Vandalism prompts early closing for 2 of Vernon's $127K super-loos | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vandalism prompts early closing for 2 of Vernon's $127K super-loos

Inside the new loo.
February 23, 2021 - 5:00 PM

After spending almost $400,000 on three 24-hour super-sturdy vandal-resistant washrooms, Vernon council has decided to keep only one of them open 24-7 – due to vandalism.

And not everyone was in favour of that.

Councillor Dalvir Nahal argued that all the washrooms should be closed overnight because she has received plenty of complaints from residents saying they couldn't use them due to vandalism.

"It's not doing what it's supposed to," Coun. Nahal said. "It's just like with children, if you abuse it, you lose it."

Coun. Nahal's push to close the washrooms overnight was supported by Coun. Akbal Mund but didn't sit well with Coun. Kelly Fehr.

"Taking away bathrooms for those who don't have homes I think is absolutely inhumane," Coun. Fehr told council's Feb. 22 meeting.

The issue of the washrooms' closing times has been widely debated by council since the first $127,000 vandal-resident toilet opened in downtown Vernon in October 2019. Two more 24-7 loos were added in the spring of 2020 taking the total price tag to $380,000. On top of this, the washrooms cost roughly $90,000 in regular maintenance and in 2020 the City spent $42,000 dealing with more than 50 acts of vandalism.

The proposal for the open-all-hours washroom was originally pitched in 2018 following multiple complaints from business owners that homeless people were defecating in their doorways.

Coun. Brian Quiring told council that since the washrooms opened he'd seen fewer issues at the back of his downtown office building.

A letter from the Downtown Vernon Association also says businesses have reported a decrease in human waste found around their businesses.

However, contrary to this, the Downtown Vernon Association still calls for the washrooms to be closed at 10 p.m.

Coun. Fehr accused the Downtown Vernon Association of discriminating against people in poverty.

"They are not calling for washroom closures when customers or consumers are present, only when washrooms are predominantly used by people in extreme poverty," Coun. Fehr said. "I think a vote to close the washrooms at night is a clear message that consumers are more important than people in extreme poverty."

The ordinarily mild-mannered councillor said he was "pleading" with council not to close the washrooms overnight.

Following more than 30 minutes of debate, council voted to keep the washroom at 30 Avenue and 30 Street open 24/7 and close the other two by the transit loop from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m.

While mitigating the vandalism issue with extra security was discussed by council, the idea wasn't pursued.

Image Credit: City of Vernon

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