Laney Walker residents unsure about halfway house in neighborhood

Some Laney Walker area residents are hesitant about the possibility of a federal transitional facility locating just minutes away from their homes.

A public hearing was held Monday following the monthly Augusta Planning Commission meeting about a potential 6,900-square-foot residential re-entry center on a half-acre at 802 Seventh St. where a vacant building currently stands.

The hearing was required by law as Nebraska-based Western Alternative Corrections Inc. seeks a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons for a center that could house both newly-released prisoners and patients of a rehabilitation facility.

“It’s a great opportunity to do something with an old building that is currently sitting empty,” said Blanchard and Calhoun Property Management Director Davis Beman, who aided the company in finding a location.

Michelle Hultine, of Western Alternative Corrections, said the federal bureau deemed that such a facility was needed in Augusta and her company simply responded to that request. Zoning action would be required between six to nine months from the hearing date.

A handful of homeowners who spoke at the meeting were mostly concerned about additional drug activity and their own safety. They also pointed out that a similar state transitional facility exists across the street from the site in question and has caused them a host of problems stemming from a lack of supervision.

“It’s hazardous enough over there,” said Cassandra Bowdre, who lives on nearby Adams Street. “There’s enough crime in the neighborhood already without putting these people down here and nobody’s monitoring them like they’re supposed to.”

Western Alternative Corrections ensures through case managers that residents don’t leave without permission, Hultine said. They also are drug-tested randomly at least once weekly, searched upon re-entry into the facility and are required to work.

The federal contract calls for 35 residents, both male and female, in the facility. Hultine’s partner and brother, Marc Hultine, said the building would be designed to hold 58 people, who would likely stay between three and six months.

Western Alternative currently operates a similar center in the historic downtown district of Hastings, Neb., Michelle Hultine said.

“Our residents are very valued in our community,” she said. “They’re very present in cleaning up the downtown. We are an asset to our community, and if you give us the opportunity, I think that would come to be here as well.”

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Sat, 12/03/2016 - 00:51

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