Asten Smith

The Daily Item

BEAVERTOWN — A lack of information, not the wrong information, is what one Beavertown Borough Council member said has led to the strong disposition of a local drug and rehabilitation center.

"I think one of the things that hasn't happened here, I haven't seen a lot of community relations," Councilman Craig Mellott said during Tuesday night's council meeting. "To say someone is misinformed, they may not be misinformed, they just weren't informed."

Mellott addressed his comments to representatives from Firetree Ltd., a Williamsport-based company that has purchased private land along Route 522 in Beaver Springs for a treatment facility scheduled to open in July or August.

Firetree representatives Scott Snyder and Terri Duer attempted to inform a group of upset citizens for the first time at a public meeting since word of the facility's opening created backlash among western Snyder County residents.

Snyder said the facility will house a wide spectrum of drug and alcohol abusers from a detox program. Their stays will be from a few days to a week, or up to 90 days. The facility will hold 50 to 55 beds.

Snyder also addressed the issue of the building not being a lock-down facility, but said that it will be well-secured with an alarm system, program monitors and a computer system to keep track of residents.

The residents, Snyder said, will be coming from county drug and DUI courts, as well as from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and members of the community who commit themselves for a substance abuse problem.

Duer and Snyder said although some of the residents treated at their facility have criminal records related usually to their substance-abuse issues, they insisted the Beaver Springs facility will not treat serious offenders.

"We do not take rapists or violent offenders," Duer said.

In addition, Snyder said the facility will not result in a need for additional law enforcement in the region.

"We don't take the client that's going to warrant a nationwide manhunt," Snyder said.

Beavertown resident Angela Keiser asked Firetree to address information she gathered from the company's 2006 IRS documents showing more than $29 million in revenue from state and federal corrections with only $2 million coming from the local level.

Those numbers are for all of Firetree's facilities, which include a wide range of treatment centers, including some that are lock-down facilities, Duer said.

"That's a total for Firetree," Duer said. "We're talking about just drug and alcohol (at Beaver Springs). We have other programs, that's where numbers can get deceiving."

Snyder County District Attorney Michael Sholley also attended the meeting and asked whether Firetree services will benefit county residents.

"I think everyone knows in this room that Snyder County has a drug problem," Sholley said. "You're bringing something into our county that we don't have. Now the question is, What are you bringing into our community?"

Sholley asked whether Firetree would commit to providing a certain amount of beds in its facility strictly for Snyder County residents.

Firetree is more than willing to provide its services to the county, Snyder and Duer said, and to consider entering into a contract. Firetree will also create a community advisory board composed of local elected officials, law enforcement and residents to keep a dialogue going between Firetree and the community, Snyder said.

The community will also benefit by the creation of 30 new jobs, Snyder said.

Firetree is familiar with community opposition. In 2005, the company lost bids to place a facility at the Laurelton Center in Hartley Township, Union County, and in Upper Augusta Township, Northumberland County, in February. Upper August Township supervisors decided that Firetree's facility would not fit the zoning ordinance and denied the permit application between Firetree and the potential property seller Youth Bible Institute.

Spring Township, where the Firetree facility will be placed in Snyder County,does not have zoning prohibiting such facilities.

• E-mail comments to asmith@dailyitem.com

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