Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Diversion Center Site at Issue; Glynn Residents Air Worries at Town Hall Meeting about County Proposal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Diversion Center Site at Issue; Glynn Residents Air Worries at Town Hall Meeting about County Proposal

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROLE HAWKINS

BRUNSWICK - Glynn County Commissioner Cap Fendig got an earful from the future next-door neighbors of a proposed diversion center for low-risk offenders. But Fendig says he wants to hear more.

About 80 residents attended a town hall meeting Monday night at Taylors United Methodist Church to hear county plans to build a diversion center on 19.6 acres near their homes. The center between busy Spur 24 and Old Jesup Road would provide intervention and treatment for people who might otherwise end up in jail.

Fendig explained the purpose of and need for the center, but most residents said they didn't come to learn the project's merits.

"I don't think anybody in this room takes issue with this program," resident Chuck King said. "It's the placement that everybody takes issue with. We don't want it here."

Fendig said he was not surprised by the reaction.

"I understand the fears, misperceptions and concern for safety," Fendig said. "But it's a fair thing to give the community an opportunity to work through those fears."

He invited residents to join a citizens oversight committee and promised there would be more town hall meetings.

Designed to look like a middle class subdivision, the diversion center is intended for drug offenders for whom treatment is deemed more beneficial than jail. It would also house low-risk juvenile offenders when destructive influences are the primary cause of poor behavior. It would provide a haven for children in state custody when foster homes are unavailable and for adults who need mental health care.

Fendig said the citizens committee would help develop the full criteria for placement, but persons charged with violent crimes and sex offenders would not be housed at the center.

For nearly two hours, Fendig, County Commissioner Howard Lynn, representatives from Gateway Behavioral Services and county officials heard concerns. …

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