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Tensions on rise as glass door, window smashed at Concord counseling center

8-5-2013 New Hampshire:

In an apparent act of vandalism, someone threw bricks through a glass door and a window at RTT Associates, the sex-offender counseling center that city officials are trying to evict from a mostly residential neighborhood.

The damage, discovered yesterday morning, comes amid growing tension over RTT’s presence in the office building at 2½ Beacon St., a few hundred feet off North State Street in Concord.

The firm has quietly operated there since 2005, providing counseling services to sex offenders, substance-abuse patients and others. But a man identified by prosecutors as an RTT client was arrested in May and accused of breaking into a nearby house and touching an 11-year-old girl. Neighbors have since expressed concern about the center and its clients.

In June, the city ordered RTT to leave the building, calling it “a hazard to the health safety and general welfare of the public.” RTT, which also has offices in Manchester and Rochester, appealed that order Friday.

Now, the situation appears to have escalated.

David Ossoff, the building’s owner, said a brick was thrown through a glass door labeled with RTT’s corporate logo, smashing it. A second brick was thrown through a nearby window, punching a hole in it. No other damage was immediately apparent, he said.

The damage was discovered about 10:30 a.m. yesterday by a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier, who called the police.

It’s not clear exactly when the incident occurred, or if it’s even connected to the ongoing fight over RTT’s presence. Lt. John Zbehlik of the Concord Police Department declined to release any information, saying the incident was under investigation.

“We haven’t made an arrest,” he said.

But Ossoff noted the Monitor ran a front-page story yesterday about the counseling center’s attempt to appeal the city’s order that it leave the building.

“It seems like it’s just someone who was angry about (the Monitor’s) story and decided to act on it,” he said.

RTT’s attorney, Roger Chadwick, agreed.

“I would strongly suggest that it’s in response to the article in the Monitor,” Chadwick said. “And I don’t mean by that that it’s the Monitor’s fault
. . . (but) that probably prompted some fool who doesn’t know exactly what RTT does to act out.”

Ward 4 Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton, who lives down the street and has been a critic of RTT’s continued presence in the neighborhood, condemned the attack on its facility.

“This kind of vandalism is unacceptable, period,” Grady Sexton said. “People are upset, but this is not the appropriate way to express their feelings. If people have concerns with RTT operating in this neighborhood, then I encourage them to contact the property owner and ask him to evict them.”

Ossoff said he decided not to appeal the city’s decision to revoke zoning approval for RTT to operate in his building, but the company did. The city is now trying to determine if RTT, as a tenant, has the legal standing to make such an appeal.

“We’re going to abide by whatever decision is made,” Ossoff said.

Chadwick said the smashed glass doesn’t change RTT’s position that it should be allowed to stay.

“If anything, this makes you want to dig in your heels,” he said.

Ossoff emphasized that everyone involved is working to resolve the situation.

He also said he’s trying to set up an on-site security detail for the building, and Chadwick said RTT has asked the Concord police for an increased presence in the area.

“RTT does counseling with a host of people besides sex offenders, and so obviously it puts those people at risk and in fear. Nobody wants to go anywhere windows are being smashed in,” Chadwick said.

RTT’s owner, Kris Geno, indicated through a police officer that she didn’t want to speak to a Monitor reporter.

The building at 2½ Beacon St. is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1860, with an addition in 1868, it was part of the then-New Hampshire State Prison complex, but passed into private hands in 1880 and has since been used as a manufacturing plant, a car dealership and, since the late 1970s, an office building.

In addition to RTT, the building’s tenants include Quest Yoga Studio, Concord Pilates and the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board. ..Source.. by Ben Leubsdorf

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