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Tusten in uproar over Narrowsburg School

Joan Buto, who won the bid for the abandoned Narrowsburg School, speaks at the Tusten Town Board meeting on July 8. She was met with opposition from the audience.
TRR photos by Isabel Braverman

By Isabel Braverman
July 9, 2014

NARROWSBURG, NY — At the Tusten Town Board meeting last night, about 100 citizens came to voice their opinion against the Narrowsburg School becoming a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center—and they did so loudly. Joan Buto, who won the bid for the school, made her first public appearance at the meeting, and she was met with many questions, criticisms and opposition.

Buto and her lawyer Bob Lander came to the meeting to assuage people’s fears of the imminent rehab and to answer their questions. “After hearing the public outcry and concern, we thought it best to come here, Joan and I, to look you in the eye and explain what is going to happen,” Lander said. “We are not going to be evil,” he added.

Lander made a short presentation, saying that the future residents at the rehab would be there willingly and not mandated by the court. They would also be allowed to leave at any time and they would immediately be transported back to where they came from. They would not be allowed to roam the streets, and must stay in the facility at all times. If they must leave, the facility would have vans to take them to where they need to go.

Lander’s presentation was met with shouting from some of the people in attendance. And when Buto got up to speak, there was even more shouting. Supervisor Carol Wingert frequently had to tell people to not speak when other people are speaking, and she said if they do they will be asked to leave. “You need to be polite and respectful,” she said.

Buto said she wants to be a part of the community, and live and work here. She said their rehab facility in Florida, Changes, has two locations. One is an apartment building in a residential area, and the other is the medical facility located in a strip mall between a day care and a restaurant, and there have been no complaints. Citizens demanded documents, licenses, and names of people who live near the rehab so they can contact them. She said she will own and operate the rehab here, and that she is the sole buyer of the building and did not receive funding from investors. Buto also said they will have 24-hour security.

Narrowsburg resident Iris Helfeld prepared many questions for Buto, among them asking how Buto has had such success with the rehab in Florida in one year, has she conducted any research to determine how many Narrowsburg residents would be qualified to be employed at the rehab, which business would they support, and what makes the school ideal for a rehab?

In other news:
Tusten goes solar
Amidst the hullabaloo at the previous two town meetings, some good news emerged: the town board awarded the solar bid to Atlantech, which means Tusten will be the first municipality in Sullivan County to go solar. Supervisor Carol Wingert announced this at the meeting and it was met with applause.

From Brandi Merolla of the Tusten Energy Committee who was instrumental in getting the solar panels: "Two and a half years ago our volunteer committee vowed to reduce the carbon footprint of the town. We couldn't be happier to have found a solar company that met all of our requirements. The solar array will be mounted on town-owned land at no expense to the town.
In 25 years we expect to save the town approximately $634,000 on our electric bills for all town-owned buildings, facilities and streetlights. We are thrilled!"