Proposed facility details aired for Westmorland committee

January 11, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

WESTMORLAND — There was more discussion Wednesday night regarding the possibility of a 25-bed drug and alcohol treatment facility being built here to house non-violent offenders.

During a meeting with invited committee members, who are nine residents of the community, Mike Gaston of the Holt Group of El Centro gave a presentation about the facility and the requirements for someone to be admitted as a patient. The Holt Group is contracted by the city as its engineer.

He told the committee how the facility would be run and what participation the city Redevelopment Agency would have in the facility, which only would be to provide the land. The city would have little participation in the project.

Gaston said the facility would be licensed by the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. It would be the second such licensed facility in Imperial County, the other being the Volunteers of America center in El Centro. The facility would be built and run by a private firm.


The Westmorland facility would create a minimum of 10 full-time jobs: one administrator, about two counselors, one business manager, cooks, maintenance workers and possible security guards.

Gaston said the city could require in the agreement with the firm that it hire at least six individuals from the community. He also said the facility would look like a nursing home, not a prison.

The women would be referred from drug court programs across the state and possibly from the Imperial County and the state Department of Corrections. Private pay clients would be accepted. All women accepted into the program would be age 18 and over and have no criminal history of violence.

Gaston said it would cost about $2.5 million to build the center and the city Redevelopment Agency would receive $25,000 in property tax revenue every year from the center.

City Councilman Henry Halcon said those involved in the discussions already have an ideal site for the facility, about 12 acres north of the new sewer treatment plant.

Gaston said the facility would only require two to three acres but if it becomes a success, meaning no problems arise, it could expand to house more women.

Committee representatives will go before the RDA during its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to ask for permission and funds to take the committee on a field trip to a similar facility in Riverside.

Police Chief Fred Beltran said he isn't concerned with the problems the patients might cause.

"I don't see a problem that we can't handle," said Beltran during the meeting.

"It's something new we should try and see how it does," he added.

City Councilman Rumaldo Marquez said, "I think it's a win-win situation. You have drugs in every city and town and we have to do something about it. The war on drugs is to cut off the demand."

He said he is looking forward to visiting the facility in Riverside to ask some questions about its success rate.

Mickey Otero, a committee member said, "I'm in favor of a good drug-treatment program. I don't think there is a danger with this facility, especially with qualified people supervising."

Suzy Marquez, another committee member, said, "It sounds good but I want to see the other facility. I don't feel I know enough about the facility but we have need for something."

David Ford, who is on the committee with his wife, Evie, said, "It sounds like something we need to look into. It sounds pretty good."

Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 370-8549.

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