Since Tropical Storm Irene wiped out the Waterbury state hospital and office complex, Mental Health Commissioner Patrick Flood spends most of his days and nights negotiating space for mental health patients, often trying to find an open bed in an emergency room, step-down facility or even the Springfield prison.
"We really needed to find a place it is getting desperate," Flood said. "Some of the people that we would have in this facility are in the Springfield correctional facility right now and that's just not a good setting."
More than 30 state mental health patients are scattered at six locations. Flood says many of these patients are in desperate need of a secure residential facility, not necessarily a full-blown hospital setting. Wednesday word leaked that the state had its eye on a piece of land for a space of that kind in Waterbury.
"By virtue of being in Central Vermont it means a lot of our staff that used to work at the state hospital can now come work at that facility and we think that's a strength," Flood said.
The only problem? For the past 37 years that land has been home to a 7,000 square foot flea market.
"Both vendors and shoppers like the place, how much of an impact it has positively or negatively I really don't have any way of measuring that," Waterbury Town Manager William Shepeluk said.
Shepeluk says any business brought to the town of Waterbury is a good thing, though he anticipates venders and customers will express their frustration this weekend. Shepeluk says he remains concerned about how the town will bridge the gap to 2015, when the state reopens the Waterbury office complex.
"The 1,200-1,500 people that were located at the state complex were an integral part of our economy here and we need to have those employees back," Shepeluk said.
If the state is able to negotiate a deal with the landowner, Flood says a modular unit can be built in 90 days, but planning and zoning contracts could take several weeks if not months.
The appraised land value totals $280,000. The land owner declined to comment on this story.
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