City of Springfield and Panama City Rescue Mission at odds over Bethel Village expansion

Springfield- The Panama City Rescue Mission wants to expand it's Bethel Village facility, which provides housing for women and children. But their plans to build 5 new homes off Transmitter, are meeting with resistance. Mission officials are mounting a legal challenge to the Springfield City Commission's decision to deny a development permit.

"Single women and children are the fastest growing population of homeless," explained Rev. Billy Fox. As the director of the Panama City Rescue Mision he want to meet that trend by building 5 new homes behind the mission's Bethel Village facility off Transmitter Road.

But the neighbors, who aren't thrilled with the idea, complained to springfield city commissioners. "The entire neighborhood was there speaking out against this. They believe in the rescue mission but that it doesn't belong in their neighborhood," said Springfield Commissioner Jimmy Talley. The commission unanimously denied the permits.

But Fox says neighbors were misinformed by some fliers which he says leads people to believe the entire rescue mission is relocating to the property. The permit denial surprised Fox who says he's been working with the city on various plans for years."Two years ago they signed a resolution in support of this project, that is why we started fundraising, because I believed we could get this done."

We brought that resolution to Springfield Mayor Robert Walker. "We support the program. Everyone at the meeting supports the program, I don't know anyone who doesn't support it." But Mayor Walker says the mission's plans continued to change.
"We never got a straight answer from Rev. Fox about what they wanted to do. We are voted into this office for the citizens and the city. The citizens coming to the meeting they way they did had a lot of bearing on way we voted."

The stand-off is escalating into a legal battle. "Our only option is to appeal. We have the right to do what we are doing on our property. Just saying the words Rescue Mission connotes Not In My Backyard. We just don't want it in ours, if not yours, then who's."

Fox says the mission already has a $500,000 earmarked for the Bethel Village expansion, but could lose a$ 250,000 grant if the project does not move forward.


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