Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mental-health board trims

By Erica Solvig
Enquirer staff writer

LEBANON - The Warren County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities is reducing its proposed expansion project in an effort to cut the price in half.

But the cost-cutting measures presented to commissioners Tuesday have their downside. The revised expansion could serve 65 participants at a time, while earlier plans would have accommodated more than 100.

"We're still going to be overcrowded," the agency's deputy superintendent, Michael Virelli, said after the meeting. "This definitely doesn't meet our needs. But at least it's a stop that helps fills the gap."

Commissioners had earlier balked at the $2.2 million cost of renovating Urbancrest, an old Lebanon church that commissioners lease to the board. In an effort to address their concerns and stretch levy dollars a bit longer, the agency retooled its ideas and refocused the project, said Virelli, who is taking over as superintendent this week when John Lazares retires.

"It was a change of use," operations director Pete Mason said. "We went from a total focus on habilitation use to more of a mixed-use space."

Instead of seven habilitation units - each requiring significant equipment, plumbing and other infrastructure - the new building will have three. Some proposed classrooms were taken out.

The new location, which could be completed next year, will be named the Warren C. Young Center, in honor of the late judge who was a board member.

Agency representatives told commissioners Tuesday that, while they don't have a final price, they expect the cost to be less than $1 million.


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