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Letter to the Editor for August 2001

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Dear Editor,

Your recent report [Town Holds Hearing on Group Home June, 2001] about controversial attempts by Mr. James Blue and Ms. Gearline Bryan to open a youth home in a structurally suspect home in Riverdale Park is welcome. Here are some more facts that are important for all townspeople, not just the limited number who were invited to the town meeting.

It is important to note that the current "B&B" proposal by Ms. Bryan came forth only after Mr. Blue's own Port Hope youth home proposal at the same address was dropped. Blue was also forced to close some nearby facilities due to dangerous conditions for the youth. The State of Maryland Facility Inspector clearly refuted Ms. Bryan's repeated assertions that he had declared the Blue building structurally sound. He expressed surprise and interest in the fact that several previous buyers had backed out on contracts when it failed inspections by structural engineers. In fact, since Mr. Blue bought the house last year, it has been cited for numerous safety code violations.

A chief concern of many neighborhood residents is the danger to the youth posed by the unprotected section of the nation's busiest CSX tracks that lie within 200 feet of the property, with high-speed freight and commuter trains constantly passing. Maryland COMAR Regulations clearly state that the licensee must make provisions to prevent children from accessing potentially unsafe areas. Yet the B&B team did not offer a safety plan.

Serious questions were raised about management capacity. Ms. Bryan is currently the Executive Director of F&N Children's Youth Home Inc.--which recently lost its business charter because of failure to pay Maryland property taxes. The Silver Spring phone number for Ms. Bryan and F&N has been disconnected. Ms. Bryan said that they had not yet developed the "B&B" group home's operational plans even though they are required by the State of Maryland COMAR regulations 01.04.01. The "B&B" business plan Ms. Bryan reluctantly promised to share with the Town and residents has not been produced, yet.

We were hopeful that the town meeting with the B&B team would assure residents that their group home would be well-managed, safe environment for the children they would serve, and would address safety concerns. It seems to have only raised more. It is disappointing that the B&B team seems to place so little interest in building a positive, trustful relationship with the Town and its residents. A key COMAR requirement is that operators integrate the children into the life of the community. The "B&B" team has set a poor precedent in Riverdale Park.

Maryland has thousands of troubled youth who need help and guidance to grown into responsible adults. The track records of Bryan F&N program and Blue's Port Hope program bode poorly for the "B&B" proposal and for the youth who would be entrusted in their care.

Joseph P. Toscano, Jr.
Tracey J. Toscano
4609 Oliver Street

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