Our Way to open two new adult family homes in Merrill
During its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday, the Merrill Common Council voted to table further discussions of establishing adult care facilities at 1104 Cottage Street and 1305 Cedar Street.
Prior to the commencement of public comment, city attorney Tom Hayden recommended the council table further discussion due to Conditional Use Permits not being necessary per state statute.
During last week’s City Plan Commission meeting, the commission approved two Conditional Use Permits for Our Way, Inc. The agency requested the permits for 1104 Cottage St. and 1305 Cedar St. for use as Adult Family Homes (AFH) for developmentally disabled persons.
Julie Weber spoke on behalf of Our Way Inc. at the Plan Commission meeting, advising the commission of the company’s current operations.
“We currently operate three homes in Merrill and two in Tomahawk,” Weber stated. “We house only adults with developmental disabilities and we really are pretty invisible. We prefer to blend into the community.”
According to Weber, the adult family homes which would be located in the residences on Cedar and Cottage streets would house no more than four residents; three on Cottage and four on Cedar.
Unlike larger Community Based Residential Facilities (CBRF), which house eight or more residents, Adult Family Homes are not required to be registered as a business due to their small size.
Our Way, Inc. has been serving people with developmental disabilities in Lincoln County for 35 years, starting with one group home in Tomahawk in 1978. For years, Our Way operated its Merrill facilities in buildings owned by Lincoln County, including the Deer View and Pat Weber Memorial Home CBRFs and the Forward House AFH.
In 2013, Our Way built a brand new duplex on Eugene Street, which contains the Ken Crass and Forward House AFHs. At that time, Our Way moved out of the old Forward House building on Third Street.
This year, both the Deer View property in the town of Merrill and the Pat Weber Memorial Home in the city of Merrill were shut down due to issues with the buildings. The Deer View residents were moved to the Ken Crass AFH in the new Eugene Street building.
Our Way purchased the homes on Cottage and Cedar streets to replace the Pat Weber Home. With the new additions, Our Way will be operating four AFHs in Merrill, serving about the same number of residents.
Beth Goulee of Our Way said there will be some modifications made to the two new residences to make them accessible for residents, such as ramps and bathroom upgrades.