by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
UPDATED ONLY IN HUNTINGTON... Unlicensed Halfway House Operating on Tenth Avenue
FILE PHOTO

Residents in the 1000 block of Tenth Avenue have made Huntington City Council aware of an unlicensed half-way house with seven to nine inmates already on the property. According to resident Brian Foster, a landlord rented it to a woman on home confinement.  City Attorney Scott Damron confirmed he met with the woman  for two hours last week.

Damron issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"After having been informed that people remain at the house, we have prepared the necessary pleadings to seek a preliminary injunction against the owner and tenant of the house. We agree with the residents that the operation of the private halfway house is illegal and is an inappropriate use of the property. For this reason, we have acted swiftly to determine the facts and will be filing the injunction complaint on Wednesday, April 25th."

The house has been in operation for at least a month.

Foster asked council to intervene.

"Who releases these inmates to an unlicensed house next door to me," he told them at the Good and Welfare portion of the Monday meeting.

City Attorney Scott Damron admitted talking to the woman adding it was misrepresented sd  a sober living house to the jails, which have released prisoners to the facility.

Foster and others have been working since last week to have the inmates removed from the property.  He explained, the property owner determined he needed to earn money from the property and has set up an L.L.C.  

Prior to meeting with the assistant city attorney last week, Foster met with planning director Bre Shell whom he described as extremely helpful. The street has an R-5 zoning, which he told members, was for one exception already in the block. Shortly thereafter, he said, a representative of the halfway house called and inquired about what permits and licensing were necessary.

Damron told council members that he had spoken to representatives from the Western Regional (and other) jails. "They will recall all prisoners," he said. 

That was supposed to have occurred LAST WEEK. Damron said if they are not removed from the location by week's end, he will file a complaint.

Council members like Joyce Clark said, "This is baffling."

Mike Shockley said, "You can't release inmates on impression ... with no permits in place."

Tonia Page was not surprised. "We have houses put in neighborhoods for drug rehabilitation that we know nothing about (in advance)."  The District 5 representative told the Southside resident, "I understand what you are going through it needs to stop." 

At large council member Carol Polan  said, "We have a responsibility to sort through this, " expressing displeasure that "seven to nine souls" had been placed in a residential house without the knowledge of the fire or police departments. She asked that a committee be formed to tackle the task or a referral be made to an existing committee.

Damron volunteered , "This is an attempt to privatize the closed (work release ) facility on Fifth Avenue."

A second speaker inquired, "What's a person on home confinement doing forming a business to bring others on home confinement (there)? "

No motions were made, pending the outcome suggested by Damron.