WILLIAMSON – Following a heated discussion, the Mingo County Commission voted to approve penning a letter of support for the purposed Serenity Point recovery center planned for the Sycamore Inn location in downtown Williamson.
The decision was made at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Mingo County Commission. The matter had been tabled at the previous meeting of the Mingo County Commission held Wednesday, February 1.
Commission President Diann Hannah and Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith voted in favor of penning a letter of support. Commissioner Thomas Taylor abstained from voting on the matter. “I don’t know the first thing about the rehab business,” Taylor stated. “I don’t know if Belinda’s plan will work. (Belinda Harness is the director of the Housing Authority of Mingo County, the organization establishing the recovery center) I am not against her plan. I am open to it but I have to abstain from the matter. I feel that it would be almost uneducated for me to make the decision to say that it would be a great thing or it would be a horrible thing and I hope everyone can respect that decision,” Taylor concluded.
The vote was made after allowing the public two minutes each to provide input and voice their opinion in support or opposition of the facility. The commissioners also took a moment to provide their personal input regarding the purposed facility.
The purposed facility has been an ongoing source of controversy for several months. Those in support and opposition of the facility have attended council and commission meetings as well as a public forum to speak in favor of the facility and voice concerns.
The commission’s decision to support the facility is at odds with a unanimous vote passed by the Williamson City Council at a regular meeting held Thursday, February 9 to write a letter of opposition concerning the purposed facility.
One of the main issues surrounding the purposed recovery center is the location. In fact, the commission acknowledged that they could see the reasoning behind the public’s concern with the location. However, due to the severity of the drug epidemic in the county, the commissioners voted in favor of supporting the facility.
Prior to the vote, Commissioner Smith stated, “I have been contacted by many people regarding this issue. Some people that I have great respect for and I am going to tell you that it is not an easy issue. People have good points on both sides on both sides of the issue. I have many friends that are against the project and many friends that are for the project. I believe that it is my duty as an elected official to state my position. I shouldn’t straddle the fence. I have been elected to this position and I am supposed to speak and I will be judged by the public according to my position. Do I believe that it is the ideal location for the project? No, I do not believe that it is the ideal location. Do I understand why the project is in the location? Yes, I do. Do I believe that as a commission or any governmental body that we should step in and tell a willing buyer and a willing seller that they can’t consummate a sale? No, I do not. Do I think we need drug rehab in Mingo County and in Williamson? Yes, I do. I think everyone of us have experienced it in some form or fashion in our family, our extended family or our friends or neighbors in regard to that. I feel strongly that it is needed. With that, I think this is a good project and will offer a lot of assistance for many people. For that reason, I move that this county commission enter a letter of support for this project. “
Commissioner Hannah stated, “I have already stated my position. If you had a better place to put it I am sure you would have already found it. There are several schools located in Mingo County that would have maybe been ideal for this project but that isn’t where you applied for your money so that is not where it is going to get approved…It is hard to tell babies that their mommy and daddy can’t be with them because they are in rehab. We don’t have a program to put these families together. That is what this project is purposing. “
Following the discussion Hannah made the motion to pen the letter of support stating, “I am going to second Commissioner Smith’s motion and I am going to sign this letter of support and hope that everything works out well and we can spin out into other townships. I just think that we have a need. I have a problem with people that want to sue pharmaceutical companies for money and they don’t want a solution to the problem. I call that American greed…I am watching them walk around dead in my face. You want to talk about the walking dead? We could film a movie right here in Mingo County. We see them coming at us every day. I am going to depend on you (speaking to Harness in reference to the facility) and I am going to hold you to this.”
The Mingo County Commission meets the first Wednesday and third Tuesday each month in the Mingo County Courthouse.