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BELLMEAD

Local Residents, School Officials Voice Concerns Over Residential Treatment Facility

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BELLMEAD - A proposed East Waco residential treatment center is not exactly being welcomed with open arms.

Snugg Harbor would house 90 boys with emotional, mental and severe behavior disorders. This facility would be located in the boundaries of La Vega Independent School District.

On Tuesday, residents and school officials expressed concerns about some of the kids potentially going to school in La Vega ISD at packed Board of Trustees meeting.

Board president Randy Devorsky said this could affect the district’s finances and teaching. He said currently one teacher usually has up to 24 students in a classroom. If more kids come to the district, more teachers and more classroom space will be needed, which could cost up to $1 million.

"There is not a $1 million available. In the last few years we've lost $1 million a year without any problems. This year we're just going to break even. $1 million is a lot to anybody, and you just don't have the money," said Devorsky.

La Vega ISD superintendent Dr. Sharon M. Shields said if the district has to open its doors to these students, the cost would fall back on taxpayers.

Several residents agree the school district cannot afford it and they fear some programs may be cut.

When Shields asked residents during the Tuesday meeting to stand up if they opposed to the proposed facility, the majority of those attending did.

Some residents are even signing a petition to prevent licensing for the residential treatment center. However, this would not exclude the facility from receiving an initial license. Currently, Snugg Harbor owner Rosalyn Ruffin is in the application process to get a residential child care license.

"Residential Child Care Licensing will take into consideration all comments and concerns of the community. Snugg Harbor is still in the application phase and opposition from the community alone won't exclude Snugg Harbor from receiving an initial license to operate," said the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

If Ruffin receives a license, she needs to get a special permit from the city council. According to the Waco Planning Services Director Clint Peters Ruffin has not submitted that permit request.
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