Proposed Oneida County adolescent recovery center awaits permit
An architectural drawing of the proposed treatment facility campus in the town of Cassian in Oneida County. Submitted photo.
Cassian opposes facility, GLITC says it’s necessary
By Eileen Persike, Editor
CASSIAN – The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council held a ground blessing ceremony in late July on property it purchased in the town of Cassian where it plans to build an adolescent recovery and wellness center. The event brought together representatives from tribal nations in the region and local and state governments. The location, off of Swamp Lake Road, was selected to house a 36-bed residential facility that will treat 13-17 year-old Native American youth who are struggling with substance use disorder and other mental health conditions.
Six weeks after the ceremony, the town of Cassian authored a resolution opposing the project and has recently retained an attorney. Though town chair Patty Francoeur told the Star Journal that “no one would disagree that these types of facilities are needed,” the resolution outlines several concerns the town has, including lack of infrastructure, reduced property values, negative impact on the “welfare, public health, and safety of the citizens of the town of Cassian due to increased public safety demands for a remote location.”
The first point in the resolution speaks to a lack of communication, stating the town board was “never consulted about the construction” of the rehab facility in their community.
In response to the resolution, last week Bainbridge sent a four-page letter to the Cassian supervisors refuting a lack of consultation with the town. He said it was important to write the letter as the project is moving through the permitting process and to “lay out the facts.”
“We don’t want people to think there was no communication, that everyone was blindsided,” said Bainbridge. “When I first made contact with the town board chair, I initiated that. I want to make sure I’m being a good neighbor and that the township knows exactly what’s being proposed and what’s going on.”
In the letter, Bainbridge wrote, “Over the course of many months dating back to at least June 15, 2023, which is documented in emails, visitor sign-in sheets and my participation in a Town Hall meeting, where I shared project plans and answered questions … I believe we can demonstrate ongoing dialogue and engagement with town leaders and residents.”
“I think when he says he was very open to the town, I think that’s an outright lie,” Francoeur told the Star Journal. “I had an email from them on June 15 asking to attend our next town board meeting. We decided that we thought that because of the situation that we should have a separate meeting which we did.”
At the board meeting, Francoeur said, Bainbridge gave “very unspecific answers,” which upset some of the town residents. “I will say he has been nothing but very nice, but since then, the communication, what they are doing out there, the town has no idea what is going on.”
Regarding the concern of property value decline and negative economic impact to the area, Bainbridge noted in his letter that in addition to being a needed service, he believes the center will be a net benefit. He cites an estimated 50 new jobs, exploration of workforce housing plans, and GLITC’s intention to fund infrastructure improvements such as road paving, utilities, broadband connectivity, and potential investment in things like snow removal equipment.
“What I really want to do with the township and the county and whomever else – is to create partnerships,” said Bainbridge.” I want people who really understand and want to be involved in something good.”
Francoeur reiterated the town is not against the facility, but the location.
“The location is just a little scary,” Francoeur said. “It’s way out there. If you’re on Highway 51 obviously that’s very easy, but now you’re way out there.
“There is no place where we asked for money,” she continued. “We’re going to take care of our town, no matter who our residents are, no matter what happens, we’re going to take care of everything.”
Bainbridge said the Oneida County Planning and Zoning Department has their application for a conditional use permit. He said hopes it will go before the board yet this month so work can begin this fall.