Will there be security, and if so, what kind?
• Will there be fencing?
• Are property values likely to decrease?
• Will this proposal move forward regardless of what the neighborhood and community think about it?
These are valid questions, and given the ongoing reactions to the idea on social media, not all of them have been fully answered.
So we propose this.
Let’s do some community education. Perhaps both boards could host a series of neighborhood meetings to listen to residents’ concerns, acknowledge those concerns, share conceptual drawings, and give the community a clear idea of what the final product might look like.
To be clear, we support the transfer of the Yampa Building to MRH to facilitate the opening of a treatment center. The community needs it, and it is far better to put this historic building to good use than to have it stand empty and slowly crumble.
Again, neither MCSD nor MRH is legally obligated to offer any more information than they already have.
But in the interest of public perception, we think they should offer it anyway.
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