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Concerns expressed over methodone clinic proposal in Berwyn

Published: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 2:33 p.m. CDT

BERWYN – A plan being put together by two Berwyn alderman to open a clinic known for methodone treatment in the former Elks Club building has created a buzz on the Internet and raised concerns of residents.

Elizabeth Kurr presented her thoughts on the plan during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting Tuesday. Kurr said she thought there may be safety risks associated with relocating the clinic to the building at 2600 S. Ridgeland Ave., and that she felt it was inappropriate for seated council members to be involved in such an enterprise.

Seventh Ward Alderman Rafael Avila, a realtor for Pillar Real Estate, and Fifth Ward Alderman Cesar Santoy, an architect by profession, are involved in the proposal from the Pilsen Wellness Center, 2319 South Damen Ave., Chicago, to open a clinic in the former Elk's Lodge, 2600 Ridgeland Ave.

"It is my understanding that the Pilsen Wellness Center provides outpatient methadone treatment," Kurr said. "It is for that reason that I believe that the Pilsen Wellness Center presents a safety and security risk that is not appropriate for a largely residential area that is in close proximity to Hiawatha, Komensky, and Freedom schools."

Santoy said he was approached by the Wellness Center, a longtime client of his, expressing interest in the Elk's Lodge building. With any real estate transaction a buyer needs an agent, Santoy said. Over the years, he has been in the position to refer agents to customers, and in this case, he referred them to Avila, he said.

He added that methodone treatments will have no place in the proposed clinic.

"I want to be very clear, [the dispensing of] methadone was never, ever on the table for this site," he said. "It's a false rumor. There will never, never be methodone in this building. From day one that was communicated to everyone at the Wellness Center. It's been put in writing."

Kurr also addressed concerns over the possibility of conflict of interest.

"I am troubled by the conflict of interest that this proposal presents in that its implementation would financially benefit two sitting city council members," Kurr said. "Such self-dealing is neither acceptable, nor appropriate for city government employees and officials."

Mayor Robert Lovero said that neither of the aldermen would be allowed to vote on any matter related to the proposal because that would indeed be a conflict of interest and they are prohibited by statute from any decision making because of their involvement.

Santoy reaffirmed that he would have no part in approving the proposal.

"As alderman I would recuse myself from any decisions," he said. "That's why we have processes or procedures."

Santoy also defended the proposal as something that a large segment of the community will benefit from.

Lovero added that the proposal is still in its infancy and that a public hearing on the plan will be scheduled in the coming months.

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