Health Department refuses to reconsider approval of center's plan

Tuesday, June 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The state Health Department on Monday denied a request by some homeowners to reconsider the agency's approval of a drug rehabilitation center's plan to move to Arrowhead Lodge.

Trustees representing residents of Arrowhead Estates had asked the department to hold a public hearing concerning Narconon's plan to move its Chilocco New Life Center from Newkirk to Arrowhead Lodge in Pittsburg County.

Trustees wanted the state to revoke a certificate of need granted to Narconon on May 2.

But in a two-page order Monday, acting Health Department Commissioner Jerry Regier denied the trustees' request based on their "failure to show good cause for reconsideration."

The trustees argue that the proposed relocation "will cause residents problems with security and that the community is not suited to a rehabilitation center," Regier wrote.

"However, the petitioner's argument regarding possible community changes, in light of the comments of other residents, does not demonstrate good cause for reconsideration."

Gary Smith, executive director of the Narconon Chilocco New Life Center, said he was pleased by Regier's action.

"What it signifies to us is that now we can just get on with creating the facility here to help meet the increasing needs for our services from people that have drug and alcohol addiction problems," Smith said.

Arrowhead Estates Trustee Bud Shaw said he was disappointed in the state's refusal to allow a public hearing.

"It seems like big business gets what they want," Shaw said. "I guess we're just going to accept it and move on.

"Maybe down the road, we'll be able to say, 'We told you so."'

After learning of the trustees' letter, Sheryl Patterson was among the Arrowhead Estates residents who wrote to Regier.

"It certainly does not speak for the body of homeowners," Patterson wrote. "Many of us are delighted that the beautiful old lodge has been bought by a reputable private-pay rehabilitation center and that a budget is in place to bring this great old facility back to life.

"It's been a disgrace and a tragedy seeing it in its present state of neglect."

An international group with ties to the Church of Scientology bought the 256-acre resort property May 17 and plans to lease it to Narconon.