A bill to lease a building at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup for $1 a year for 40 years and use it as a drug and alcohol halfway house probably will be put on hold at the County Council's next legislative session.
The council had planned to discuss the bill at tonight's work session, but background information requested last week has not yet been provided. Unless the information is received this week, the council will probably postpone a vote on the bill until March 1.
Council members started rethinking the project after Rebecca Horvath, director of general services, told them the county should be prepared to underwrite the halfway house at a cost of up to $50,000 a year for the first two years.
Those costs are on top of $250,000 in county funds the council previously authorized to renovate the building with help of a $250,000 grant from the state -- money that has not been spent.
Council members are beginning to wonder whether the halfway house is too expensive given the number of people who would live there while making the transition to society.
The building could house 10 people and a paid staff of five, or it could provide a home for 15 people without a paid staff. Residents would live two to a room and be responsible for cooking their own meals. They would pay rent of about $50 a week for an average stay of about six months. There is no other drug and alcohol halfway house in the county.
"It would helpful to have this kind of transitional housing so that recovering people can get support from [Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups] where they live," said Dr. Joyce Boyd, the county health officer. "I hope the $50,000 estimate to keep the building open 24 hours a day, seven days a week is an overestimate."
Councilman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, asked county health worker Frank McGloin why the county couldn't let private industry provide a halfway house.
"If the private sector were going to provide it, they would have," Mr. McGloin said. "People might end up homeless or in prison without this halfway house."
George L. Layman, a former member of the county alcohol and drug abuse advisory board, agreed. "Some people return to the drug and alcohol scene because they don't have any other place to go," he said. Mr. Layman reminded the council that the project has been planned and talked about for more than six years.
"In six years, a lot of us have done a lot of rethinking" about what the county pays for, said Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd.
"I know we talked about it in my first term on the council," said council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, who was first elected in 1986. "I just need to feel this is the best way to use our resources to help the most people."
Ms. Pendergrass asked for a cost-per-client analysis that would compare the proposed halfway house with government-run halfway houses in other jurisdictions.