Frankford Civic Association: April 7 meeting on proposed Bridge school for boys

Whether a school for troubled boys is a stable, controlled business to fill a trash-strewn vacant lot or a new draw for outside people recovering from addiction was the central focus of the Frankford Civic Association meeting Thursday night.

At next month’s meeting, to be held April 7, residents are encouraged to attend to ask questions and ultimately vote on supporting the Bridge along Adams Avenue, as first discussed at a public meeting last month.

“I’m torn,” said new President Brian Wisniewski. “The school has a lot of outpatient services…but the Bridge seems like a responsible facility.”

The Bridge, classified as a ‘private correctional institution’ and a program of Center City-based Public Health Management Corp., is “one of the good ones,” Wisniewski said, but residents want a moratorium on facilities that add to ‘the over saturation of recovery in Frankford.’

“Do we make an exception here and wait for another,” he asked, “Or do we try to stay strong?”

The conversation is a live one as well in Northwood, which shares the Bridge’s boundaries with Frankford and Juniata. As explained at last month’s Northwood Civic Association meeting, to build its new facility, the Bridge does need a zoning variance. As with other zoning issues, while no civic board as a say in whether the project gets approval or not, the city’s Zoning Board accepts letters of opposition or support from neighborhood groups.

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Since 1971, the Bridge facility has been on the campus of the Medical Mission Sisters at 8400 Pine Road in a big, wooded parcel of land in Fox Chase. But Medical Mission Sisters is consolidating some area facilities and is asking the Bridge to vacate so they can expand their own services. That has sent the Bridge and its parent company PHMC searching for a new location. They propose to build a new on the 8-acre parcel of land currently used for construction waste dumping between Castor and Adams avenues above Wingohocking Street.

While the Bridge focuses on housing adolescents with non-violent criminal issues, like drug and alcohol abuse, Wisniewski and other Frankford board members were concerned with its limited outpatient services, for non-resident attendees, though many are graduates of the program.

Next month, on Thursday, April 7, 2011, Representatives from the Bridge will make a presentation for their case at next month’s Frankford Civic meeting, Wisniewski said.

For the majority of the meeting, which started at 7:20 p.m., a handful of the dozen residents in attendance took part in what proved to be an open and at-times rambling conversation about the Bridge, more of coffee talk than Robert’s Rules.

Chris Gulledge, the founder of the Secret Society Car Club at 4934 Valley Street, who was in attendance to share plans for the club to make $10,000 worth of donations to neighborhood groups after a fundraiser, said by chance he was a product of the Bridge and a former employee.

“I’ve worked for a number of rehabilitation programs,” said Gulledge. “The Bridge is hands down the best program I’ve worked for.”

Gulledge did say that he last worked at the Bridge some 10 years ago. Former Northwood Civic Association President and proud rabble rouser Joe Menkevich raised environmental concerns, noting the proposed Adams Avenue lot was long used as a dumping ground.

Bridge representatives have offered neighborhood improvisos around security, accountability and what would happen if the Bridge would look to someday sell the building it would construct, Wisniewski said.

“But I just can’t be sure this isn’t going to hurt us more in the long run,” he said. “We’ll find out next month.”

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