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Downtown public washroom issue is back on Prince George city council’s radar

The city is going to research the feasibility of free, accessible public washrooms downtown
(via Shutterstock)

Everybody Poops is a title of a children’s book, but also a phrase used at the April 29 council meeting to express the need for fee and accessible downtown public washrooms in Prince George.

The public bathroom issue was raised during a presentation about past, current and future initiatives in downtown Prince George when Coun. Cori Ramsay asked if this was something the city had looked into.

“Something that came up during the election a lot was the issue around downtown washrooms,” said Coun. Ramsay who also noted the city of Portland has patented an outdoor washroom called the Portland Loo, which has had a lot of success – one can even be found in Smithers.

The presentation on downtown initiatives was given by Tiina Schaeffer,  manager of sustainable community development, and Chris Bone, manager of social planning, on the Smart Growth Plan which was adopted by council in 2009.

Bone said while the city was developing the Wood Innovation Square Park, which will be a new downtown park located next to the Wood Innovation Design Centre (to be completed this summer), the city looked into the feasibility of a public washroom.

“What we discovered, and what is supported with research, is that public bathrooms […] as a result of the opioid overdose crisis, they in fact become unsafe injection sights and for the most part are out of service more frequently than they are in service.”

This prompted Coun. Terri McConnachie to make a motion to direct staff to come back to council with a report on the concept of public washrooms downtown.

“Coun. Ramsay brought up an issue that has been on my mind an awful lot,” said McConnachie. “Maybe if we all put our heads together between staff and the research, the political will, and the guidance of council we could come up with something.”

City Manager Kathleen Soltis said that staff could provide that information fairly quickly.

“Some of the research has already been done, so I think to begin it will be useful to provide that information to council and do an update on the research that has already been completed together with some other options that are being considered right now,” said Soltis.

“I think it’s just not enough to say bathrooms are not safe because of the street population. Everybody has to go to the bathroom,” said McConnachie. “There has to be a remedy out there for this basic human function other than the library being one of the only few true public washrooms available.”

The motion to request the report from city administration on the concept of washrooms available downtown was approved unanimously by council.