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Lewis pitches plan for addiction center

ESSEX - A local farmer known for his legal battle with the Adirondack Park Agency is urging Essex County officials and local residents to consider support for a new substance abuse treatment center.

Salim B. "Sandy" Lewis addressed the town of Essex board March 25, detailing discussions he's had with county officials and urging residents to support his plan for a new addiction treatment center.

Under the proposal, the center would be housed at the former County Home, a historic building that was once used to give the poorest county residents a place to live and farm.

Lewis said he met with County Manager Dan Palmer, County Attorney Dan Manning, Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas, Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, and County Clerk Joe Provoncha Feb. 3. Among the topics they discussed were transparency in government, road maintenance, and the possibility of establishing an addiction treatment center in the town of Essex for both adolescents and adults.

A former Wall Street stock broker, Lewis was instrumental in starting Daytop New Jersey, a nonprofit substance abuse treatment center in Mendham, N.J., in 1992. In 1998, he financed Daytop's purchase of the former County Home for use as a substance abuse treatment center.

But local opposition to the project led to a town moratorium blocking its establishment. The moratorium was eventually declared illegal, but Daytop decided to sell its property in Essex, nonetheless.

Lewis said he would not attempt bringing a treatment center to Essex again "if there's going to be an explosion of 'Not in my backyard.'"

"I have no interest in going through another fight," said Lewis, "and unless this community is pretty much unanimous on the subject, you can forget my offering the suggestion."

Since 2000, the property has remained in the hands of the Leaveners Community Foundation Inc., a Kansas-based nonprofit intending to renovate the former County Home as a respite center for humanitarian workers. Little work has progressed on the building however, and Lewis claimed its owners would be open to selling it.

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