Special Use permit to headline council meeting

By Gus Bode

Business requests moving to former high school

The inability to obtain a Special Use permit will send one overcrowded facility hoping to relocate “back to the drawing board,” according to Karen Freitag, Executive Director of the Southern Illinois Regional Social Services.

“Currently at the offices at 604 E. College [Street] we’ve run out of space and are looking for a larger, more accessible area,” Freitag said. “We cannot afford a new building so if we don’t get the permit it’s pretty much back to the drawing board.”


SIRSS is hoping to receive a Special Use permit for a subdivision of the former Carbondale Community High School, 200 N. Springer St., in order to relocate overcrowded facilities. The permit, requested by the Foundation for Family Enhancement and Enrichment Programs, which currently owns the facility, is the agenda item that Mayor Brad Cole anticipates will be the primary issue at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The organization currently provides space for high school programs such as the auto technology program and Operation Rebound. It also serves as a space for the Carbondale Boys and Girls Club as well as several junior sports programs.

The Foundation for Family Enhancement and Enrichment Programs Inc. applied for a permit that would allow SIRSS to occupy Lot 2B, also known as the 1923 building.

SIRSS, a mental health organization that has been in Carbondale since the 1960s, said they no longer have adequate space to accommodate employees. At their present location, 604 E. College St., the organization provides counseling and guidance to approximately 100 to 200 clients.

Tom Redmond, development services director for the city, said there were several residents opposed to SIRSS receiving the permit for a variety of reasons, primarily parking.

“There are … four neighbors who spoke in opposition,” Redmond said. “They were opposed to the permit being issued mainly because of issues that have to do with traffic, parking and the clients they serve.”

Freitag emphasized that clients of the organization “are already members of the community,” and that relocating the facility would not call for the moving of SIRSS clientele into the neighborhood. The building would simply provide a new location for SIRSS clients to receive counseling.


She said the organization has already evaluated the parking facilities and found only 10 to 20 spaces are used at any given time. She added that, if SIRSS were to receive the permit, there would also be a new parking lot built to serve those working at the building.

Freitag said if the organization does obtain the permit at tonight’s meeting, they would still have to secure the necessary finances for the move. She said she was not certain on how long this would take but estimated the move would occur within one year of the approval.

Cole, who will deliver his State of the City address at noon today, said there was no way of knowing how the council would vote on the issue that has had “discussion on both sides.”

“We’ll look at the residents and their points, but we also want to provide a productive facility,” Cole said. “We’ll have to see how their concerns weigh against that.”