Wednesday June 27, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Morningside residents have apparently won their battle to keep a proposed methadone clinic out of their neighborhood.

Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said Tuesday night the planned drug treatment facility won't be at 15-17 Stoddard Ave.

"The owners of the property no longer want to enter into an agreement [with Spectrum]," Bianchi said. He did not elaborate on the turnaround.

Spectrum Health Services Inc. of Worcester reportedly had been targeting the mixed-use building, which has been on the market for 2 1/2 years, according to a local Realtor.

The property, which contains two offices and two apartments, is co-owned by Dr. Philip Adamo, chairman of the city's Board of Health, and Patricia Lehmann. The Eagle was unable to reach Adamo to comment on the latest development regarding the controversial clinic.

Spectrum officials have declined to comment on any aspect of the Stoddard Avenue situation.

Bianchi's announcement at the beginning of the City Council's regularly scheduled meeting was welcome news to the people who live and work in the area who spoke during the council's public comment period.

"That clinic does not belong in a residential area," said Robert Skowron of 14 Stod dard Ave.

"We're all prepared to help the city find an equitable site," he added. "We are not against the clinic."

Skowron and other Morning side residents have been vehemently opposed to the Stod dard Avenue location, especially after learning two weeks ago the site was under consideration and the mayor's office knew about it.

Debbie Dwyer of the nearby Dwyer Funeral Home at 776 North St. called for a more open discussion about potential new sites for the clinic.

"We need to have transparency on this," she said. "We need to know what's going on."

However, Bianchi noted, as he did two weeks ago, that he and Spectrum are bound a confidentiality agreement signed last year to avoid public discussion of the specifics of the proposed clinic.

The deal was signed at the end of former Mayor James M. Ruberto's administration last December after Spectrum filed a lawsuit over the city's denial of a building permit to open a clinic in downtown Pittsfield. Spectrum maintains that because it's a nonprofit educational corporation, state and federal laws exempt it from certain zoning restrictions.

"I apologize I am unable to speak more openly about this as you know we are involved in a court case," Bianchi said.

Last week, city officials indicated they are close to settling the lawsuit with Spectrum.

City officials have said the state Department of Public Health has determined Pitts field needs a methadone clinic and the city must find an appropriate site for the facility. Methadone is a drug used in the treatment of heroin addicts.

Nevertheless, some city residents feel a methadone clinic will be troublesome, not matter where it lands.

"I have seen the drug activity outside these clinics," said Beth Capitanio. "Methadone is not a cure, but a longtime replacement [for other drugs]."

Capitanio is the wife of Ward 3 Councilor Paul J. Capitanio. Nine years ago, the couple's son, Paul Jr. died from complications from drug abuse.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.