Vernon’s downtown public bathrooms were vandalized 52 times last year costing the city more than $42,000 in cleanup and bylaw was called 85 times to deal with people misusing the stalls.
In response, the city is adjusting the hours of the two transit terminal toilets from 24-hour operation to 7-10 p.m. Meanwhile, the public washrooms on 35th Street and 30th Avenue will remain open 24-hours a day.
From clogged toilets, vandalism, broken glass pipes, needles and blood, operations staff have recorded all incidents in a vandalism logsheet, noting costs totalled $42,085.12 — an expense on top of the estimated $90,594 annual costs, complete with the $51,738 cleaning contracted.
“It’s like with children, if you abuse it you lose it,” Coun. Dalvir Nahal said.
The washrooms were installed and kept open overnight to give people a place to do their business.
“Businesses were complaining that people were defecating in alleys and doorways and we recognize this is the humane thing to do,” Coun. Kelly Fehr said. But the social advocate says it is inhumane to close them overnight, and he plead with council to keep them open and increase security patrols and janitorial services.
But some businesses have reported to council that the washrooms are not being used as they are still finding surprises on their doorsteps.
“We have to draw the line somewhere and I’m ready to draw it,” Coun. Kelly Fehr said.
Yet, Coun. Brian Quiring said issues behind his downtown business have been alleviated since the installation of the washrooms.
Currently, the washrooms are cleaned five times between 8-8 p.m., seven days a week, but the staff report notes most vandalism incidents occur sometime after the last security check at 10 p.m. and the first of the morning around 7 a.m.
Sex, drug use, vandalism, overnight stays and people barricading themselves inside are among the reasons Bylaw Services responded to the downtown washroom 85 times last year.
The Downtown Vernon Association says it too has received several complaints about the improper or illegal use and cleanliness of the washrooms. The DVA maintains that safe, clean and accessible public toilets are an important amenity for a wide variety of reasons.
“These bathrooms are for everyone to use and they’re being misused,” Coun. Nahal said. “Taxpayers can’t use them the odd time they need to.”
Now, more than ever, finding a facility to use is increasingly difficult, Quiring also pointed out.
But the vandalism taking place is too much, therefore all councillors, except Fehr, voted to close two overnight, and get a report back from staff in June and October.
“It’s beyond me why people do this, but they do,” Cumming said. “It’s a common practice and it’s most often unrelated to people who might want to use the facility. Like the rail trail one.”