Addiction rehab facility opens in Howard hotel, but building remains subject of federal lawsuit

May 12—HOWARD, S.D. — An addiction and substance abuse treatment center is now operating in Howard's former Main Street hotel and conference center as of this week, while the legal maneuvering regarding the building continues in the court system.

iRecover.US has opened in Howard, according to a company statement. The company offers a wide range of treatment services for both addiction and substance abuse, including medical detox, a four-week, 12-step based residential program, and also an extended cognitive behavioral therapy-based program for an additional four weeks. The final four weeks can be done inpatient or through extensive outpatient treatment, virtually or inpatient, iRecover said.

iRecover CEO Jim Gray said in 2022 that treatment is voluntary and iRecover is a for-profit business. Patients pay between $2,500 and $4,500 per week for in-person treatment, according to publications on the company's website.

The facility will also offer outpatient services in Howard exclusively through remote participation.

"This service is a cognitive behavioral therapy-based program that can be completed in the comfort of your own home, and includes virtual lectures and virtual one to one counseling," the company said of the outpatient services. Gray called it "treatment in a box," making the materials available to patients at home.

iRecover bought the building at auction in December 2022 for $500,000. But that is not the final twist in this decade-long story involving the building that originally cost $6 million to build in 2011 and was funded through federal loans promising economic development that never arrived in the town of about 900 residents.

The building's former owner, the Judy Shaw Foundation of Sioux Falls, brought a suit against the city of Howard on March 16 alleging that the city violated the federal Civil Rights and Fair Housing acts, and is asking for unspecified financial damages from the city of Howard. The base of the allegation is that the city of Howard's handling of the zoning ordinance changes cost the JSF money.

In June 2022, when public discussion in the community over the addiction center was at its peak, the Howard City Council approved an ordinance that added group homes to the list of facilities not allowed in the central commercial district in the city. Some of the angst from community residents was centered on having a rehab center in the center of the community and that the facility is next door to a bar.

By November, the city began the process to remove the group home definition to the city's zoning rules, essentially freeing up iRecover to operate in Howard. The JSF said the city of Howard reversed course because of the threat of litigation.

"Upon learning of the plans for the property to be sold and used as a residential chemical dependency treatment center in early June 2022, the city began its efforts to thwart JSF's sale of the property through adopting changes to its zoning ordinances," the lawsuit alleges.

The JSF had its share of issues, including not paying back taxes on the facility, which led Miner County to initiate an auction for December 2022. Miner County, which had a share of ownership in the facility now because of JSF's back taxes owed on the property, utilities, insurance premiums and county costs, was the party that authorized finally auctioning the building in October 2022, and the county started again pursuing litigation against JSF. The amount owed to Miner County was in the area of $300,000 prior to the auction, and the county initiated action to shut power to the building in 2022, plus spent additional money to fix the fire alarm system.

Miner County approved an auction contract with Sutton Auctions, of Flandreau, to sell the building, which eventually sold to Gray and his iRecover business. (Ironically, Sutton is the same auction company that attempted to sell the building in 2014. The sale goal at that time? $500,000.)

In the lawsuit, JSF argued that the purchase price would have been more prior to the ordinances and the buyer reneged on purchasing it. For its part, the city of Howard responded in court that JSF doesn't have legal standing to bring the lawsuit.

In 2014, the building was sold to Shaw, a Sioux Falls minister who purchased it through her Judy Shaw Foundation. Miner County officials said in June 2022 that Shaw has been trying to sell the property for most of the time since she purchased it.

A 2018 internet listing was asking $2.6 million for the 30,000-square foot property but noted the annual occupancy rate of the hotel was 34.4% and with an average daily rate for the hotel of $88 per night. The listing noted the property's real estate taxes were $55,000 in 2017. At that time, the property's assessed value was just over $1 million.

When it first opened, the Maroney Commons was billed as a gathering place for rural development, plus with a 24-room hotel, restaurant, fitness center and classrooms intended to be used for community uses and workforce development training programs. It closed for financial reasons about a year later.