Council revisits downtown toilet decision

Nanaimo city council revisited its decision to build a public washroom downtown, but voted once again to continue on with the project with financial assistance from the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association.

Coun. Jim Kipp, who said previously he felt the $100,000 loo was too much money and that a made-in-Nanaimo effort was more desirable, brought the motion up again through personal privilege to direct staff to investigate other less expensive options.

Council voted on Jan. 14 to go ahead with including money in the current budget to build a Portland Loo at Diana Krall Plaza to address a public urination problem downtown when bars let out, and to provide tourists and downtown shoppers with a convenient and safe place to relieve themselves 24/7. The patented facility, which is not fully enclosed, also meets RCMP safety concerns.

The DNBIA said it will chip in $23,000 for the toilet, leaving the city with a net cost of $67,000.

“We’ve been working on a solution to public urination for more than a year with the RCMP, the Safer Nanaimo Working Group, BarWatch and the City of Nanaimo,” said Corry Hostetter, general manager of the DNBIA. “We launched a pilot project that saw a temporary toilet put downtown and it was a success in reducing public urination, so our board of directors decided to use $23,000 of restricted capital funds for an asset in the revitalization of downtown.”

The DNBIA is a taxpayer-funded organization charged with improving Nanaimo’s downtown area.

Staff reports say the design, which originated in Portland, Ore., has been successful in other cities, including Vancouver and Victoria. Council voted 5-3 in favour of proceeding with the project as it sits.

“It’s a health issue,” said Coun. Fred Pattje, adding that four years of study has revealed that Diana Krall Plaza is the best location. He said that while $100,000 is a lot of money, public washrooms at Maffeo Sutton Park cost $60,000 in the mid-1980s, and that building the city’s own version of the Portland Loo would infringe on patents if not built by the original designer.

“The reality is things don’t come cheap,” said Pattje. “And we don’t always go with the most expensive option. What we’ve decided on here is not the most expensive option.”

Kipp said if two toilets can be built at the Northfield rest stop for $40,000, then one can be built downtown for less than the proposed cost.

“I don’t think we expanded this enough, I don’t think we’ve looked within our own city enough,” said Kipp. “We’re depending on Portland, we’re depending on Victoria ... and I don’t think this one toilet is going to solve the problem. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Council will have opportunities to discuss the project during budget deliberations but will likely go ahead with installing the facility later this year.

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