Methadone clinic opponents stage protest - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Methadone clinic opponents stage protest

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The blaring of car horns was Ryan Lott's wake up call at a South Burlington hotel Friday.

"I was woken up rather unpleasantly this morning," said the Los Angeles-based musician.  He says the noise from at the intersection of Dorset Street and San Remo Drive sounded a lot more like traffic at home than a Friday morning in Vermont. "I just dropped my daughter off at school, down the street.  I heard a lot of noise over here and came over to see what was going on," said David Wallace.

There were no traffic tie ups or bad accidents -- the honking drivers were actually protesters.

"I think it's a good representation of what increased traffic would look like to an already congested area," said Shani Mekler, the South Burlington resident  who organized the protest to show what she says will happen when a new methadone clinic opens in a medical space -- and up to a thousand patients a day go there.

The HowardCenter's Bob Bick says that number is much higher than reality and says traffic isn't a concern.  He points out that the Development Review Board didn't consider it a factor for their permit either. "The DRB determined traffic wasn't relevant to the placement of the program. It's a medical office -- going into a medical office complex," Bick said. Bick says if the protesters are just concerned about traffic they should be circling the area down Dorset Street where a proposed Trader Joe's will be built.

Shani Mekler insists it's just about that. "We have our three main things -- parking, pedestrians and traffic -- and that's what we are here for," she said.

While it was billed as a traffic protest, most of the neighbors and parents honking said the fact that the clinic is being built near two schools is at the heart of the issue.

"I don't want a methadone clinic 400 feet from our schools. I have three boys in that school system right now," said Mike McMackin. "You've got people trying to get better in the methadone clinic -- which is good -- but you've also got drug dealers that are trying to capitalize on those guys at the clinic, who could also capitalize on the kids."  

"They have bulletproof glass and they have guards inside, but who's going to be protecting the kids on the street?" said a woman watching the protest.

Those are concerns the HowardCenter has been hearing for months. But Bick says based on their clinic already in operation, none of those fears have been realized.

The South Burlington School Board has tried numerous times to get the clinic stopped.  Residents are now making noise, but with construction set to wrap up in July, that may be all they are able to do.

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