November 15, 2005
Former drug and alcohol abusers are living right across from an elementary school, and they now have legal backing to stay. A home for recovering addicts called “New Creation” has been across from Martinez Elementary since September. At Tuesday’s commission meeting, the county attorney said that by law, the house can stay. News 12 is on your side with Tuesday’s heated debate on what all this means for your children’s safety.
About thirty filled the room, most to protest and some to show support. Jewel Pennington says sarcastically, at least one of the three people living in the house right now is likely to have a relapse.
“We need the house relocated for the safety of our children,” Pennington said.
She collected almost 370 signatures on a petition to fight the house. She addressed the commission along with Martinez Elementary’s principal and a worried neighbor.
The signatures might not have any effect, but Commissioner Tommy Mercer can. He shares their concern for the nearly 800 children across the street.
“If they make any additions to that house, that will qualify them for a rezoning, and we’ll rezone it,” Mercer said.
Right now, the home is considered a residence. If they make any changes, they’ll need county approval.
The county attorney says this home provides a social service for the disabled. And they have to be given an equal opportunity to live in the area. New Creation’s Executive Director Tonya Weeks says they watch their residents round the clock and require strict background checks.
“We don’t have a reason to move, we don’t have anything to complain about, we have a wonderful location,” Weeks said.
For her, this is a Christian mission to help others. But some worry for the well-being of their children who pass by the house every day. Since New Creation is considered a residence, they can have up to six people there. If they go above that or make any additions, they will need permission from the county.
The Columbia County Sheriff’s Department says they don’t generally have any problems with places like this. And the executive director of New Creation says anyone who relapses will be expelled from the program.