A facility that treats drug and alcohol abusers, felons, the mentally ill and people convicted of dangerous crimes is just three blocks away from a Coeur d'Alene elementary school, and the Coeur d'Alene school district is fighting back.
Some parents, school administrators and others are afraid it could put children in danger, but the strangest thing is this rehab center isn't new. In fact, Port of Hope located at the intersection of 23rd Street and Coeur d'Alene Avenue has been in the same building since 1991. Fernan Elementary opened it's doors in 1993, and the City of Coeur D'Alene just learned a month ago that this facility houses felons, even though it has approved several permits for the center in the last 21 years.
The Coeur d'Alene school district was also unaware of the inhabitants that occupy the center.
"We did not know there were felons there," Wendell Wardell, Chief Operations Officer for the CDA School District told KHQ Local News. The School district added they were under the impression the rehab center only housed those with drug and alcohol problems, and not people who were in the final stages of their prison term.
Jake Danible of Port of Hope spoke to KHQ via phone. He said, "We haven't changed anything in the last ten years. We've been the exact same thing, so I think this is getting a little blown out of proportion. The people we've been treating have been the exact same for the last twelve years."
Port of Hope houses offenders of drug, theft, fraud, pornography and assault crimes, but Danible says the center's proximity to Fernan Elementary poses no immediate impact, especially because of their surveillance techniques. "One of the things that's unique about us is that we monitor everyone that's there 24 hours a day," he said.
In certain situations, Port of Hope even uses GPS tracking, but CDA School District doesn't care. Even though Fernan Elementary was built two years after the rehab center, Wardell thinks it's just too close for comfort.
Port of Hope officials counter by saying the felons they treat will be in the community regardless, and it's better for them to be treated by them before they are unleashed into the community with no help.
The City of Coeur d'Alene will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, July 9 at 5:30 pm in the Coeur d'Alene Public Library to discuss a special use permit allowing Port of Hope to continue.
KHQ spoke to several neighbors of the center and school. Everyone is in agreement, including the CDA School District that there has never been an issue with a felon from Port of Hope in it's 21 year history at it's location.