NORTH BAY -- North Bay city council has voted unanimously in favour of re-allocating $11,000 in its 2020 budget to install and maintain a yellow community sharps bin.

The money was meant to support the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit's needle buy-back program. Councillors originally said the buy-back program was a better option and would clean up more needles.

But the health unit said the program was never meant to continue long term.

"Sharp Buy Back was a short-term project to help increase the number of sharps returned to the health unit and partnering agency’s needle syringe programs," the health unit said in an email to CTV News. "There were clear gaps with this program that did not address the needs of individuals."

"The community sharps bin allows individuals to access a discreet location to safely dispose of sharps 24/7," the email said. "The use of community sharps bins is a long-term and sustainable solution for safer needle disposal which has already been adopted in many other communities across Ontario."

"We need to draw a line in the sand when it comes to these health issues that are being downloaded to us," said Coun. George Maroosis. "Very often people who are using these needles, when they're done with them, they just drop them on the ground."

Best option long term

The motion came forward after meetings with organizations including the health unit who said a sharps bin is the best long-term option for disposing needles safely.

"This bin is going to add some marginal value -- it's essentially a show of good faith to our community partners who are on the front line,” said Coun. Scott Robertson, who brought the motion forward. “But it is not going to provide a meaningful solution to homelessness, poverty, mental health or addictions."

Robertson is calling for more support from the province and federal government in dealing with mental health, drugs and poverty.

“There's a lot of frustration from this community,” he said. “The city doesn't have a big enough button or long enough lever to pull to address this issue."

The AIDS Committee of North Bay and Area have been working on a proposal for a community sharps bin for quite some time. Executive director Stacey Mayhall said more options in the city will lead to fewer needles on the streets.

“The process of getting this … funded and supported by the city took a little longer than we hoped, but we're happy with the result in any case,” said Mayhall. “We definitely could use several of those bins around town. The more available those kind of options are and the more accessible, the more likely people will use those."

It's expected the bin will be installed at the Community Counselling Centre of Nipissing on McIntyre Street East.