I would like to express my concerns about the possibility of having a residential treatment center for youth in Ferron. In all of the meetings I have attended regarding this issue the terms "foster care" and "residential treatment center" are interchanged as if they are the same thing. They are not.
Foster care takes place within a home where a mother, father and potentially other children are present, creating a family environment. The youth who are placed in a foster setting are then given positive role models to learn from and hopefully emulate. I applaud foster parents who are actively trying to make a difference and helping youth.
A residential treatment center is an institutionalized business where several troubled youth are placed together under supervision by individuals who have passed a background check and are 18 years of age or older. Of course the youth do receive counseling and have other professionals help in managing them but these professionals are not always on site and available for every crisis when it occurs.
There are no credentials required to start an RTC. The business does have to be licensed with the state and have received clearance from the local governing body by receiving a business license. I am concerned with this type of business coming to Ferron because I do not see the benefits to the youth in RTCs or to the citizens of Ferron.
It was stated the public should have gotten involved earlier instead of waiting until now to oppose. My question is how? We didn't know about this potential business until we received a letter from Ferron City stating there was a planning and zoning meeting on Dec. 13, 2007 and if we had concerns or questions regarding this potential business to attend the meeting.
In the letter it stated, "unfortunately the city doesn't have much information to give you at this time." As a result, several neighbors who received this letter came to the meeting. The night of the meeting there was not a quorum in planning and zoning so no business could be conducted. But instead of letting this item rest or be tabled on the evening of Dec. 13, 2007, the business application was brought before the city council. It was passed pending recommendation from the planning and zoning with one council member voting against it, which was me.
Ferron City had not received any written information regarding this business. I ask what is the rush? If the council members are elected by the people for the people, what is the harm in taking time to get educated? When policies and procedures are not followed feelings of discontentment and frustration arise creating suspicion against local government. Is there a hidden agenda or ulterior motives?
Another concern is Ferron City's master plan was also approved the night of Dec. 13, 2007. This master plan required extensive time and research as well as several individuals input and help. Ferron's master plan does not include this type of business on a highway commercial zone. Why should we change zoning to fit the needs of a few individuals? Why not uphold the laws and ordinances already in place instead of creating variances and conditional use permits?
I am also concerned that Ferron City has no fee structure in place to monitor this type of business. I know the citizens of Ferron have stated several times that Ferron City needs to hire additional full time help to maintain Ferron City. Is the city going to add additional responsibilities to those who already have more than enough to accomplish?
There are also several discrepancies between verbal statements and what is written in the business plan for this business. I would hope that Ferron City Planning and Zoning, as well as the Ferron City Council members, would take the time to become informed and make an educated decision that will benefit everyone in Ferron.
Ferron City is seeking written comments from the public until Feb. 15.