Brewer postpones decision on methadone moratorium

Posted Dec. 09, 2008, at 11:06 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — After a discussion about why an extension of the current 180-day moratorium on methadone clinics was needed, City Council members agreed to publicize the proposal and make a decision in January.

City Councilor Joseph Ferris voiced his concerns about extending the moratorium, which expires in mid-February, by an additional 180 days, but seemed to change his mind after hearing from the city’s attorney.

“A 360-day moratorium, seems too long,” he said, adding that “these treatment facilities do help people.”

City Solicitor Joel Dearborn is one of the six city staffers who sit on the Methadone Treatment Facilities Ordinance Committee, which is reviewing the city’s land use code to see whether regulations need to be added concerning where clinics may locate, their size and governance.

“If it wasn’t such a complex subject, I would agree with you,” Dearborn said to Ferris. “I feel very strongly about this, that we need additional time.”

Other members on the methadone committee include Police Chief Perry Antone, City Councilor Archie Verow, City Manager Steve Bost, City Planner Linda Johns and Code Enforcement Officer David Russell.

There are no rules now regarding the opening of methadone or other drug clinics in Brewer, so in essence “the whole city is fair game,” Dearborn said. “There is a general feeling that you need to protect the residential districts.”

Later in the meeting, Dearborn added that the committee members want to “put something on the books that we believe is … best for the community. We have nothing on the books that deal with this situation.”

The committee is meeting twice monthly and plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed changes before presenting them to council for approval.

Methadone, a synthetic opiate, is used to treat addiction to heroin and other opiates. The drug’s supporters say clinics are crucial to curbing addiction, and critics say the clinics only breed more crime.

“It’s not like we lack facilities. There are three in Bangor,” Dearborn said. “These are moneymaking facilities and we’re trying to strike a balance.”

Bangor is home to three of the state’s nine methadone clinics.

Councilor Larry Doughty said he was in favor of the extension.

“I think we need to do this, and do it up right,” he said.

After the discussion, the council voted unanimously to post the six-month moratorium extension for the required 30 days and place it on the January agenda for possible adoption.

During the meeting, the board:

ä Discussed at length the Jan. 27 thumbs-up or thumbs-down referendum vote on whether to join Regional School District 15 with Orrington, Dedham, SAD 63 and CSD 8. The group and school Superintendent Daniel Lee discussed the expected $2.8 million increase in costs for the first three years of the new district, of which Brewer residents would pay 44 percent, and the $244,000 penalty for not joining.

ä Approved a new three-year contract for police officers, which gives them an annual 2 percent cost-of-living raise retroactive to April 28. The contract also requires detectives who have left for the day and are called back to work be paid for a minimum of three hours, makes minor compensation time changes, and increases the boot allowance from $150 to $200.

ä Honored Ron Colley, who is now retired, for his 20 years as a Brewer firefighter.

ä Heard a plea from resident Jerry Goss, who is a Brewer High School district trustee, about improving the surface at Doyle Field. Use of the field has jumped from 12 to 15 events annually to around 60 this year.

ä Announced that the deadline is Friday to get on the Jan. 27 ballot to fill the City Council post left vacant by Michael Celli. Celli, who had one year remaining on his term, resigned last month after earning a seat in the state House of Representatives. Councilors also heard that three openings on the planning board need to be filled.

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