Clay Street area residents divided over drug program


Residents of Annapolis' Clay Street area appear to have split over a proposal to house a residential treatment program for recovering drug addicts in the Stanton Community Center.

About 30 residents filed into the community center's gymnasium last night for a hearing on the proposal.

Some, such as Edna Green, who lives across the street from the community center, opposed the plan, citing concern about increased traffic in the neighborhood.

Others supported the plan to create a center where women trying to defeat drug addiction could live with their children.

"If things continue the same way, we're going to have a mess on our hands," said Noland Henson, a resident who helps counsel addicts.

The City Council's Housing and Human Welfare Committee is to make a recommendation on the proposal by June 20.

A group of Maryland and Washington professionals, calling itself Partners for Progress, has been working with the city for more than two years to create the program.

Under the plan, Annapolis would contribute $500,000 toward a $3.3 million renovation of the city-owned facility on West Washington Street.

The city would lease the property to the partnership for 20 years, and investors would secure loans to complete the renovation.

A third floor would be built onto the front of the building and two floors added above the gymnasium to house the program. Other offices and recreational facilities now in the center will remain.

Up to 30 women and their children could stay at the center for up to six months. Participants in the program would receive counseling and information on parenting skills, nutrition and other relevant topics, as well as treatment for what may have led them into addiction.

Joseph F. Johnson, one of the principals in Partners for Progress, told the committee that the project would bring an unprecedented infusion of money into an impoverished Annapolis neighborhood.

Jon Grant, another member of the group, told the committee that a local board would oversee its operation of the center and area residents would be able to use the center's day care and vocational facilities.

But aldermen questioned the financial arrangements of the deal and the liabilities facing the city if the project fails.

"What's going to happen to the building [then]?" asked Alderman Wayne Turner, a Ward 6 Democrat.

Mr. Grant said that if the project fails, the city would still have a renovated building that could be turned into affordable housing units. Revenues generated from rents could be used to repay the bank loans, he said.

"In every venture, there is some risk," Mr. Johnson said. He said the aldermen should ask themselves if they are willing to invest in the community. "If you are, this is a way to get a foot up," he said.

After persistent questioning from the aldermen, an exasperated Mr. Grant said, "You have to look at the doughnut and not just the hole."

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