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Eden School Board opposes proposed group home

Eden Board of Education members have taken a stand against a proposed group home for the developmentally disabled.

School Board members voted to oppose the group home proposed for 8621 Jennings Road in the Town of Eden on Wednesday night.

In a written statement, the board pointed to the fear of sex offenders living less than a mile from the junior-senior high school and the “sufficient” number of similar facilities in the town.

The board wrote it “would be particularly inappropriate and unsafe to allow such a facility where it is currently proposed and where it would alter the existing agricultural nature of the neighborhood, create a sense of unease to the existing residents and pose a potential danger to our students.”

Board members also argued the town already has more of those facilities per capita than neighboring towns.

Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled has expressed its interest in buying the vacant property at the East Church Street intersection and constructing a house for up to six developmentally disabled residents.

Specifics such as the number, ages and sex of residents have not been determined. They may be adults or adolescents.

A Community Services representative, Mindy Cervoni, addressed the crowd at the Town Board meeting June 24. When asked about the possibility of convicted sex offenders living there, she said the organization “would consider” housing them.

Cervoni, the organization’s vice president of programs and chief operating officer, told residents she is unsure how many staff members would supervise the home’s residents or how many hours they would spend there. She added that would depend on the number of residents and what kind of help they need.

Town Board members will discuss the group home again Wednesday night.

A Board of Education member who lives near the site revealed what a neighbor who works for Community Services told him.

“Her opinion is you don’t want them there,” said Paul Shephard, who also objected to the proposal during the Town Board meeting and the previous Board of Education meeting.

A new School Board member, Jennifer Horschel, raised questions. She attended the Town Board meeting and said she has been researching the issue since.

As a speech language pathologist in the Frontier Central School District, she has worked with the developmentally disabled, and emphasized that her contacts told her residents sometimes leave group homes without authorization. Known as “runners,” some of those residents have been convicted of sexual or violent crimes, she said.

In other business, during the reorganization meeting, the board re-elected Michael Byrnes as president and Michael Breeden as vice president.

Board members also scheduled a special meeting for 7:30 p.m. July 10 in the junior-senior high school’s cafeteria to conduct a public hearing about changing the students’ code of conduct.