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Transitional home angers residents

Twelve Bridges neighbors vent at council meeting
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Twelve Bridges residents were vocal during Tuesday’s City Council meeting regarding a transitional home that houses a registered sex offender. Lincoln’s assistant director of development services George Dellwo said the sex offender will move out of the house Sunday. “The isolated mistake was made by the counselor and no known sex offenders will be residing in the home after the current one leaves,” Dellwo said. The mistake was letting the sex offender move into the house, according to Mayor Tom Cosgrove. “Apparently, the person who has an interest in having a licensed group home at that location has said that the sex offender is moving out and it may be related to the type of group home he wants to get licensed,” Cosgrove said. If the house were to become licensed by the state, and if the facility serves six or fewer patients, Dellwo said “it cannot be subject to taxes, fees, use permits or zoning requirements that other single family dwellings are not subject to.” Police Chief Joel Neves would not release the offender’s name as of press time, saying that the offender is not considered a “serious or high risk sex-offender” but a general sex offender, which limits the amount of information police can release about the offender. The sex offender had been arrested for “failure to register as a sex offender” on Sept. 21, according to a history of calls for service provided by the Lincoln Police Department. The City Council agenda item about the status of an Adult Residential Facility, located at 2058 Letterkenny Lane, listed information about the home, including the type of facility it is and if any sex offenders would be living in the home. Dellwo said the home is operated by Turning Point Center, which has a regional office located in Roseville, and “offers consumer-driven mental health services” for adults, children and families, providing services including “mental health services, support, employment, housing and advocacy.” “Terry Warren is the individual leasing the dwelling and operating it as an Adult Residential Facility,” Dellwo said. “Both Mr. Warren and the counselor are aware of the complaints coming from the neighborhood.” The adult residential facility on Letterkenny Lane doesn’t require a state license to operate, according to Dellwo, and “with only two residents does not meet the city’s definition of rooming house, boarding house or lodge.” “City staff visited the facility on Monday, Oct. 25 and found the facility to be clean, quiet and orderly. One resident was present,” Dellwo said. “They are pretty much on their own, and a counselor comes by to check on them,” Dellwo said. “How long they stay is up to the counselor and when the client is ready to move out on their own. The counselor assesses each resident and once they feel they don’t need some form of supervision, the program helps the client find their own place.” Dellwo said two mental-health outpatients are currently living in the house, who are considered “non-violent, coherent and able to function on their own,” and a counselor visits the home three times a week. Residents expressed concerns about a recent rise of police officers responding to incidents at the house and the proximity of Twelve Bridges Elementary School and the house since a registered sex offender resides there. According to the history of calls provided by police, there have been eight calls for service since Sept. 19. Those calls were for a welfare check on residents having difficulties, a warrant arrest for failure to register as a sex offender, a fire/medical aid call and an extra patrol request for suspicious suspects standing outside. The two most recent calls occurred on Oct. 20 for suspicious circumstances for a call about yelling and sounds of breaking class and a registration for a resident at the address as a sex offender. Neves said that a sex offender “cannot live within 2,000 feet of a public or private school or park where children are likely to congregate,” according to Jessica’s Law. According to a fact sheet on the governor’s website about Jessica’s Law, “Jessica’s Law provides crucial enhancement to current laws and policies in the detection, tracking and apprehension of sexual offenders.” Karen Serrislengley, who lives on Letterkenny Lane, spoke about the changes that have occurred in the neighborhood since residents were made aware this month of the presence of a registered sex offender. “The neighborhood has been impacted significantly. If you were over in our neighborhood, there are plenty of kids all over the block, having fun,” Serrislengley said. “Since this happened, it’s a ghost town. Children used to walk right down the block, the very block the sex offender lives on. Now kids don’t walk to school.” Resident Marc Mclaughlin asked the audience, “how do we know the increase in crime is caused by them.” “I’ve heard noises from my neighbors, I’ve heard screaming, fighting and kids breaking glass, and these are homeowners,” Mclaughlin said. “I’m not saying I agree or disagree, making a judgment and not saying it’s wrong but I have other neighbors who have had the cops called on them the same number of times and they are homeowners.” Mclaughlin said the adult residential facility is “doing what they are supposed to do” by kicking the sex offender out of the house. He posed a question to residents and the City Council. “Are your kids scared to walk by that house? Are they scared to walk by the house or are they scared because residents are instilling that fear,” Mclaughlin said. City Council and staff were interrupted a number of times by outbursts from audience members, with one audience member asking the mayor what he would personally do if the his child was raped by the sex offender and several audience members asking for the home to be “put out in the country.” Shouts of “we’re prisoners in our house” and “get the house out of my neighborhood could also be heard. “What I’d like to do is have a meaningful discussion. We’re not unsympathetic and you are treating us like your enemy,” Cosgrove said in response to the outbursts. “We don’t have the authority to get rid of the house but if you would like to have a meaningful discussion and find out what authority we have, you can continue on.” Several City Council members suggested the residents contact state assemblyman Ted Gaines on the matter. This is because the state has the ultimate authority on the status of the home, according to Cosgrove. He said a meeting between the home’s owner and residents would be planned at a later date so residents can address their concerns directly. “As state law is written, is preempted us from treating this residence different from those in a single-family home. We can’t treat this, according to state law, any different than you treat your home or your neighbors home,” Cosgrove said. “I apologize for not being able to tell you tonight this is what we’re going to do to fix the problem. We have the ability to do the things we mentioned, (including) checking regarding the registered sex offender, leasing agreements and facilitating a meeting the owner allowing you to share concerns with the owner. That’s what we’d like to do.”