One washroom facility in Vernon’s transit terminal will cost the City of Vernon around $25,000 after it was seriously damaged by a fire that was deliberately set inside on June 3.
This is just the latest in a series of vandalism incidents that forced the city to rethink the hours of operations for the washroom facilities that serve downtown visitors.
The downtown public washrooms were vandalized 52 times in 2020 and bylaw was called 85 times to deal with people misusing the stalls.
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 $51,738 in cleaning contracts.
In response, council voted to adjust the hours of the two transit terminal toilets, effective March 1, 2021, 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.
Regular cleanings are completed five times a day between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. and morning and evening security checks are done seven days a week.
But even since this adjustment meant to deter incidents of vandalism, operations staff have logged 13 complaints and bylaw has been called 14 times. Vernon North Okanagan RCMP responded to five calls of service.
Bylaw says most of the complaints they hear relates to one or more people locking themselves inside while RCMP respond to incidents of liquor and theft, among others.
Graffiti, garbage, fires and damage to the facility were reported as operational issues which are typically identified in the first inspection. This leads staff to believe most incidents occur between the last check at 7 p.m. and lockup at 10 p.m.
Data recorded by staff shows despite the changes made by the city, misuse at the transit terminal, specifically, is on the rise and changing the hours has had a minimal effect.
City staff will continue to monitor the situation and report back to council in October.
In the meantime, staff recommend council approve the costs of repair for the burned-out bathroom for up to $25,000, funded from the 2020 Year End Unexpended Uncommitted fund.