Letters Long Reach no place for planned crisis center...

LETTERS

January 27, 2002

Letters Long Reach no place for planned crisis center

At its June 19, 2001 meeting, the Long Reach Village Board approved the hiring of Jean Moon Associates to create a community relations plan for the Village. The approved cost was $5,000.

According to newspaper reports, Ms. Moon has also been one of the leaders of the project to build a Crisis and Support Center for Howard County. The crisis center will be a 33,000-square-foot building (twice the size of Stonehouse, the largest of the Long Reach community buildings). Among the services the crisis center will provide are the following: supervised visitation for families in mediation and custody agreement situations, psychiatric emergency housing, homeless shelter and support services, medical treatment, emergency shelter beds. One of the proposed locations for the crisis center is a parcel directly across the street from Long Reach High School. As a resident of Long Reach, a crisis center is not what I would envision as the $5,000 community relations plan for Long Reach.

In addition, to Ms. Moon's participation, the Long Reach Village Board Chairman, Henry Dagenais, has been a member of the Steering Committee for the crisis center. Despite his participation on the Steering Committee, the Long Reach Board minutes do not reflect that any information regarding possible locations was discussed with the Board until after resident inquiries resulting from newspaper reports. Further, the Long Reach newsletters through January 2002 do not even hint at the possibility that the crisis center might be located across the street from Long Reach High School.

According to the Dec. 19 minutes of the Village Board, Chairman Dagenais has not "signed on" in the name of the Village. However, his failure to alert Board members or residents to the possible Long Reach location for the crisis center until after newspaper accounts was inconsistent with his obligations to the residents who elected him to the Village Board. Without the newspaper accounts, the crisis center could have been under construction before residents had any notice, even though Chairman Dagenais had not "signed on" in the name of the Village.

It is noteworthy that none of the project's sponsors (as reflected in media reports) reside near the proposed locations (all in east Columbia). For example, Ed Stern, the River Hill Columbia Council representative, is a supporter of the project but no River Hill location is under consideration. Similarly, Lynne Nemeth, the wife of the Columbia Council representative from Harper's Choice, is the primary contact for the project but no Harper's Choice location is under consideration. Ms. Moon, too, lives in Harper's Choice.

While the crisis center may be a worthy project, it should not be located near any school. Moreover, it should not be located in Long Reach, which already bears its fair share of the County's responsibilities for the less fortunate in society. It is interesting that Long Reach was not considered for an athletic club similar to the ones in River Hill and Harper's Choice. Yet, it is the location of choice for Howard County and Columbia community leaders for all projects that are sure to generate controversy.

A more suitable location for the crisis center would be on the grounds of Howard County General Hospital or in or near the proposed new Howard County government facility in Ellicott City.

Better late than never, the Village Board has scheduled a Long Reach town meeting regarding the crisis center at Stonehouse for Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 7:30.

Cecilia Januszkiewicz

Columbia

Don't place shelter near our schools

The Sun published several articles about the increasing crime problem of the Long Reach Village of Columbia recently. Yes, crime is a problem here that impacts the quality of life in many ways. At the light of this known problem, I read with great concern that Long Reach is considered as a possible location for a shelter of "homeless, run-away and others in crisis." Two of the three considered sites are in or near Long Reach: one close to the high school, a very problematic spot already; the other is on Old Montgomery Road, neighboring Long Reach and close to the School of the Deaf.

Bringing a large facility for youth in crisis near to a school or a village center is a dangerous idea. Doing so in an area that already has above-average crime problem is even more problematic. There must be more appropriate sites in Howard County, places with lower population density, farther from schools and traffic. At the currently considered locations, the center would probably create more crisis than solve.

It is also advisable that the Crisis & Support Center Coalition seeks community input before making its decision. After all, they need the support of the community to operate successfully.

Laszlo Takacs

Long Reach

Thank Barbara Russell for honesty about CA

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