FAIRLAND - About half a dozen Fairland residents say they will not stop hounding the city until they do something to prohibit the operation of a privately owned mental health facility in their neighborhood.
Last week, residents once again asked council members to take action to prevent Green Country Residential from operating inside the city limits - in residential areas.
Green Country Residential, owned by Bedford Enterprise LLC, opened two years ago in a renovated motel along the main road in Fairland and houses more than 20 mentally ill residents. Since the facility opened, several residents of Fairland have complained that the facility's residents are more than a nuisance to the community.
Despite continuous complaints and incidents of concern, city council members maintain that their hands are tied. Because the city has no zoning laws, there is nothing to prevent the facility from operating.
Among the incidents of concern is one in which a resident walked away from the facility in February and onto a road where he was hit by a truck and later died. That resident went missing from the center seven times in 37 days.
In a separate incident, police were called when a resident jumped a fence into a nearby child-care center's play area with children outside.
Another complaint alleged that Cindy Bedford, the facility's owner, threatened to evict a female resident and yelled profanities at her, which prompted the resident to punch out a window and cut herself.
In April, the facility was cited with failure to supervise, provide medications, failure to protect residents from assaults and harm, failure to keep records and report to the state agency incidents involving the residents.
Recently, the state Health Department rejected two improvement plans developed by a residential care facility that was investigated for not protecting residents.
Green Country plans to challenge the agency's findings at a hearing in September that could lead to suspending or revoking the facility's license.
Residents say the city has a responsibility to protect the general public. They want immediate action to prevent what they claim are potentially dangerous people from living in their neighborhood.
Among concerns heard Thursday by concerned citizens was a rumor circulating town that there are plans to move some of the facility's residents into a private home owned by the Bedfords.
Monday, City Clerk Karen Lunsford said there was no validity to the rumor.
“The Bedfords own a house in town that was recently vacated,” said Lunsford. “I think that is what got the rumor started. The house has been put on the market to sell, I believe.”
Michael Torrone, one of the attorney's representing the Bedfords, said Monday afternoon that he knows nothing about the possibility of residents being moved into a private home.
“Because we are representing the Bedfords I am inclined to have no comment,” Torrone said. “However, I will say that I have not heard anything about this.”
According to the Oklahoma Municipal League, the process of zoning a residential area in order to prevent a facility such as Green Country from operating is quite extensive and can be very costly to the municipality.