Mary Jo Matthews stood at the podium before a large crowd at Madison County’s new Fine Finish facility Thursday, recalling the days when there was little help for her young, developmentally challenged daughter, who is now in her 50s.
“When my daughter was small, there was no place for her to go,” said Matthews, adding that the developmentally disabled were “ignored and looked down on.” “Now, they have a chance to live as respected citizens.”
A key word from Matthews’ mouth was “respect.”
Frankly, that word was lacking in a previous facility decision.
In the 1990s, Madison County inexplicably placed its center for developmentally challenged adults on top of an old landfill off Hwy. 98.
The Fine Finish facility on top of that old dump suffered gaping cracks in walls and floors as the ground slowly gave way beneath the developmentally disabled. Attempts to fix that building repeatedly failed.
Meanwhile, there was legitimate concern that the ground would cave under the building in a dramatic way and people would get hurt. There was talk of gases from the old rubbage seeping through cracks in the floors and sickening people.
When notified last year by Fine Finish of new structural problems, Madison County’s board of commissioners finally decided enough was enough. Pouring more cash into the structure is throwing money on top of a trash heap, almost literally.
After a lengthy search, the BOC and Fine Finish leaders determined that three buildings at the former Lakeview Business Park off Rock Quarry Road would be the best place for adults in need.
The property was in foreclosure. And there were months of negotiations with a bank and a developer who was in financial distress. The buildings were initially listed at $1 million, but Madison County purchased the buildings for a total of $550,000.
They did well.
The buildings are aesthetically pleasing. There are numerous windows for natural light. They are clean. They are removed from heavy traffic. The three buildings are not butler buildings or dilapidated school structures — facilities commonly used for housing the developmentally challenged.
Political figures will come and go. But institutions have longer lives. The old Fine Finish building on top of the old landfill was a careless act that negatively impacted clients, employees and elected officials who had nothing to do with the decision to build there.
There were also symbolic problems, beyond the structural and safety issues. If you are a parent of a Fine Finish client, how could you not cringe at the implicit message from that old locale? Their child’s place of help and comfort was put atop a dump.
But all of that is history now.
The new Fine Finish facility was celebrated Thursday — and for good reason.
It marks a move to structural soundness and safety.
And it represents a new symbolic message to the adults who need Fine Finish, as well as their parents, who just want what’s best for their kids.
Madison County now offers these words to those clients and families: “We respect you. And you deserve the best we can offer.”
That’s a message that will carry for years.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
the decision to place fine finish on the old landfill site was indeed careless,but it is not like the people in charge were not warned of it at all.the road superintendent told them that it used to be a trash dump before construction even began.as far as the sheriff's office goes,that site was never part of the old dump.i don't know who told that,maybe someone that does not want LOWE back in office? how do i know about the locations of both buildings? because i helped with clearing both sites for construction. the SO site was cut down several feet to level it so if it was an old dump we would have found trash after the first 3 feet of soil was removed. know what you are talking about before you speak.
"There were also symbolic problems, beyond the structural and safety issues. If you are a parent of a Fine Finish client, how could you not cringe at the implicit message from that old locale? Their child’s place of help and comfort was put atop a dump."
I attended two schools in Fulton County that were built on stable landfill property. The playground and athletic fields were on top of the landfills. My daughter went to an elementary school of similar construciton in DeKalb County. Many schools and parks around metropolitan Atlanta are old landfills. On dry, cool days, sliding down the metal slides creates static electricity which ignites the methane gases that leak from the old landfills (which children breathe)which leaves mysterious burns on the children. So much for how children were regarded by "the greatest generation" who built all these schools; this is just one of many examples of disrespect of children.
This could be why my generation chose to respect and nurture children differently, better. Many went way too far, spoiling their children, but most of the leading half of the baby boomers got it right, blending the better values of their parents' generation with better ways of dealing with children, less authoritarian and more loving. All people deserve respect; I would extend that to all animals and plants, too, known as the environment.
There's a lot more that goes into "respect" for the developmentally disabled than a building.
We have addressed problems with the building. Now it is time address other more serious problems.
07/06/12 at 09:13 PM
What would those serious problems be? To address problems, we have to first be aware of them. Why wouldn't you share those with us in your post? This is a perfect forum for making folks aware of negative or dismissive attitudes if, indeed, such is what you have in mind. Do help start such a discussion.