Skip to main content

Recovery Services, planners clash over office

Empty
Members of the Columbia County Opiate Subcommittee, pictured from left: Beth Schuster, executive director of Twin County Recovery Services; Claire Parde, executive director of the Healthcare Consortium; and Robert Gibson, acting commissioner of the Columbia County Department of Social Services. Twin County Recovery received $1.1 million is federal funds to expand in Greene County.
October 11, 2017 - 11:30 pm Updated: October 12, 2017 - 12:02 am

CAIRO — A new office space in Cairo for the Twin County Recovery Services has received much more attention than expected.

The office is on the second floor of Gallagher’s Banquet on 513 Main St. in Cairo and it functions strictly as an office. It began use in September.

Twin County Recovery Services assists people battling addiction and substance abuse in Greene and Columbia counties. Officials decided to open a Cairo location after receiving $1.1 million in federal funds in September to expand itsservices in the rural and mountain areas of Greene County.

Planning Board Chairman Ray Pacifico said officials did not follow procedure in setting up in the office.

“As far as we’re concerned they did it behind the scenes,” Pacifico said. “It’s disrespectful and a lack of courtesy to the town.”

Pacifico said he didn’t know about the Cairo location until he read a newspaper story in September.

Twin County Recovery Services has refused to attend site plan reviews and public hearings regarding the use of space, leaving several unanswered questions for the public, Pacifico said.

“We’re not questioning if it’s a needed thing,” Pacifico said. “We’re questioning if it’s needed on the second floor or if there’s a better spot for it.”

Pacifico said there is only an approved certificate of occupancy on the second floor as a residence and it was never approved for commerical use.

“They’re saying they don’t need to come to the town because they got it approved in 2004,” Pacifico said. “You still need to update it to current building codes and tell everyone what you’re doing.”

“Acting like they have approval is just not right,” Pacifico said. “They’re not showing us anything in writing that they have approval for the second floor.”

The building functions as a banquet hall on the first floor and as residential/office space on the second floor.

Pacifico said there is a certificate of occupancy to conduct commercial business on the first floor but not the second floor.

“They’re verbally saying it’s just office space,” Pacifico said. “Until we have site plan review and public hearing, then we’ll find out what they want to do.”

Ana Galeano, an attorney representing Twin County Recovery Services, and landlord John Gallagher, said Gallagher has been using the second floor as an office space for more than a decade.

“In 2004 he consulted with building code enforcement regarding plans to use the first floor as a banquet hall and second floor as part residential and part office space,” Galeano said. “In 2006 he rented both the banquet hall and second floor office space for public use.”

Neither the first floor nor second floor required a site plan review or public hearing until Twin County Recovery Services wanted to use the space, Galeano said.

Gallagher, who purchased the building in 1999, has hosted numerous county and town meetings there at no cost, Galeano said.

Galeano said Gallagher feels he shouldn’t have to go through a process to allow the use of office space because he has already gone through it.

“It’s not John’s intention not to cooperate,” Galeano said. “He’s been there for years.”

By law, the second-floor office space cannot be used for anything other than pushing paper, Galeano said.

“You have to keep in mind, this is not a business,” she said.

As for the purpose of the office, it remains good news.

Lori Torgersen, the new program manager for the funds awarded to the Twin County Recovery Services, said the focus of the grant is outreach.

“It’s about engaging people in treatment,” she said. “Many of the people live here already — they’re not coming from other places — we know there are people here with the disease of addiction.”

Greene County has the fourth highest death rate from opioid use among rural counties in the state, Torgersen said.

As program manager, Torgersen said implementing the grant funds will exclusively go toward dealing with the opioid crisis in Greene County.

“These are people not currently getting treatment — addiction is a treatable disease,” she said. “The grant is intended to outreach all throughout our rural county.”

Ways for outreach include helping people engage the treatment system and removing obstacles from doing so, which can come from many things such as transportation or even lack of knowledge that such services exist.

A program funded by the grant now underway involves the jail system in Greene County, said Torgersen, who is also a county legislator from Windham.

“To connect people who are in and out of jail because of their disease with the existing treatment program,” Torgersen said. “It’s an opportunity to engage people who need it.”

Another advantage of the program, lawmakers hope, is that it will reduce jail incarceration rates and, in turn, reduce costs.

The office space in Cairo is not a clinic and was selected solely based on the town’s location as the geographical center of Greene County, Torgersen said.

“It’s so the staff can meet centrally,” she said. “It’s not a clinic — there already is a clinic in Catskill.”

Officials want a centralized location for Twin County Recovery Services because of the travel necessary to make outreach successful.

“It’s an office space to coordinate our help,” Torgersen said.

To reach reporter Anthony Fiducia, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2309 or email afiducia@registerstar.com.