Locals in St. Francois County fight to keep a halfway house away
By: CJ Cassidy
By: CJ Cassidy
ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY, Mo. - How would you feel if someone wanted to build a halfway house in your neighborhood? Some Southeast Missouri residents say they're shocked.
So far, no one has actually been awarded a contract to go ahead with the construction near Farmington. The Dismas House of St. Louis owns the property. Recently county leaders tried to block construction with a restraining order, but a judge denied that request.
The Botkin family bought a house on Gillespie Road two years ago, because the image of quiet country living appealed to them. Now Heather Botkin worries - should proposed construction of a halfway house go through, it could shatter the peace and quiet. "The Farmington School District has 53 bus stops that surround this place. Park Hills has 25, so there's the potential for direct contact with our children," she explains, holding her four year old son close.
Botkin and more than 2000 others signed a petition asking county leaders to oppose the construction of the halfway house. Congresswoman Joann Emerson's office has since forwarded the petition on to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Behind the push to build the house and support a reentry program for released inmates; leaders at the Dismas House of St. Louis. Director John Flatley says some of signatures residents collected didn't have addresses, and the ones that did had zip codes of people living 10 to 20 miles away. "We're concerned about them wandering onto our own properties doing goodness knows what," Rick Wilson says.
He lives next to the proposed site, and admits signatures came from more than just his neighbors. "These folks have to have jobs. It's part of their reentry program, so it's going to affect people in town," he explains. "It would cut property values in half," real estate developer Gil Brushie says.
He adds, say goodbye to a respectable neighborhood. "I don't know who else would come in here unless it was the families of the convicts," he says. "We can't put one of these facilities in the middle of a residential neighborhood," Botkins adds.
County Sheriff Dan Bullock tells me he understands Botkins and her neighbors' concerns, because he can't assign a deputy to patrol that neighborhood all the time. He believes the county does enough to support the department of corrections and hopes the halfway house can be built in another location.