No decision yet on treatment center in Cassian
It was a full house Dec. 28 at the Woodruff Town Hall, where the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee held a public hearing on a conditional use permit request by Great Lakes Inter Tribal Council to build an Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center in the Town of Cassian. Star Journal photos
County to meet next month to continue CUP discussion
By Eileen Persike
ONEIDA COUNTY – A decision on allowing an adolescent treatment and wellness center to be built in the town of Cassian has been delayed. The Oneida County Planning and Development Committee held a public hearing in Woodruff Dec. 28 on a conditional use permit request by the Great Lakes Inter Tribal Council.
GLITC is a 501 c (3) non-profit corporation governed by 12 sovereign nations; 11 in Wisconsin and one in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It purchased acreage off Swamp Lake Road, near US 51 on which to build its Adolescent Recovery and Wellness Center. The idea of a youth wellness center started over two decades ago.
“Now we have an opportunity; an opportunity to save our youth,” CEO Bryan Bainbridge told the committee, adding, “It’s important to create partnerships, without an ask for financial support but support just to do something – be part of the solution instead of the problem.”
More than 30 people spoke during the hearing that lasted more than an hour. Those in favor of the project included healthcare workers, addiction specialists, some people who experienced rehab firsthand and relatives of substance abusers.
“There is more than enough evidence to show this is definitely needed, and I know that is not the case that is being disputed; however I feel with the right people in place we could get the rules and regulations in place so this could occur,” said Oneida County resident and certified peer specialist Linda Jacobson.
One county resident said the lack of mental health services for youth has put them at high risk for substance use at an early age.
“Our correction facilities – for both youth and adult – are housing substance users with little or any services,” said Lori Hunter. “This facility will give youth the tools they need to grow and flourish so they can return to their communities as strong and contributing members.”
The Cassian Town Board is opposed to the 36-bed facility due to infrastructure and economic concerns, noting in a letter to Planning and Zoning Director Karl Jennrich that the center would cause undo economic harm to Cassian and its residents. Before the public comment period, the Planning and Zoning Department and county Corporation Counsel said they found conditions of the CUP had been met.
The town’s attorney disagreed.
“The stated purpose for this zoning for this land is to provide an area for residential, limited commercial and agricultural development in a rural atmosphere,” attorney Frank Kowalkowski said. “That doesn’t sound like dozens of people being treated in a drug rehab mental rehab facility.”
Other concerns raised included a perceived reduction of property values, an inadequate supply of groundwater and possible difficulty staffing the facility. One speaker said he is concerned that friends, relatives and gang members from Milwaukee, who might be connected to youth in the proposed facility, would bring drugs to the center.
“We live in the Northwoods; we don’t have the amount of drug problems that there are in larger cities,” the resident said. “I’m concerned it could be bringing drugs into the Northwoods.”
Another speaker voiced her concerns about where GLITC would get the funding to build the multi-million dollar project and urged the committee to refer to the town and county ordinances and land use plans.
“Bryan told us at one of our meetings that this site would be funded by grant money,” she said. “Grant money doesn’t fall from the sky it’s going to come out of your tax dollars, my tax dollars – I don’t care if you’re from Milwaukee, Green Bay or Harshaw. State and federal funds – we pay those in our taxes every day.”
U.S. Congressman Tom Tiffany (WI-07) was in attendance and said the facility should be built on tribal lands and that he is “prepared to go to bat” for GLITC to get money to build the facility in an “appropriate” place. A representative for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) read a letter from Johnson stating his support for construction of the ARWC in Cassian.
Afterward public comment the committee decided it had more questions and needed more time before making a decision. A meeting is scheduled for Jan. 17 to further discuss the CUP.