RUSSELL The circumstances involving Eminent Domain concerning the Russell Convalescent Home make for an ongoing and hotly debated subject.

A couple dozen protesters, several of the 27 RCH residents, at least one employee and a former vice presidential candidate participated in a rally in support of RCH on Thursday afternoon. A Spider-Man inflatable bouncy house, classic rock music blaring over speakers and a grill cooking food surrounded the building on Ferry Street.

Several protesters stuck around for the 6 p.m. city council meeting at the city building across the street.

Protesters displayed signs accusing the city council of wrongdoing and specifically Tracy Frye, the city attorney, of corruption. Her law office is also on Ferry Street, as is her new business, The Nest Day Spa — which are both across the road from RCH.

When The Daily Independent stopped in Frye’s law office, partner Marie Troxler said Frye had just gotten out of the hospital and could not be present during the rally or for the council meeting. Troxler said Frye wanted to come, but Troxler implored her to stay home — and that her health comes first.

Members of the Russell City Government are currently unable to discuss the issue due to ongoing litigation.

Other than a few events such as a hot dog social this summer,  the brunt of the dialogue had taken place on social media platforms until Thursday. Many concerned citizens who oppose the process — and the result of the current residents of the convalescent home being eventually displaced — have spoken out against it.

Todd Schreier, of the Schreier Group, a business consulting firm, is a Russell resident who views it differently.

He said nearly everything represented by those opposing it is inaccurate. Schreier said the issue isn’t that the people at the convalescent home need help, but rather are they receiving the help they need at the Russell Convalescent Home?

“The picture of it being one happy family isn’t an accurate picture,” Schreier said. “April 15 at 11 a.m. we had some parties want to come in and discuss what’s going on with the convalescent home, and to see what we could do to help.”

Dreama Hedge, a medical supervisor at RCH, helped arranged Thursday’s event. She also started a hashtag — #wereprettytoo — and has organized a GoFundMe account with a goal of collecting $100,000. As of Thursday at 6, about $6,300 had been raised. She said all the residents will be left without a home and “separated from the only family they know. It will also put 12 employees and their family jobless.”

Schreier, who was not at the rally but spoke to the newspaper prior to it, said Hedge made it very clear that the convalescent home was not doing well. He also expressed his views during the Community Comment portion of the council meeting.

Schreier said Hedge told him that it was in bad condition and was being run poorly. Schreier said he asked Hedge for proof of her accusations, and she provided him pictures and video evidence. These have been posted on Schreier’s Facebook page.

Hedge said, yes, she did give this information to Schreier, but she said it was intended to be in confidence and for the purpose of assisting RCH. She said Schreier initially approached her.

After researching the matter, Schreier said he gathered his own proof that the convalescent home was far from the way it was presented publicly.

“It was not the shining pillar of the community as it was presented to be,” he said. Part of his proof, he said, was provided by Hedge herself in the form of copies of inspection reports. Those reports listed instances of bedbug infestations (in 2019), improper food storage and the implication that some inspections had been “doctored” in order for the facility to pass.

Schreier said he also filed a Public Information Request, which any individual is allowed to do. It yielded numerous missing persons reports of convalescent home residents, violence inside the home between residents, and one instance of a resident setting fire to her own bed.

A former resident of the convalescent home with “diminished mental capacity” went missing and was later found to have fallen 45 feet to his death from an overpass, according to a 2019 story in The Daily Independent.

Schreier said he hopes everyone involved will do their own due diligence when it comes to uncovering the available facts, and refrain from wild accusations that he believes he can prove have no basis in fact.

Schreier said it isn’t ultimately about whether the residents need help or not, because if someone needs help, then they should definitely receive it. He believes the residents are not receiving that help in their current situation and would ultimately benefit from moving to another facility.

Seth Allton, of Cincinnati, said he became familiar with the situation through Cohen and James Toller, a Libertarian who ran for House of Representatives in District 78. He said RCH was not notified properly. 

Melissa Cox, of Ashland, agreed.

“(Hedge) and I started reaching out to everyone (back in May),” Cox said. “I reached out to the Libertarian Party of Kentucky.

Said Cox of Frye, specifically: “When you own all the property on this block, you clearly have a conflict of interest.”

Those who spoke against the City of Russell during Community Comment are not Russell residents. 

Cohen has been vocal in his opposition to Eminent Domain, and said the law needs altered.  He said the City of Russell has approached this in the wrong way.

“In these Eminent Domain cases, they use the assessed property value, the land tax value, which is not nearly enough for them to actually rebuild,” said Cohen, a Libertarian who ran for Vice President in 2020. “The next step would be to find donors — and we’ve already been working on that — and find contractors who are willing to work at cost or less than what they usually charge, and find someone who has spare land that they’re willing to sell part of it for them to build a new home and build somewhere hopefully nearby. Most importantly, so they can stay together so they don’t have to break up what is essentially a family.”

Eminent Domain is a legal means which grants the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation. The payment involved is typically for the value of the property alone, and not any business located on that property. It also does not allow any monetary compensation for relocation expenses, such as in the case of the Russell Convalescent Home where current residents will be forced to move. Nor would it pay the owners of the convalescent home the expense of essentially starting their business again in another location.

Opponents of the Eminent Domain case are vocal about their opinions that the city is simply forcing the residents out on the street, with no recourse on where they might live once their “home” has been taken from them. Opponents list the fact that many of the residents have been at the location in excess of 10 years, with no expectations of living anywhere else. 

Many of these opponents have accused Russell City Government of illegal activity and corruption, and have alleged that the property is being unfairly seized for personal and perhaps monetary gain.

The city government is prevented from confirming or denying any of these accusations.

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