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BUDGET: Decision on future of community sharps bin in the works

The needle drop-off is 'not being used very much,' and with a $10,000 per year budget line, Coun. Tanya Vrebosch would like to see those funds reallocated to a more effective community safety and well-being piece

The fate of a City of North Bay-funded needle disposal bin will rest on a report from staff and the support of North Bay City Council.

"I've been asking for a few years now, what the numbers are [for its use]," said Councillor Tanya Vrebosch in a recent budget meeting. "I'm hoping we have an answer on that."

See related: As snow melts, watch out for needles says Health Unit

The budget committee heard the City of North Bay has been spending $10,000 per year since 2021 on the public sharps disposal bin located outside the  Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing at 361 McIntyre St. E.

After a needle buy-back program was discontinued by the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit during the previous term, then-Councillor Scott Robertson worked with Vrebosch at the committee level to find a solution. The cancelled program had offered one $5 gift card for groceries for every 100 used sharps, needles, or syringes.

In 2020, the Health Unit had community sharps bins ready for installation within the district and wanted to do so on municipally-owned land. A compromise was later reached and the bin found a home on McIntyre Street East. The Health Unit also requested financial support for regular disposal of the contents of the sharps bin. The previously budgeted $10,000 for the buy-back program would go toward the costs associated with maintaining the bin.

See also: Community sharps bin gets lukewarm reviews yet unanimous support

"When used sharps are discarded improperly, such as in recycling, garbage, or even in a public place, it is often the result of not having a place to properly dispose of them," reads a January 2021 news release from the Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing announcing the bin's placement. "Providing a place for people to safely discard sharps helps keep the community safer for everyone."

Vrebosch asked Brent Kalinowski, who administers the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan, how many needles were being disposed of in that bin and whether he wanted to continue with the program.

Although he said he preferred to perform more audits, Kalinowski's investigation thus far indicates the box is "not being used very much."

Vrebosch observed, "I don't want to spend $10,000 [on this], I didn't want to in the first place..." as Ian Kilgour, the director of community services interjected with, "We tried not to," spend $10,000 on the program.

"We gave it a shot," Vrebosch continued, "If it's not being used, I'd rather reallocate the $10,000 to something under the Community Safety and Well-Being Plan. I, personally, am a fan of the needle buy-back program."

Coun. Justine Mallah, the chair of council's community services committee, noted that other agencies offer sharps disposal services. 

According to the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit website, community sharps bins are available at the Health Unit's Oak Street West offices and there is one accessible to the public stationed outside the AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area office at 147 McIntyre St. W.

Coun. Mark King said he agreed with the points raised by Vrebosch. "I think there is a valid argument there with respect to the municipality being able to articulate the extra costs we now face," to the upper levels of government.

"We wouldn't have had this discussion five years ago, would we?" King asked. "So, obviously something's happened to the fabric of our city. What is the actual cost of that loss of fabric? I think the municipality has to be tremendously careful to make sure it doesn't get dragged into this downloading that's going on."

Mallah suggested Kalinowski investigate further and the budget committee will address the issue when it reconvenes on March 18.

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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