While a community agency announced last week that it was withdrawing a proposed facility for troubled youths from a site in Hamburg, about 50 residents came to hear it for themselves during Monday night's Village Board meeting.
"It was clear the people in the community were uncomfortable with the site of that non-secure facility," said County Legislator Jeanne Z. Chase, R-Evans.
Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth had proposed locating a facility for PINS (Persons In Need of Supervision) at two buildings behind Holiday Village Plaza. The agency has an agreement with Erie County to provide the facility for 16 to 24 young people and is searching for a location.
"We are not wedded to any site," Deputy County Executive Carl J. Calabrese told Hamburg residents Monday night. "The county executive wants to be a good neighbor, wants the agencies we're dealing with to be good neighbors."
Chase said, "If they're coming from a situation where maybe they have been abandoned by their parents -- which is why they're out of control at school or not in school -- they don't need to feel abandoned by the community that they're surrounded by. They need to be embraced by it."
Some residents living nearby said Holiday Village Plaza was not the place for such a facility.
"I don't think it's appropriate to put it in a neighborhood," said Barbara Tanner of Holiday Lane. "I hope they get help, and I hope they get straightened out. I don't want it done in my neighborhood."
"We have those children in our neighborhoods now. You just don't know they're in your neighborhood right now," said Trustee Margaret Moses, who also serves as vice principal at Union Pleasant Elementary School. "I have dealt with those children, and they are here in our community."
Frances Schena of Sunset Drive said she was shocked when she learned of the proposed location.
"My heart goes out to them," she said, but "the rest of us shouldn't have to be penalized."
A Hamburg High School senior attending the Village Board meeting as part of her Participation in Government class said it was upsetting that some residents would be afraid that their property values would go down if the facility came to Hamburg. Alison Dusch said she could have benefited from the Persons In Need of Supervision program when she was 15 and giving her parents a hard time.
"I'm not a criminal. I've never committed any crime, but I did have a behavioral problem, meaning I was just way too defiant," she said. "I live next door to all of you. I live right in your neighborhood."
Calabrese said Berkshire Farm is evaluating several other sites. A spokesman for Berkshire Farm said they include locations on Eden Evans Center and Bordon roads. L. Nathan Hare, western region director of services for Berkshire Farm, said southern and northern Buffalo also are under consideration. "It is up to them to choose one," Calabrese said. "They would then have to comply with any local ordinances, special-use permits, zoning, anything like that."