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County Holds off on Buying Claremont’s JSL Building for Inmate Transitional Housing



Valley News Correspondent
Friday, January 11, 2019

Claremont — Sullivan County officials have put a pin in the purchase of the former Junior Sports League building for use as transitional housing for former inmates at the House of Corrections.

County Commissioner Chairman Jeff Barrette told the City Council at its meeting on Wednesday night that county officials need more time to develop their plans and make sure they have the right location.

“We would like to withdraw that request at this time and go back to do some more homework,” Barrette said.

The council was scheduled to discuss a request to sell the JSL to the county for a dollar but removed it from the agenda.

Barrette also said officials have not eliminated the JSL, a former National Guard armory on School Street, from consideration and will continue to work with an architect to develop cost estimates for renovating the JSL while also researching the availability of other properties in the city center.

“We want to get this right,” he said.

The decision to put the purchase of the JSL on hold came a day after a public forum where a number of residents living in the School Street neighborhood where the JSL is located objected to the transitional housing plan. Though there was general agreement that the need for such housing exists, some living around the JSL feared it could hurt property values while others suggested it is the wrong place for an area known drug problems.

The program would be for former inmates convicted of drug crimes who have finished their sentences and completed the jail’s in-house treatment program. Moving to transitional housing would be voluntary and would include a work, school or community service requirement of 40 hours a week. County officials have stressed that the strict, supervised environment, including drug testing, would not have an adverse effect on surrounding properties. Additionally, the JSL’s gymnasium area could be used for community recreation, county officials have said.

“No matter where we are, we think this will have a positive impact on the neighborhood,” Barrette said.

Barrette said Claremont has to be the location because the about half of the 500-odd inmates in the past year were from Claremont, and of those about 80 returned to where they were living before their arrests. Another 25 were homeless, further amplifying the need for housing in the area.

One of the primary goals of the transitional housing is to give the individuals a safe, sober location as they work to re-enter society instead of leaving them with the only option of returning to the same environment that got them in trouble with the law in the first place. Barrette also said because they would not have driving privileges, the housing has to be within walking distance for shopping and other services such as mental health treatment.

Resident Marie Lozito said on Wednesday night that she went into Tuesday’s public forum thinking transitional housing for former drug offenders was the last thing Claremont needed. But, after listening to county officials, she said she left feeling differently. Having working people in the community who are trying to straighten out their lives will be a positive step forward for the city, Lozito said.

The county’s decision on the JSL means it will miss a deadline for one of two grants for the renovation costs, but Barrette said there will be other opportunities.

“When we have a fully developed plan, I am confident we can get the funding,” Barrette said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.