I received a call from Mayor Platt. He has sent a letter to the Governor about how this whole group home situation is playing out. He realizes how we (including him) were blindsided by both the state DCFS and NJ Mentor. He passed along the information to me about the group meeting prior to the newspaper article. I have been working late most nights and this is my first access to the website in a while.
It looks like the DCFS commissioner does not want to make a decision about opening this home until he speaks to members of the community. However, the mob scene in Council Chambers did not give anyone a chance to address any of the issues. Once again we need to get the questions on the table so that real answers take place. My vote for the people representing the community at the meeting is the direct neighbors, the Gornowski and Chechet's. I think that Dan McAllister has dug up a lot of information and would be very useful at the meeting. There are a few others that have been ferreting out information as well and may be good additions to our group of representatives.
My feeling on this whole thing is DCFS awarded the multi-million dollar contract single year contract. Scioto Porperties bought the house. NJ Mentor entered into a 7 year lease. There's a lot of money out there already. Since the state has the power to supercede local ordinances they pretty much have carte blanche. I feel that with these indicators, it's almost a done deal. We did raise quite a ruckus but nothing was accomplished except them requesting a smaller meeting where the real issues can be discussed.
If this is in fact a done deal, our neighborhood has no faith in NJ Mentor at this time. The house was purchased by an unidentifiable subsidiary of Scioto Properties. Despite assurances at the meeting by NJ Mentor, the RFP had specifics such as adjudicated youth, youth with sexual proplems, and fire setters. The RFP was for 60 youth. Since the deception is documented and I feel we are already backed into a corner, I could only feel comfortable with this group home if we enter into a written contract with DCFS to restrict the type of residents in this group home. We can try to get the township attorney to help us out with this. We should also see what sort of compensation the state is willing to provide since they added a hidden 15 - 20 % real estate tax on us with the reduction of our property values.
I really don't know what will become of this meeting. The mayor will inform me when the meeting will take place. He assured me that the red "Do not occupy" sticker on the front door will not come down until he is informed by the DCFS commissioner. The commissioner wants to speak to representatives of the community first. I will let you know how many and where when I find out.