Proposed sober living facility

The county secured funding for a potential sober living facility, which is the old Eagle Times building.

CLAREMONT — Just one month after halting plans to build a sober housing facility in downtown Claremont, Sullivan County Manager Derek Ferland announced yesterday that recently procured funding has the project back on track.

On Oct. 7, Ferland told the Board of Commissioners that the county was unable to find enough additional funding to cover the cost of the project, which sought to transform the former Eagles Times building at 19 Sullivan St. into a low-cost, substance-free residence for graduates of the Transitional Reentry and Inmate Life Skills (TRAILS) program.

At that meeting, Ferland announced that a second consult from Milestone Engineering & Construction, of Concord, estimated the project cost around $3.1 million, at least $600,000 higher than the previous estimate of $2.5 million. Even with the county’s own funds of $500,000 and pending applications for grant grant funds from CDBG and New Hampshire Housing, the county would still fall short of its goal.

On Wednesday, Ferland informed the Eagle Times that since that time, New Hampshire Housing came forward with $400,000 in additional funds to the county and turned Ferland’s attention to the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides loans and capital assistance toward endeavors that enable traditionally underserved people to participate more fully in the state’s economy.

“I had no idea about that resource before then,” Ferland said.

The county also learned yesterday that the project received $500,000 in funding from a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Ferland said he waited until getting that confirmation before sending a press release, as guaranteeing the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund predicated on procuring the CDBG funding.

In a press release provided yesterday afternoon, Department of Corrections Superintendent Dave Berry said he was “relieved to be back on track.”

“The lack of a stable and alcohol/drug free living environment can be a serious obstacle to sustained recovery,” Berry said. “Destructive living environments can derail recovery for even highly motivated individuals.”

Ferland stated that the current estimate is “a worst-case number” and anticipates that the cost will likely come down as the design progresses.

The county does not have a fully developed design yet, but administrators hope to house between 40-50 inmates who are returning to the community but lack a safe living environment conducive to staying clean and sober.

At a community forum on Sept. 23, Ferland and Berry said that the program will require all residents to be employed prior to entering the sober living facility and be required to maintain a 40-hour workweek schedule. Residents with only part-time employment would need to make up the remaining hours through community service, according to Berry. This service could include volunteering a night at REMIX, a nonprofit venue for substance-free events, or The Recovery Center on Pleasant Street.

Ferland said the next steps include completing the renovation design, further consultation with the Claremont Planning Board and scheduling more public meetings if requested. “Superintendent Berry and I are happy to speak with anybody who wants to learn more about the program,” Ferland stated in closing.

Ferland may be reached by email at manager@sullivancountynh.gov or by his office phone, 603-863-2560.

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