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Niagara Falls City Council says methadone clinic should stay right where it is

NIAGARA FALLS – Northpointe Council’s plan to move its methadone clinic from its current site in the Trott Building on 11th Street to a new, larger site at 606 Sixth St. appears to be steaming forward despite City Council’s opposition.

During a special meeting on Monday the Niagara Falls City Council passed a resolution which “officially voiced its opposition” to the move.

But the Council’s resolution does not have much power, other than to suggest that Northpointe Council expand at its current location in the Trott Access Center, at 1001 11th St., an idea which has been previously rejected by Northpointe. Expansion at the Trott site does not have state and federal approvals.

“Northpointe has informed Council that they are willing to look at other opportunities, but when other possibilities arise, like the one on Buffalo Avenue and the Trott facility, they turn a blind eye,” said Council Chairman Andrew Touma. He called Northpointe’s failure to consider another site disappointing.

“The public has spoken, loud and clear, to Northpointe, petitions have been sent to the state OASAS (Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services) that folks are against the methadone clinic going to Sixth and Walnut,” said Touma, “Assemblyman (John) Ceretto and Sen. (Robert) Ortt, as well as the mayor, the City Council and the County Legislature, all oppose this thing. Why are we still talking about it?”

Northpointe, a nonprofit organization, began a plan for expansion in 2014 after it started outgrowing its site at Trott. The agency treats about 90 people and has a waiting list of 150 people who need access to methadone, which is used to treat addiction to opiates.

James M. Niland, a member of the Northpointe board of directors for over 10 years, said to develop a floor plan on Buffalo Avenue, next to the sewer treatment plant, and get approvals from the DEA and OASAS would have taken two years, while the Sixth Street location could be open and treating clients in 120 days. He said Northpointe spent five or six years looking for an appropriate site before settling on the Sixth Street location.

The Sixth Street site is in a residential area, but is an allowed use since the building is zoned commercial. Zoning and planning board approvals would be needed to use an adjacent parking lot.

The City Council said in its resolution on Monday that while it recognizes “the need to combat the regional and national opioid addiction problem,” councilors believe expansion at Trott is more sensible because it includes other public services.

The City Council also once again voiced support for having the Orleans Niagara Board of Cooperative Education Services employment and training center locate at the 606 Sixth St. site.

Joseph Steinmetz, BOCES’ director of career training and adult secondary services, said BOCES would not share the site with Northpointe Council because BOCES officials do not feel their mission is compatible with the methadone clinic. He said BOCES does not have an agreement with Ellicott Development to rent the space.

Councilman Charles Walker, a member of the Northpointe board, abstained from voting on the resolution. Mayor Paul A. Dyster said Monday that Walker recognized there could be a conflict of interest and purposely left the meetings when the discussions of the expansion came up.

Daniel J. Shubsda, Northpointe president and chief executive officer, told The Buffalo News in March that Northpointe had received state approval for the Sixth Street site and it signed a lease with Ellicott Development in September.

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