Some residents say the township is the wrong place for such a facility.
By SEAN BARRON
ELLSWORTH -- A Canfield couple hoping to open a group home for troubled teenage boys here is planning to fight a decision denying them a remodeling permit for the facility.
George Syrianoudis said he will appeal to Mahoning County Common Pleas Court after being turned down by Ellsworth Township in November for a permit to perform additional work at Redemption House, a group home he and his wife, Beth, own at 11780 W. Western Reserve Road. Syrianoudis said he applied last June for the permit that would allow him to finish work in the basement.
After Diane Dudek, township zoning inspector, denied Syrianoudis' request, he went to the township's zoning board of appeals, which upheld Dudek's decision during a Nov. 30 hearing on the matter, she explained. About a week later, a letter from the board was to have been mailed to Syrianoudis, she added.
Syrianoudis said he has yet to receive that correspondence, after which he will take his case to the appellate court. Syrianoudis added that he is being represented by Atty. Dave Betras of Boardman.
On Nov. 20, the Syrianoudises received an operating license from the state, which allows them to prepare Redemption House to accept up to 10 teenage boys with various behavior and emotional problems. Before that, Syrianoudis noted, the facility passed an inspection by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency as well as inspections for plumbing and electrical work.
The facility passed the plumbing inspection Aug. 1, 2006, a document from the Mahoning County Board of Health shows. Also on that day, it passed an electrical inspection, according to the Central Electric Inspection Bureau in Youngstown.
Nevertheless, the group home continues to generate controversy, with some residents saying the township is the wrong place for such an operation.
John Bates, a member of an opposition group called Ellsworth Concerned Citizens, worried that if any of the boys from the home ran away or afoul of the law, there would be inadequate resources to handle it. The township does not have its own police department; the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department provides protection.
Bates said other reasons he and other homeowners are against the facility are because the boys staying there will likely have little to do in the rural setting, and because the septic system on the property hasn't been updated.
In correspondence to the Ohio EPA last fall, Syrianoudis said he intends to submit a permit-to-install application for a new leaching system and other necessary equipment, and add new components to the septic system in the spring.
A Nov. 16 letter to Syrianoudis by the agency's Northeast District indicates he will be able to operate as long as the existing system is properly maintained and there's no off-lot discharge.
If he's willing to comply with such procedures and timelines, "the Redemption House may operate on an interim basis," the letter states.
Bates also said that the Western Reserve School District has about 800 pupils and is not equipped with extra classrooms and staff with special training for such boys. That lack of capacity is a main reason the school board voted unanimously to oppose Redemption House, he contended.
Chuck Swindler, the district's superintendent, said the board passed a resolution in fall 2005 opposing Syrianoudis' plan because the community and district lack resources for the boys, most of whom would likely have severe behavior problems and need individual education plans.
At the time of the vote, Swindler continued, Syrianoudis didn't have a permit or staff in place, and he had failed to approach the district to see what was available for the boys. Western Reserve also is unable to provide bus transportation for the teens, some of whom would likely need to attend an alternative school in Youngstown, which is more than an hour away, the superintendent said.
Syrianoudis said that Redemption House will have opportunities for the boys to be home-schooled through Mahoning County Unlimited Classrooms, an online program, or sent to the alternative school.
The teens will have church services and other off-site recreational activities, he countered.
Many of them will probably come from rural areas and fit in to that type of setting, and if a situation that requires the police arises, he would handle it the way other residents in the area would, Syrianoudis said.
"It's serene and relaxing with a park-like setting,' he added.
Syrianoudis noted that he plans to have at least two staff on duty with one at night and that both conditions comply with state regulations. He also has said that he will have an administrator's assistant as well as a psychologist, and that all workers will be subjected to criminal background checks.
Syrianoudis added that he hired an engineer and has made several corrections to the septic system that were required by the state EPA.