Preferred location for Cambridge CTS site chosen

Cambridge city council has selected a preferred location for a consumption and treatment services site, and it’s not one of the two locations that were part of a public survey.

After hours of public input and a debate that was heated at times, council voted to select 150 Main Street, where Region of Waterloo Public Health offices are already located.

Councilors had 200 pages of results from a public survey in front of them Tuesday night, in which two sites just outside the Galt downtown core were identified -- 15 Easton Street or 8 Oxford Street.

Residents were asked to choose their preferred location, and provide comment on why the site should or shouldn’t be selected.

Seventy per cent of respondents said neither location was acceptable, with a large number of people providing comments that they would prefer council to forget about the idea entirely.

But those on the front line of the opioid crisis say a lack of a decision is costing lives.

“The best time to act is four or five years ago, prior to having two simultaneous epidemics,” said Ruth Cameron, Executive Director of the AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo & Area. “The next best time is now.”

Council put forward a motion proposing the 150 Main Street site, a locationput forward by Coun. Donna Reid.

"It is close to the hot spot, it is a place where clients are already and have been going for the past year in order to shower, in order to get snacks," she said.

“I refuse to let more people die needlessly,” Mayor Kathryn McGarry said. “Inaction exacerbates the issue. Another deferral will be deadly. I support the motion.”

But the vote was not unanimous, and Councilor Jan Liggett exchanged sharped words with the mayor.

Liggett has long been opposed to a CTS site in the Galt core, and she left the meeting prior to the vote.

REACTION TO QUICK DECISION

For McGarry, the decision was easy, as many social services already run out of the regional building.

"With the wraparound services there, this was the easier path to ensure that we can move forward quickly to change the tone of the conversation and make sure that we're saving lives," she said.

McGarry adds that the public consultations made it clear neither of the suggested locations were the best option.

Jan Liggett, the councillor for the area that covers 150 Main Street, says she does not support a CTS in its current form and has been hearing from many upset constituents since the decision was made.

"I don't understand the cloak and dagger," she said. "The community feels totally blindsided. I have never had this many calls, emails, and text messages."

Cambridge resident Adam Cooper, who organized a rally against the CTS site, is also not pleased with the decision.

"It's how this was handled, how this was pushed through," he said. "The democratic process was circumvented along with the public process."

Reid says people have previously had a chance to weigh in on 150 Main Street and that a decision needed to be made.

"We've had 100 people die in the region needlessley, preventable deaths, so to go through a consultation period on 150 Main Street when it's already been done seemed redundant to me," she said.

Now that council has selected the CTS site, the search begins for a potential operator.

McGarry hopes to reiterate that the site will include treatment options and mental health and addiction support.

"I think area residents will note that there's less public usage, less needle and drug litter debris in their areas, as wel support individuals towards their pathway to wellbeing," she said.

With reporting CTV Kitchener's Jeff Pickel and Krista Simpson