Supervisors consider reversing rehab center ban

Published 12:08 am Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bruce Everett has a vision, and a calling, to save lives. He also has the money to make it happen. Now all he needs is for the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors to overturn an 10-year-old ordinance that is keeping him from making it a reality.

At Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Everett asked board members to overturn a 1999 county ordinance banning rehabilitation centers from opening anywhere within the county. “I want to thank the board for allowing me to address something placed upon my heart and mind,” said Everett. “I am asking you to overturn the 1997 ordinance prohibiting the construction of drug rehab buildings,” said Everett.

Though referred to as a 1997 ordinance, it was actuallypassed in 1999, according to county records.

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Everett, who has a four-year degree in child and family education with am emphasis in counseling, said that the center would be “God-led.”

“It will be called A New Life Ministry and Rehab,” Everett said, adding that he was looking at property on Caesar Road for the co-ed facility. “I am coming into a settlement,” said Everett. “And I have grant writers ready to get started.”

Everett said that if the ordinance was reversed, the center not only would bring short-term jobs to the area, but long-term as well. “If reversed it will bring jobs,” he said, listing employment opportunities from the land surveyor to the construction workers to the landscapers. “And then there are the long-term jobs such as the director, the counselors, the nurses, the kitchen help, the security guards.”

He said that if the ordinance was overturned the county would be addressing a significant social problem not just ignoring it.

“It will help decrease crime and the jail population,” said Everett, adding that people with drug addictions “do not have clear minds” because their focus is solely on obtaining more drugs, and that in turn leads to more crime, thus more inmates in the county jail and state prisons.

“This will help save lives and keep families together,” said Everett. “Once a person completes the program, they can become productive members of the community.”

Most board members agreed with Everett that the ordinance did not serve a useful purpose in today’s world.

“This ordinance was written in ’97,” said Hudson Holliday of District 3. “I think it was written to prevent a rehab center from building in certain areas.” Holliday, added that he believed the board which adopted the ordinance was limited in how to draft such a law given the county does not have zoning laws. He said that now-board president Anthony Hales, District 1 had voted against it in 1997.

“I am in favor of reversing it,” Holliday said.

Hales agreed, saying that he remembered it was passed to stop one rehab center in particular that was, at the time, just in the talking about stage. “People are afraid of anything different,” said Hales, adding that he has personally seen what drugs can do to a family and that ultimately drug addictions will lead someone to jail. “We need to address the problem not just lock them up,” said Hales.

Hales said the ’97 ordinance, the way it is written, probably would not hold up in court, telling board members that the way he reads it, even the county jail is in violation of it. “According to me, this document means even the jail is illegal,” said Hales.

Everett assured board members that there would be round-the-clock security, seven days a week at the center, that the men and women would be housed in totally separate areas, and that some grants would be available for those who wanted the help but who could not otherwise afford it.

“The cost will be based on a sliding scale,” said Everett. “And through grants we will be offering it at no cost to those who can’t afford it but want it.”

The supervisors agreed to take a look at the ordinance as well as Everett’s proposal and bring the matter up before another board meeting.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 26, in the meeting room of the Board of Supervisors.