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Neighbors' concerns addressed, Modesto clinic says

A Modesto methadone clinic that has drawn complaints from nearby homeowners because its clients have blocked their driveways, sideswiped parked cars and overwhelmed a short residential street with traffic is working on being a better neighbor.

But homeowners say the ultimate answer is for the Aegis Medical Systems clinic to move from its current location at McHenry and Modesto avenues, just north of downtown.

"The consensus is they have to go," said McHenry Avenue resident Fred Manuel. "But the question is when. We don't know what the timeline is."

Aegis Executive Vice President Stephen Maulhardt said he knows residents are angry, but he said Aegis is addressing their concerns. He added that Aegis is working with a Modesto real estate broker to find a new building.

"We can't move until we have some other place to move to," he said. "There are several hundred patients who depend upon us."

Maulhardt said Aegis, which operates 25 clinics statewide, is taking these steps:

Doubling the number of security guards on duty from one to two. He said that change should be in place "in the near future."

Getting bids to install more outdoor lighting to make it easier for police to spot people hanging out near the clinic during off-hours and placing a chain across the parking lot entrance when the clinic is closed.

Leasing more off-site parking for staff so more clients can use the clinic's 28-space parking lot, instead of parking in front of homes on Modesto Avenue.

Modesto Avenue residents say the clinic, which opened in 1999, has been a nuisance for years. They don't doubt the clinic's value, just that it does not belong on one end of a short, narrow residential street of just 17 homes.

They have put up with the congestion that comes from as many as 100 to 150 cars driving to the clinic daily, trash dumped in their yards and gutters, occasional fights and bad language, though some residents say conditions have improved recently with more police presence and stepped-up efforts by the clinic.

Mark Pifer, who lives next door to the clinic, said that in December he found an Aegis vial with urine in it for a drug test in his back yard. Pifer wonders what might have happened had his young daughter found the vial.

Residents' frustrations became public last month when they spoke about their concerns at a City Council meeting.

Aegis officials, residents, and city and police officials met last week at the Police Department. A follow-up meeting is set for early June.

A city attorney who attended the meeting said the city's preference is for the clinic and the residents to come to an amicable solution with the city acting as a facilitator.

But if that can't be done, the city may look at whether the clinic is a public nuisance and seek a court remedy.

"The potential for a litigated remedy is way down the road," Senior Deputy City Attorney James F. Wilson said, "and we have not even investigated it."

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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