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Special meeting planned to address rehab facility

February 22, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

WESTMORLAND — The City Council and residents heard more Wednesday about a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility for non-violent women proposed for this city.

Councilman Rumaldo Marquez told those assembled about a visit Friday that he, Mike Gaston, senior planner for the Holt Group and Westmorland resident Martha Cruz took to a facility in the Palm Desert area called Thousand Palms. The Holt group is an El Centro firm that provides planning services to Westmorland.

"Drugs are pervasive in our society and do we look away?" Marquez asked residents.

"I think it's a great idea," he added.

Cruz said the group was told the women in the facility don't just receive treatment but gain skills such as cooking and finding a job.

Marquez said the success rate of the Palm Desert facility is about 70 to 75 percent.

He said, "If we were to pursue this it would have to be 100 percent."


He also said he would like to see requirements in the contract such as allowing someone such as Police Chief Fred Beltran to make random inspections of the facility and having the kitchen supervised at all times.

The facility would be licensed by the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. The facility would be built and run by a private firm. All the city would do is provide the land for it.

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

The city could require the firm hire at least six individuals from the community.

The facility would look like a nursing home and not a prison, according to those involved .

The women would be referred from drug court programs across the state, and possibly from Imperial County and the state Department of Corrections. Private pay clients would be accepted..

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

Council members said they already have an ideal site for the facility, about 12 acres north of the new sewer treatment plant.

The facility would only require 2 to 3 acres but if it is a success, meaning no problems arise, it could be expanded to house more women.

City Councilman Lawrence Ritchie said, "If we started this program, I think it would grow."

Councilman Henry Halcon suggested the council stage a special meeting to further discuss the facility and answer any questions the public might have.

The meeting will be announced at a later time.

In other action, the water bill controversy was put to rest.

City water bills had been due the 22nd of each month. The problem the city faced was many residents were regularly asking for extensions. The council decided it would be best to change the due date to the fifth of every month.

At the last council meeting, residents expressed displeasure with the changing of the due date, so the council changed back to the original due date.

The only change will be there will be no extensions given unless there is a health risk to the customer.

Another item the City Council will be addressing is a nuisance abatement ordinance.

The council is discussing an ordinance that would require residents to clean their yards if they become a hazard.

The idea is for a private company to come into the city to do inspections and if the company finds a residence a hazard, it would notify the owner and give the owner time to clean it.

If the owner did not comply, the company would clean the yard and charge the owner.

Many at the meeting were concerned about elderly residents who can't clean their yards. They also were concerned about having an out-of-town company cleaning their yards without them knowing it.

Mayor Thomas Marquez responded, "You're not going to be tagged one day and then have the company cleaning your yard the next day."

"It is a timely manner, where the company will give the owner weeks or even months to clean the hazard," he said.

He also told residents the council has the final word on who gets targeted. The company will have to come before the council seeking permission to clean a property if the owner doesn't do it.

The problem, council members said, is there are many individuals who own property in the city but don't live there and don't care if the property is a hazard or an eyesore.

Halcon said the city has tried to force such individuals to clean the yards but they simply don't care.

The issue will come up again during the next council meeting.

During the staff reports portion of the meeting, Halcon reported residents have asked him about having Brawley's Dial-A-Ride come to Westmorland.

He said he will talk to Brawley City Manager Jerry Santillan and Kathy Williams of the Imperial Valley Association of Governments about the idea.

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

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