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Council considers creation of drug treatment center

(ran East, South, West editions)

A former St. Petersburg nursing home would be the site of a "world-class drug facility."

A discussion on whether the city should spend $100,000 to buy a former nursing home and turn it into a drug treatment center is scheduled before the City Council on Thursday.

The 30,000-square-foot vacant building, on the northwest corner of 18th Avenue S and Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street, is next to Southside Fundamental School.

Doug Tuthill, who leads the Urban Initiative at the University of South Florida, said it's an opportunity for the city to accomplish a long-held goal that is backed by law enforcement officials and organizations that provide drug treatment.

"For $100,000 we get a world-class drug facility," Tuthill said. "It doesn't get much better than that."

Tuthill said the city would not operate the facility. Instead, it would sign a contract with an organization that has experience in running drug treatment programs.

Although the facility is close to a school, Tuthill said he is unaware of significant opposition.

"The school community has been great. They understand that it in fact is going to be a positive for the neighborhood," he said.

The building is owned by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, which has agreed to sell the building for $100,000. The Florida Legislature has appropriated $200,000 for a drug treatment facility in St. Petersburg.

The project has been endorsed by police Chief Goliath Davis, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Public Defender Bob Dillinger and other officials and groups.

Officials say the center is needed so that people can receive drug treatment closer to their homes.