Residents question use of former OLBH property

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2022

Don’t want addiction recovery unit put in

RUSSELL, Ky.  – There were lawyers in the house Thursday at a public hearing by the Greenup County Joint Planning Commission, but they weren’t there professionally.

Instead, they were there to question whether the subdivision of the former Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital was a good idea.

Email newsletter signup

In actuality, splitting the property into three parts wasn’t the concern for most of those who attended the hearing.

Their opposition stemmed from who the buyer of two pieces, the former hospital itself and its mental health unit would be. ARC, an addiction recovery program headquartered in Louisa, Ky., plans to open a residential treatment facility there.

The other buildings on the former hospital campus, including the same-day surgery center building, the adjacent parking garage and the building which houses the KDMC Vitality Center and offices, would be the other piece of property after the subdivision.

A subdivision would be required for any purchaser of the old hospital and mental health treatment center.

Tom Saylor, long-time chairman of the commission, explained that the only purpose of the hearing was to gain input on the subdivision itself. By the end of the evening, however, the plans by ARC were very much in discussion.

Amy Craft, an attorney who lives in Russell, Ky, said her concern was for the community and its safety. She told the commission members they should think about how the subdivision benefits the community and those who live nearby.

“We have to consider more than financial benefit,” she said. “We need to consider community benefit.”

Her concern was seconded by others who came to the microphone, including one who said she feared what would happen if those who residents decided to leave.

She said she hated to imagine that someone like her grandmother, whose physician is located there, might be robbed as she goes to see her physician.

As the hearing went on, tension rose in the room. Finally, John Wilson, Community CEO for ARC, asked to speak. He told the group that despite what some audience members said, the success of the ARC program was high and that the goal of ARC, a Christian-based program, was to take people from addiction into a productive life.

He spoke of its Crisis to Career program which begins with stabilization and moves on to recovery and life skills, taking action and providing job skills and education.

Some who addressed the commission suggested that the hospital could be used for a free-standing surgery center or nursing home. Wilson said that the unused building has deteriorated since it was closed in 2020, and that ARC is ready to invest $8 million to bring it up to code.

The planning commission will meet again to make its decision which will then be presented to the Russell City Council. Saylor told the group that while the commission is given final say under state law, the precedent for over 40 years has been to give its recommendation to the city or county governing body.

“The Russell City Council has three choices,” he said. “They can approve, they can schedule a public hearing before making a decision or they can deny. Our recommendation will be on subdividing the property only without taking the nature of the purchaser into consideration.”

The date for the next commission hasn’t been set.