Intense anger expressed by many local residents over a proposed rehabilitation center for sex offenders has prompted city officials and a state representative to quickly seek a positive resolution.


Intense anger expressed by many local residents over a proposed rehabilitation center for sex offenders has prompted city officials and a state representative to quickly seek a positive resolution.

The building, located at 1401 E. Highland, sits within about 310 feet of Horace Mann School, just outside the restricted zone of 300 feet as defined by state law. However, with the building already having the proper zoning, and it meeting other state requirements, there is little the city can do legally to block the proposed rehab center.

Still, that didn’t prevent residents of that neighborhood from packing the city council chambers during last Monday night’s commission meeting.

Even though the building complies with state law, local residents have made their voices heard at the state Capitol as well. State Rep. Kris Steele, Shawnee, addressed the commissioners and those gathered in protest of the center, assuring them that he and other lawmakers were attempting to amend the law. Steele also explained that, as the law reads, any sex offender attending the rehab sessions would not come under the 300-feet restrictions of a school, playground, park or licensed child care facility. That’s because they are considered to be receiving treatment for their problems.

That makes it even more urgent that local officials, Rep. Steele and other lawmakers at the Capitol work to resolve this matter. Rep. Steele said he and fellow lawmakers are working feverishly this session to amend the sex offender law and fix the loopholes in it.

City Manager Jim Collard should be commended for his initiative and for working to find a different location for this center. We agree with the city manager, Rep. Steele and the hundreds of residents at Monday night’s meeting that there has to be a better location than the current proposal.

According to information the city manager presented at the meeting, property owner Holly Chandler, who is seeking to operate the rehab center, has agreed to try to sell the building immediately. Chandler has been granted a building permit, but not an occupancy permit. If she meets the city’s requirements, and because she is already in compliance with state law, there is little that can be done to prevent her from operating there at least temporarily while she attempts to sell the building.

The city manager has assured local residents the center will be closely scrutinized should it open. He pledged a “no-tolerance” approach to the slightest violation because of what is at stake — the safety of the neighborhood.

We urge the city manager and any others who are involved to continue their pursuit of a rapid solution. It can’t come quick enough. The city manager and State Rep. Kris Steele have demonstrated a willingness to try. In the meantime, we wish them luck and commend their efforts to find an alternative location and to tighten the loopholes in the current law.