Residents will have less access to public washrooms in Penticton as city staff crack down on vandalism and drug use inside the facilities.
Council heard during the meeting on June 4 from the city’s director of recreation and culture Bregje Kozak about the state of the city’s public washrooms located within the 200 block of Main Street and certain city parks. She explained city staff have been struggling with addressing the near constant vandalism that seems to plague these buildings.
“Since we opened our washrooms in May, we have been almost daily in the facilities cleaning up, repainting to cover up graffiti, replacing hinges, fixing doors and that kind of thing,” said Kozak. “We spent about eight hours a week in man-power just for facilities staff to deal with that, that does not include bylaw time or any time by our cleaning contractors.”
Kozak submitted a report to council which stated the city spent $100,000 in security and vandalism to the city’s public washrooms in 2018. In just the two months these washrooms have been opened this year, the city has spent $7,000 and 65 staff hours (equal to one day per week) dealing with repairs.
As a result, council voted to adjust the hours certain public washrooms will be available. Going forward, the 200 block public washrooms will be closed except for market days on Saturday and special events.
In addition, rather than closing the public washrooms at dusk or 10 p.m., the hours will be reduced to close at approximately 9 p.m., subject to park bookings or special events.
“The 200 block public washroom is targeted quite frequently. What we either deal with is they’re locked and people are trying to get into them. Once we get inside (we find graffiti) and we can clean it up and repaint it, then the next day it will be back,” said Kozak. “We also see drug paraphernalia and other things.”
Furthermore, the unisex and single stall washrooms in Lakawanna Park, Gyro Park, Okanagan Lake Park and Rotary Park will be closed for the summer. The regular male and female washrooms will remain open at those locations.
“The single stall washrooms are really problematic for us. We installed brand new partitions in the stalls at Okanagan Lake Park because they were badly damaged last year, and they are already bent,” said Kozak. “We’ve even seen a burn mark on the wall (in one washroom), which we believe is from someone cooking their drugs on top of the toilet paper holder.”
Members on city council expressed their disappointment that the schedule changes are necessary, noting that it impacts the general public and businesses when the public washrooms are not available.
Kozak said that in the past, the city has tried installing portable washrooms which suffer just as much vandalism. City staff will be posting signage of the adjusted hours, and this is subject to change based on the outcomes.
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