TIMMINS -- George Pirie, the mayor of Timmins, delivered his "State of the City" speech on Thursday at a luncheon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

It’s an annual event during which the mayor outlines current issues, potential projects and successes the city is experiencing.

Pirie began his address with a "tip of his hat" to council for all its hard work. He then got into broaching the harsh realities facing the city.

"I want to talk about the tough social issues first," Pirie said to the 200 people in attendance.

That statement got everyone’s undivided attention.

Pirie continued saying the opioid crisis is not going to go away because there is too much money to be made.

"A solid brick of fentanyl can be purchased for $12,500," he explained. "In powder form, it is worth $250,000. This powder can be made into million-plus pills, which have a street value of $20 million. Our law enforcement officers have never seen anything like it."

As a result, he said the high use of opioids in the city is having a direct effect on the costs of running the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board’s Emergency Medical Services.

"Crisis calls have doubled in three years," said Pirie.

Another area where the city is seeing a growth in is the number of Indigenous people in Timmins who are homeless.

"90 per cent of our homeless are Indigenous," said the mayor. "Funds have to follow the feet."

He explained the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board receives $648 per homeless person, but other northern and southern municipalities receive much more.

"Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and North Bay receive from $5,500 to $7,500 (per person)... Windsor receives over $40,000 per person," said Pirie.

He assured the crowd, the city is asking for more funding from the provincial and federal governments and said Timmins James Bay MP Charlie Angus has promised to "chase this down."

The mayor’s speech was 15 pages long and it took him about 90 minutes to get through it.

Val Venneri, president of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, was pleased with the event’s turnout. He said there’s "a lot of interest in it, and as it should be because it’s our city."

One business owner in attendance, Lloyd Richards of Lloyd Richards Moving, is concerned with the heavy truck traffic. He said the city has to push for a "bypass road or some sort of a perimeter road around, north or south, it doesn’t matter."

And the mayor agreed, "a few attempts have been made at making this happen, but obviously it has not."

He is hoping the large industrial users will eventually come to a consensus to build a service road because the city’s infrastructure was not built to handle the excessive use.

As Pirie looks forward to next year’s "State of the City," he wants to be able to tell people progress has been made on that matter, among many others.

Timmins mayor and chamber of commerce board

(Timmins Mayor George Pirie with chamber of commerce board members at the annual ‘State of the City,’ address at The Porcupine Dante Club. L-R: Frank O’Donnell, Rolly Magnan, Hugh Taylor, Fred Gibbons, George Pirie, Val Venneri, Susan Hunter and Bill Belanger. Jan. 23, 2020. Lydia Chubak/CTV Northern Ontario)