Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs denies council is withholding information on the location of a proposed adult residential addictions treatment centre in the town.
If anyone believes council has information on the facility it is not sharing, "that's not true," the mayor maintains.
Coombs was responding to citizens who have expressed concerns the centre could end up in a residential area of town.
While they were satisfied with the time they were allotted to ask questions about the facility during an Aug. 30 meeting with council, a delegation of concerned citizens were not so impressed with the answers they received. In fact, they say they came away from the meeting unsatisfied and totally frustrated with the outcome.
They feel they are just as much in the dark now as they were when funding for the facility was first announced in the provincial budget in April.
Two of the concerned citizens have expressed their frustrations in a letter to the editor on page A4 of this week's Compass. John Dunphy and Betty Pembroke state: "Council reiterated ... they could not answer any of our questions because they had not received a proposal from the province."
The citizens left the council meeting scratching their heads in confusion after apparently being told council had met with "a consultant who was not a consultant. And even after this two-hour meeting with a consultant/non consultant, council could not give us any information," they wrote in their letter.
When The Compass asked Mayor Coombs to clarify the statement, he explained what was meant by that statement was simply that the consultant who met with council may not necessarily be the same consultant who will do the final work on the project for government.
The citizens say when they asked the mayor where the centre would be located, Coombs told them what they had already read in The Compass six months ago, that he had met with government officials and, "several sites around town have been looked at, but nothing has been finalized."
According to rumours circulating around town, the citizens say The SPLASH Centre on Lady Lake Road was being assessed as a potential site.
For the first time, Mayor Coombs did confirm last week the SPLASH Centre is indeed one of the sites being looked at.
However, he was quick to add, whatever site is chosen, "I can't tell you if the SPLASH Centre will be the site because it may or may not he the one."
Government already owns the building, which once served as St. Paul's School.
Admitting a facility like this one is always going to be controversial, Coombs says, "I think they're trying to get it stopped before it starts."
However, the concerned citizens say they are not against the proposed addictions treatment centre. In fact they agree, "it is something that is desperately needed." But they also feel as taxpaying citizens, they should have a say as to where the facility should be located.
Referring to the citizens' concerns, Coombs says he believes, "there is a perception and fear among them the area surrounding the facility would become a free-for-all environment with addicts out in the streets."
While he understands their concerns, and agrees they have to be taken into consideration, the mayor says he feels they are unfounded.
"That's not the way it was presented to us" by the consultant, Coombs notes.
It is his understanding clients who avail of the facility for treatment for their addictions will go there voluntarily after being referred by a medical doctor and addictions counsellor.
"Persons needing help with their addictions won't just be able to go up and sign themselves in or out of this facility," he suggests. There will be a structured plan in place to help people with their addictions, he explains.
Coombs assures concerned residents they will be consulted before any final decisions on the location of the facility are made. He says the consultant told council there will be public consultations.
Meanwhile, he says, council will continue to listen to people's concerns and they will get a chance for input.
While he acknowledges council has heard from those with concerns about the facility, Coombs notes, "we are also getting correspondence in favour of it. We're getting a lot of support for it. It's got to go somewhere. Is this something we don't want in Harbour Grace?"
The citizens say they also attempted to arrange a meeting with Jerome Kennedy in hopes the Carbonear-Harbour Grace MHA and Minister of Health and Community Services could shed some more light on the location of the facility. Citizens say while Kennedy has assured them their views will be considered, he did not feel such a meeting was necessary at this time.
Kennedy could not be reached for comment last week.
Some $2 million was provided in Budget 2010 for the planning and development of an adult addictions treatment centre in Harbour Grace. The new treatment centre was to be designed to help meet the needs of individuals who require longer-term residential treatment, or those that have more severe and persistent addictions.
The new centre will complement the Humberwood Treatment Centre in Corner Brook, which provides short-term treatment.