Vernon spent $42K fixing vandalism on vandal-resistant public loos | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon spent $42K fixing vandalism on vandal-resistant public loos

The washroom at 30 Avenue and 30 Street in downtown Vernon in October 2019.
February 20, 2021 - 8:30 AM

The City of Vernon's vandal-resistant, $137,000 apiece, 24/7 washrooms, were vandalized on average once a week last year costing the City $42,000 to deal with the damages.

Due to the frequency of the vandalism, City staff are now recommending two of the three downtown washrooms close at 10 p.m. leaving the toilet at the corner of 30 Avenue and 30 Street open 24/7.

According to a staff report, the City spent $42,085 in 2020 dealing with 52 separate incidents of vandalism.

A detailed incident report shows that graffiti counted for the majority of the vandalism, along with the needle deposit box being vandalized. Other incidents show that bylaw staff also had to clean up blood, pick up needles and broken glass, and deal with the aftermath of a small overnight fire that someone had in one of the washrooms.

And it wasn't just vandalism that bylaw officers had to deal with.

Issues ranged from drug use and people barricading themselves inside to people sleeping in the washrooms overnight and even having sex in them.

Photos of the washrooms from the City of Vernon staff report.
Photos of the washrooms from the City of Vernon staff report.
Image Credit: City of Vernon

Including the vandalism, a total of 85 files were created in 2020 dealing with the public toilets.

The report says the vast majority of the vandalism and issues happens after 10 p.m. and rarely during the day. Most of the incidents also took place during the summer months.

Pitched as an almost indestructible washroom that could stay open 24/7, the opening hours have been a topic of much discussion at Vernon council since the first toilet opened in October 2019 with a closing time of 8 p.m. The earlier than expected closing time was met with lengthy debate and was later amended to 10 p.m. That changed in the spring of 2020 to be open all night. Two more washrooms opened near transit bus exchange in April 2020, both with a 24/7 schedule.

The proposal to change the washrooms' opening hours comes after councillor Dalvir Nahal asked to see how much the ongoing vandalism was costing and suggested that the hours needed reviewing.

"If they are being misused maybe we need to rethink having them open for 24 hours," Coun. Nahal said at council's Jan. 11 meeting.

The idea for the open-all-hours pricey loos was first pitched in 2018 as a way to mitigate issues caused by homelessness. Business owners had made many complaints about homeless people defecating in their doorways as the City's public washrooms were closed at night.

The Downtown Vernon Association reports that since the toilets opened businesses have seen a decrease in the amount of human waste found near their businesses.

However, in a letter to council the Downtown Vernon Association requests that the toilets not be open 24 hours a day.

The three pricey washrooms cost $380,000 to build and cost the City a little over $90,000 a year in cleaning and maintenance, not including the extra expenses caused by vandalism and graffiti.

Vernon council will vote on the amended closing times at its Feb. 22 meeting.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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