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City Council denies request to move SOS, but petitioners vow they will be heard

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SOS Recovery Center and the First Congregational Church has been called the epicenter of rising drug activity, petitioners state. (Courtesy photo)

ROCHESTER - In a move that was fully expected, City Council voted unanimously to reject a petition that called for the city to move the SOS Recovery Center on South Main Street due to drug concerns in the neighborhood.

The Recovery Center is housed inside the First Congregational Church at 63 South Main.

Mayor Caroline McCarley told The Rochester Voice last week that the city had no authority to have the facility moved to a different location.

The petitioners, headed by Karen Watkins and Anna Strong, who both live on Congress Street, believe the drug activity in and around the church as well as the nearby Rochester Public Library has increased dramatically in the past several months.

Last month a woman was killed in what has been described by several neighborhood residents as a drug deal gone awry.

Billy Jo Ahearn, 24, died June 6 in the area of the Friendly's restaurant parking lot adjacent to the library.

Watkins says she has strong support from area businesses who are fed up with the constant drug activity and lawlessness.

She said on Sunday she believes SOS is not the problem she once thought it was, and now believes it is the church that is encouraging drug addicts to seek sanctuary there.

She knew her group of petitioners would have no chance to speak at Tuesday's regularly scheduled City Council meeting, but said she is looking forward to airing their grievances at next Tuesday's workshop at City Hall where she expects 100 or more citizens to show.

"We can't begin to improve Rochester till we fix this," she said.

SOS Director John Burns has said neighborhood concerns are based on fears and misunderstanding and are unfounded.

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