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Gray community takes extra steps to prevent crime, traffic accidents around methadone clinic

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All eyes in the Gray community are on a new controversial drug treatment center. Overmountain Recovery is operated by ETSU and Mountain States Health Alliance.

It opened on Monday, but not without a fight. For more than a year, more than 2,000 people in Gray protested the clinic, worried it would bring more traffic and crime to the area.

Throughout the process, Mountain States and ETSU said their studies did not suggest either of those things would happen.

Right now, the clinic is reaching out to patients who have already asked for help to come in for their first visit. So people who live nearby don't know what to expect yet in terms of traffic or crime rates.

But they said they're not taking any chances.

"The clinic literally is 50 feet across the road," Danny Sells said.

That's too close for comfort for many people like Sells who was born and raised in Gray. He said the community is growing, but not necessarily for the better.

"We're nervous about what it may become," he said.

That's why the group Citizens to Maintain Gray has asked county commissioners for help to make sure their newest neighbor, a methadone clinic, doesn't make things worse.

"I understand the fabric of the change that's going on in our community," county commissioner Bryan Davenport said. "I just want voters to know - the people that elected me - I owe them to be proactive."

Some residents and businesses are taking safety into their own hands, putting up extra security signs and working to create a community watch group.

"I have already talked to several of my neighbors that have been going through the circle on a regular basis this week, just to keep an eye on things," Sells said. "And we want folks to know and understand we're keeping an eye on everything."

Sells said with the clinic anticipating thousands of patients from across the region, the crime rate and traffic accidents could spike.

Sheriff Ed Graybeal said his department is listening and they've already added more patrols.

"There's three officers there all the time," Graybeal said. "Plus we have three school resource officers there in each school. So we've got it covered."

And the sheriff said they've got the roadways covered too.

"We're especially going to watch the mornings when all the school buses are out," he said. "We don't know what the traffic will be like yet, so the same thing in the evenings."

Sells hopes all of these efforts will keep his quiet neighborhood safe and send a clear message to anyone who wants otherwise.

"It's much better for us to be positive up front, to be active up front, to say this is what we expect in our community," Sells said.

Overmountain Recovery has also hired security to watch its grounds.

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