If the purchase process goes smoothly, an empty building on South Haven’s main street could be occupied by an outpatient chemical dependency treatment center by summer. South Haven City Council members continued a discussion begun last month with Bill Madigan of Serenity Path about that possibility during their first meeting of the year.
Madigan had requested the council’s support for the facility in December, and is now looking at purchasing a vacant building next to LaLa’s to use as a treatment center and perhaps eventually as a halfway house for women recovering from addiction. “There is such a huge shortage of that in the state of Minnesota,” he told council members.
The building, which will take considerable work to make operational, has been tax-forfeited and is owned by the county. It would also need to hook up to sewer and water service, and the city has imposed a special assessment on the property of over $8,000 to collect unpaid fees. Madigan explained that the price of the building was about $30,000, and requested that the council waive the special assessment for Serenity Path since it is a non-profit organization. City Clerk Carol Banken told council members that waiving the fee in this case would not be an issue. “We’re already out the money,” she said. “If (the building is) sitting empty you’re not going to collect it.”
Madigan said the plan will be to restore the building in stages. “We’d open the front and run the outpatient out of that, and then slowly work on the rest of the building,” he said. ”I’m certainly not an architect, but it’s got to be $150,000 to redo that building. It’s a lot of dough, a lot more than we have now. That’s why we’re asking for a little help.”
Council members agreed to waive the assessment, and also approved a resolution stipulating that within three years of the purchase the outpatient portion of the business must be operational in order to guard against a purchase being made and no improvements ensuing. Madigan said three years was more than enough time and that the center should be open by the summer. “We don’t have a lot of money to sit around. We need to do things right away,” he said.
Serenity Path specializes in providing treatment options for those struggling with addition in rural areas that don’t have easy access to treatment centers. It currently has locations in Paynesville and Brooten. “That’s why we picked South Haven, because it’s right in an area that is being underserved,” he said, indicating that Buffalo or St. Cloud are the closest options for those seeking treatment. “It’s a vacuum,” agreed Mayor Gene Edwards.
Councilor Norm Bodeker said that if the building should become a facility where patients stay it ought to receive proper inspections. Madigan explained that Serenity Path is licensed by the state, which conducts regular reviews of its facilities to ensure code compliance. Further progress will depend on the purchase with the county and meeting state regulations for facilities.