Paul Harris (contributed photo).

Red Deer business owners not keen to revisit downtown SCS proposal

Turning Point needs to listen to the public, says Paul Harris

Turning Point will encounter “a lot of angry people” if they don’t listen to what the community wants, predicts a Red Deer businessman.

Sunworks co-owner and former city councillor Paul Harris believes there will be a lot of public resistance in revisiting Turning Point’s rejected downtown location for the supervised drug consumption site.

“I suspect they don’t quite understand the influence the population they are serving has on the businesses here, or how large a portion of (the city’s) operating budget comes from downtown businesses,” Harris added.

Many local businesses have spoken out about the needle debris and anti-social behaviors they regularly encounter in the downtown. While studies have shown that SCS helps resolve some of these problems, Harris said the public doesn’t believe it.

He hopes Turning Point is “willing to listen to people” at the forums it is planning for next month to discuss various location options, including its own 50th Avenue site. “If they come to just lecture the community, it’s not going to go well…”

Another former city councillor, Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer, who owns Comforts the Sole, feels city council was correct in approving the hospital site or a portable unit for the delivery of supervised drug consumption services.

Addictions are a health issue, so “let’s have some distance” between the SCS and downtown retail outlets and offices, said Watkinson-Zimmer, who feels 1 1/2 blocks is not enough space.

“It’s one more (social service) agency in the downtown, which we feel are overabundant.”

While Turning Point is allowed to bring the same location proposal back for reconsideration after six months, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said city staff have encouraged the agency to look at options beyond those already presented and discussed last fall.

She added that in Lethbridge, the new CSC is located on the outer periphery of the downtown, well away from retailers and offices.

The mayor does not feel that a provincial study supporting Turning Point as a location brings any new evidence to the table, since it’s based on a needs assessment the city has already considered.

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