It's new, it's portable, and it costs tens of thousands of dollars: a public washroom.
By June, the hunt for a place to relieve yourself downtown will be less of an emergency. With few facilities open to the public, city councillor Juliette Cunningham, a downtown business owner, says it can be difficult finding a place to go.
"We hear all the time downtown from members of the public that businesses don't allow them to use their facilities. It's tough for the public," she said.
Coun. Mary-Jo O'Keefe said the old library provided public washrooms at no additional cost to the city. When the library relocated and city services moved into the old building, the washroom doors were locked to the public.
"This left us with a gap to fill," O'Keefe says.
From the beginning, O'Keefe has advocated using the existing facilities in the city services building, or at least waiting to see if the art gallery could accommodate public washrooms in its new location.
The city is spending $54,000 on a relocatable washroom expected to make its debut on the eastern portion of the Medical Clinic site (near the Greyhound Station) in early June.
At a minimum, the cost to maintain the facility is $55,000 annually. For that price, the city gets a two hour cleaning schedule with the washrooms open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. A more expensive option ($70,000) would have extended the hours Thursday through Saturday to accommodate the 'bar flush'.
Council went for the cheaper option, but O'Keefe said it was still too much.
"I've always felt the relocatable washroom comes at too high a price," Coun. Mary-Jo O'Keefe said. "The annual maintenance is crazy expensive. This is a tremendous amount of money when we're struggling to find money."
If every one of Vernon's 38,150 people use the facility once in 2013, the cost per visit would be around $1.44.
It's anticipated that downtown shoppers, those using the adjacent bus station, and tourists will benefit from the service, but it's unknown what the actual toilet-traffic will look like.
Some funding for washroom maintenance in 2013 will come from the Casino Reserve Fund, but it's unknown how the city will pay for it in coming years.
One staff recommendation involves the elimination of the Spring Chipping Program, which represents about $85,000. Council has yet to make any decisions on funding sources beyond 2013.
To contact the reporter for this story, contact Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)309-5230.