Green Meadows, Hale Foundation continue debate over rehab center

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Monday, January 6, 2020
News 12 at 11 o'clock

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Augusta Planning Commission held a public hearing Monday for the possible addition of a Hale House rehab center in the Green Meadows neighborhood.

The last time this debate was brought to commission was in April, when commissioners denied rezoning the property to allow the Hale Foundation to move in. Now, Hale Foundation is back, with a slightly new proposition which would make the rehab center solely for first responders.

"The people that are coming to this facility are servants," said David Bullard, president of the Georgia State Firefighters Association. "All they want is a chance to get better."

Bullard sat on the left side of the room, flanked by others who supported a drug rehab and mental health facility for first responders.

"This would be a feather in the cap of Georgia to say that we had the first of its kind," he said.

Across the aisle sat a neighborhood, strongly against adding the center to their community.

"We're going to fight until the bloody end," said Deborah Bunch, a neighbor.

Bullard said getting help can be difficult for first responders. It could put them in a home alongside people they've helped save or even persecute.

"To have a facility anywhere in the United States, particularly in Augusta, that is specialized just for first responders is an amazing opportunity," he said.

And while neighbors in Green Meadows agree it's a good idea, they don't want it in their neighborhood.

"I do want them to get help. I desperately want them to get help," said Bunch. "This is just not an appropriate place."

She and other neighbors are worried about property values declining, security in the facility, and having a rehab center so close to a school.
She said the fight has been going on for so long, and they just want it to be finished. But until it is, they'll continue to stand up for their community.

"No matter how many different ways they propose it. No matter how many different groups propose it, if it's a facility like that, we will fight it," Bunch said.

Neighbors said they would love to see either a religious or educational group move into the area.

The Planning Commission has six to nine months to bring this to full commission for a vote, so the earliest it could be voted on is July 6.

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