When my friends and I were in junior high, a young guy from a local college started coming to our church. He'd take us out for ice cream, or to a movie, or over to his apartment. Sometimes he had us stay over night there.When my friends and I were in junior high, a young guy from a local college started coming to our church. He'd take us out for ice cream, or to a movie, or over to his apartment. Sometimes he had us stay over night there.
One of my friends told me years later about the time he stayed at the guy's apartment. My friend woke up in the middle of night, feeling a presence. Feigning sleep, he peeked through darkness and saw the guy, kneeling by the couch, staring down at him. When my friend told me about it, he said, "That was a guy who fought his demons - and won."
They are all around us - people fighting demons. Some will win by their own strength. Some will need help from others. Sometimes the demons will prevail, and someone will get hurt.
I'm a firm believer in the need for treatment centers for sex offenders and other people fighting demons. I'm a firm believer in their benefit, not just to the clients, but to the community.
But I wouldn't want one to move in next door to me.
Many of us moved up here to get away from all those city problems, to find some degree of safety and isolation on our 10 or 40 acres. It wouldn't matter if it was a treatment center, a Wal-Mart or a racetrack moving in next door. It hurts when someone else's nightmare intrudes on your American dream.
We're told the Academy has an excellent safety record. Occasionally a boy has gone missing, but no disasters have ensued. But as the potential neighbors of Mille Lacs Academy have pointed out, it only takes one. Chances are, no runaway student will endanger a local kid. Chances are, the plane won't crash. Chances are, the bridge won't fall.
In its current location, the Academy has been insulated from the town by the hospital, the highway and the lake. In its proposed location on the west side of Onamia, there's no insulation - at least for a small number of neighbors.
I heard someone talking bad about the opponents of the move, and I asked, "What if it was moving next to you? Would you still support it?" The silence spoke volumes. "Me neither," I said.
The situation is further complicated by annexation and tax abatement. The city of Onamia annexed the land from Bradbury Township. That means the Bradbury Township neighbors won't have the satisfaction of voting their opponents out of office.
A tax abatement, if it happens, will add insult to injury. Not only do opponents feel like they have no power, but their new neighbors might not have to pay city and county taxes for 15 years.
On one side, there's need and benefit; on the other, risk and pain. The folks who oppose the Academy's move may be downplaying the need and the benefit. That's what people do when they're desperate. But folks on the other side are downplaying the risk and pain. That's what people do when they're trying to get their way.
We need to take risks, and we take them every day. Planes crash, but we keep on flying. Bridges fall, but we rebuild them. It appears the city fathers have decided the need and benefit outweigh the risk and pain. But they should not pretend the risk is nonexistent, or the pain is an overreaction. There is a sacrificial lamb in this story. It's those neighbors in Bradbury Township.
Brett Larson is editor of the Mille Lacs Messenger.