Questions remain after Itasca's first hearing on Haymarket proposal
Hundreds of Itasca residents attended a public hearing this week seeking information about plans to open an addiction treatment center in their village.
More than 2½ hours later, they left without any answers.
"I'm pretty disappointed that we didn't get into more of the details of the proposal itself," Jennifer Kepp-Muzzo said after the Wednesday night session.
The Itasca resident was among more than 1,000 who filled the gymnasium at Lake Park High School's west campus in Roselle for the first of several scheduled meetings on Haymarket Center's plan to convert a Holiday Inn into a 240-bed facility for patients with substance use disorders.
Haymarket managed to get though only part of its presentation before plan commissioners continued the meeting to Monday, Oct. 28.
Supporters of the nonprofit treatment provider say the proposed Itasca facility would help address the suburban opioid crisis. So it's not surprising that Haymarket began the hearing by calling witnesses who talked about the need for a treatment center in DuPage County.
One of them was Dominic Ranieri, a Haymarket patient in recovery.
"I'm a living example," Ranieri said. "Haymarket made a tremendous impact on my life."
Ranieri, who grew up in Itasca, started receiving care two years ago at Haymarket's headquarters in Chicago's West Loop.
"I was determined, and I never quit," he said. "And now two short years later, there I am ... trying to make a difference."
He tried to dispel misconceptions about addicts.
"We're not bad people," Ranieri said. "We just made real bad decisions."
Itasca residents opposing Haymarket's proposal say they agree treatment should be available for those who need it. But they say Itasca is too small to support a 240-bed facility.
In addition to costing the town tax revenue, the center would put a strain on police and emergency services, the opponents say. The fire protection district has one ambulance and needed voters to approve a property tax hike last fall to help balance its budget.
So residents were hoping to get responses to their questions about the project, said Dustin Sneath, an administrator of the "No Itasca Haymarket" Facebook group.
"As important as some of the emotional arguments may be, that's not what we were all here for," Sneath said after meeting. "It's disappointing that we're going to have to continue this to another three-hour hearing just to get to any of the technical details we've been concerned about all along."
The handful of witnesses who spoke during Haymarket's presentation were unable to respond to many of the questions posed by residents.
Mike Roth, an attorney for Haymarket, said there will be testimony explaining why the hotel in Itasca is a good location for a health care facility.
He said Haymarket intends to prove its use of the property will have only "a nominal impact, if any," on taxing bodies in Itasca. They also will show that the facility won't put a strain on ambulance service in the village, Roth said.
Kepp-Muzzo said it was encouraging to hear that Haymarket will have "more expert witnesses who will be addressing some of our specific concerns about resource use and economic impacts as well as how Haymarket provides care."
"I hope the next meeting will provide more clarity on those points," she said.
Meanwhile, some residents are suggesting that Haymarket consider having smaller sites throughout DuPage.
"I don't think a mega-facility of this size can be in any town other than the city of Chicago," said Paula Pattelli of Itasca. "It's too big."
She said a fiscally intelligent plan would be to have treatment facilities with 10 to 20 beds scattered around the county.
"Every town can have a proportionately appropriate facility based on population and resources," Pattelli said. "Then one town within the county isn't shouldering the burden."