Oxford rehabs face closure due to code violations
by Rachael Griffin
Mar 18, 2013 | 16433 views |  0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
One of the Oxford Tri-County Outreach rehab buildings in Oxford next to the Oxford Fire Dept.  (Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star).
One of the Oxford Tri-County Outreach rehab buildings in Oxford next to the Oxford Fire Dept. (Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star).
State and local fire officials ordered three Oxford drug rehabilitation facilities Friday to fix several code violations or close their doors.

Tri-County Outreach, Oxford Outreach and Real Life Recovery were served letters detailing the violations Friday afternoon, according to Edward Paulk, Alabama fire marshal.

Attempts to reach officials Monday at Tri-County Outreach, Real Life Recovery and Oxford Outreach were unsuccessful.

Paulk refused to release the letters to The Star on Monday.

“It’s an ongoing process and I’m not going to release parts of it until I get it completed,” Paulk said of his refusal.

Dennis Bailey, attorney for the Alabama Press Association, wrote in an email that he respectfully disagrees that Paulk has reason to exempt the letters from the Alabama Open Records Act.

“The letter is a public record especially since it has already been shared with the subject of their investigation,” Bailey wrote.

Paulk said the rehabs will have 10 days to respond to the order. He said the reason for the time period is to avoid interrupting ongoing treatment.

“We’re trying to have the least impact that we can,” Paulk said.

Paulk said Monday he was unsure where patients would go and if anyone has started relocating.

Calhoun County has more than 20 rehab facilities scattered throughout its cities, many of them go unnoticed because the programs are run in unmarked houses.

Gary Sparks, Oxford fire chief, said his department notified the Fire Marshals and asked for help with inspections after he’d been informed of some concerns regarding the rehab facilities meeting fire codes.

Sparks said during inspections on March 11 and March 13, officials discovered too many people occupying nine facilities.

One of the rehabs, which would normally be used as a single family home, had 28 beds in it, Sparks said. Even an office building, owned by Tri-County Outreach, had four beds inside, according to the chief.

“If we have a fire, I don’t think everybody could have gotten out of some of these houses and that’s our problem,” Sparks said.

Sparks said the rehabs have until March 29 to comply with the codes or remove everyone from the homes. Apart from the occupancy code, some buildings may need to install sprinklers and alarms, he said.

“If they abide by the Marshal’s orders there’s not a problem with them reopening,” Sparks said.

The rehabs are still able to operate, Sparks said, but someone must stand watch at all times to ensure a fire does not start.

Judges often order drug offenders to seek treatment at rehab centers instead of having them serve prison sentences.

Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson said if the facilities close, the patients would likely be responsible for notifying judges of the change. Amerson said he hadn’t spoken to anyone Monday about the potential closures, but he plans to offer Oxford officials help in relocating the patients to other programs or jails.

Staff Writer Rachael Griffin: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RGriffin_Star.

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