You may have noticed a few portable toilets popping up around town, with no signs of construction around.
Those are indeed porta-potties placed by the City of Chilliwack, in an effort to provide extra washroom facilities in the downtown area. And if the temporary facilities are a success, they could lead to a more permanent solution.
Three locations in the downtown area now have two porta-potties each. They are in parking lots at Victoria Ave., Princess and Young, and Salish Park.
City staff responded an inquiry from The Progress by saying they were addressing a need that was voiced by the community.
“Council has heard from the public that there is a need for washroom facilities downtown and we are responding to that need,” staff said. “The washrooms are public washrooms for everyone to use. They are not reserved for the use of one group or another.”
The washrooms will also help ‘relieve’ the community of an ongoing issue.
“We have heard complaints from residents that homeless people are relieving themselves in our parks or beside nearby buildings so this should help in this regard as well,” city staff said.
The washrooms are only a temporary setup, and council will gauge the need for them later, depending on usage.
So far, staff says the washrooms are seeing a lot of use. They come at a cost of $200 a month per unit, plus about $200 per month for cleaning. That money will be coming out of the operating budget for parks, and will be included in the budget discussion for 2017. It’s possible the city may buy the toilets, or even replace them with more permanent facilities in the future.
At the same time they installed the portable toilets, they decided to try to tackle another current problem downtown — discarded needles.
“City staff and contractors pick up a significant amount of used needles each week,” staff added. “With the washroom facilities in place, Council wanted to take this opportunity to encourage needle users to dispose of their needles in a safe manner. Again, the City will monitor these new washroom facilities and react accordingly.”
The city will continue to work with Fraser Health to develop a plan to help keep our community safe from used needles.