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Group's Solution To Post-Institution Land-Use: Build "Community" On Fernald Site
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 18, 2003

WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS--A coalition of three groups wants to settle the question of what to do with 190 acres of state-owned land after Fernald Developmental Center closes, by building a segregated "community" on the site, the Daily News Tribune reported Wednesday.

The solution arrived at by the Fernald Working Group -- which includes members of the Waltham Land Trust, the Waltham League of Women Voters and the Waltham Alliance to Create Housing -- would have many of the 295 current Fernald residents stay on the institution's property in new "community-based" housing.

As it stands now, the plan would receive little support from Governor Mitt Romney, who announced in February that the institution -- considered the oldest facility housing people with developmental disabilities in the Western Hemisphere -- would close by the end of 2004. Romney has pushed for moving the residents into the community to save the state $2.5 million, and as a way to integrate the residents into the general community.

Lawmakers, pressured by Fernald employees, area residents, and family members of institution residents, have tried to block Romney's plan. In the ten months since the governor's announcement, only seven residents have been moved. All of those were transferred to state-operated regional facilities in Massachusetts.

The Working Group's plan would also preserve the aging institution's historic buildings, and encourage small business development on the property.

"This is perhaps the city's largest community resource," said Waltham Land Trust member Inge Uhlir, echoing a justification made by pro-institution groups across the country during the past two decades to keep expensive institutions in operation.

The institution was founded by social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe in 1848. Originally called the "Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded", the facility was renamed the Walter E. Fernald State School in 1925 after its first resident superintendent.

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