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City council voted against funding an overnight winter drop-in centre for people without homes on Monday – but one of the organizers said it is going ahead anyway. Also in this week’s newsletter, the city confirmed last week that fuel is still leaking into Jackson Creek after a spill was first detected last August. And we break down what’s in the city’s draft 2023 budget.
Overnight drop-in centre to open, but without city funding
On Monday night, city council voted against spending $100,000 to run an overnight drop-in centre to help people without homes survive the coldest months of the year, confirming an earlier decision at council’s general committee on December 5.
But the drop-in centre is poised to open nonetheless.
Local organizations have pledged more than $200,000 to operate the centre, according to Emily Jones, community engagement and development coordinator with the Peterborough Police Service, who addressed council before the vote.
Jones said up to $130,000 will come from a federal grant, managed by Peterborough police, meant for the Mobile Support Overdose Resource Team (MSORT), a program that supports people following overdoses.
The rest of the money will come from the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Fourcast and One City Peterborough, which is already recruiting staff to run the drop-centre. It is expected to be located at the former Trinity United Church on Reid St., which is now owned by the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network.
Before the vote, councillors heard emotional pleas from several residents – including some who have experienced homelessness – urging them to approve the funding. Councillor Dave Haacke made his own emotional appeal against the motion, in which he spoke about the death of his sister after many years of substance use. He said what’s needed is more drug treatment beds, not a drop-in centre.
Councillor Alex Bierk, who brought forward the motion, said that the centre is needed as an urgent short-term measure because “frozen people do not go to rehab.”
The final vote was split 5-5, which means it lost, as is the case in a tie. Councillor Kevin Duguay, a professional planner, did not vote because he had declared a conflict of interest due to the Poverty Reduction Network being a former client of his.
Also on Monday night, council agreed to ask staff to work with the group Peterborough Action for Tiny Homes (PATH) to find a location in the city for 10-15 sleeping cabins for people without homes and report back by February. The group had hoped to secure a site and have the cabins ready for people to move in by this month.
Council also decided to hold off on a plan to change transit routes in February. At general committee last week, council had voted to switch back to the hub-and-spoke bus route network, which was done away with in 2020 in favour of the current grid network. But council reversed that decision on Monday and instead asked staff for a report by March on what to do about the struggling transit system. The report will review how the current grid network is working, as well as the operational and financial implications of potentially returning to the hub-and-spoke system.
Key things to know about Peterborough’s 2023 draft budget
After a pause for the holidays, city council will be back on January 9 for two weeks of budget talks. Staff have presented a $457.8 million draft budget for 2023, which includes a four percent tax increase.
The future of the Wolfe Street overflow shelter is gearing up to be a key point of debate when budget talks get underway.
Read more about what is and isn’t in the budget – including new cycling infrastructure, investments in school zone safety and money to rebuild the urban forest after the May 2022 derecho storm – here.
FUEL SPILL: Conditions in Jackson Creek have “deteriorated,” city says
Fuel continues to leak into Jackson Creek, where it passes under Townsend Street, after a spill was first detected in August, the city said in a release last Friday.
“The Jackson/Townsend spill has been a challenging discovery of historic contamination in the area,” it reads. “With the recent weather, conditions in Jackson Creek have deteriorated.”
The city has prevented fuel from flowing into Little Lake, it said. Oil-absorbent booms have been stretched across the mouth of the creek, where it meets the lake, since August.
Some of the contamination came from an “unidentified” fuel tank buried on the grounds of the city’s transit garage, at the corner of Aylmer and Townsend streets. The tank was removed, but contamination is still surfacing in the creek and the city believes it’s coming from other nearby properties.
Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is overseeing a remediation plan for the spill and has ordered the city to hire an environmental remediation specialist full-time until conditions improve.
Work to install a “Permeable Reactive Barrier” to filter out contamination was scheduled to begin this week, the city said.
The ongoing fuel spill comes after city staff investigated another fuel leak in the area that threatened Jackson Creek in November 2021, as Peterborough Currents previously reported.