The washrooms at the wharf are among the city washrooms closed during the winter. (File photo)

The washrooms at the wharf are among the city washrooms closed during the winter. (File photo)

Weather in charge of Salmon Arm’s public potty plans

Council hears about complaints lodged last year over Blackburn Park closures

If you’re at Blackburn Park during spring break and you need to use a washroom, your relief will rest in Mother Nature’s hands.

During discussion of a two-year extension to the city’s contract with Salmon Arm Security for opening and closing washrooms around town, Coun. Debbie Cannon said she received about six emails after last year’s school district spring break. People were complaining about the washrooms at Blackburn Park being closed.

“People were just kind of having to use a tree if they could find one,” she told council’s Feb. 24 meeting.

Rob Niewenhiuzen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, explained the opening date is weather dependent.

He said facilities are not insulated so, although city staff try to open them as soon as possible, if there’s any chance of frost, or severe frost, they have to keep them closed.

“Or else we’ll spend a lot more money replacing all the plumbing in the building.”

Canon asked if the contract, which lists April 1 and Oct. 31 as the opening and closing dates, could include an option for assessing the weather and opening them earlier.

Niewenhuizen said staff have that option if weather allows, but the budget is based on those rough dates. If they’re opened too much earlier, the city would go over budget and budgets are tight.

“It does cause staff time to go clean and service them,” he explained.

Nonetheless, he said a budget amendment could be made.

Read more: Washrooms not equipped for winter

Read more: North Okanagan’s homeless-populated park to get porta potties, despite concerns

Cannon asked if the washrooms at Marine Park would be open for Rogers Hometown Hockey and Niewenhuizen said they will be, other arrangements have been made.

On another topic, Coun. Sylvia Lindgren asked if it’s considered whether companies are paying their staff a living wage when contracts are awarded.

Niewenhuizen said the city has no obligation to do that.

Lindgren said she thinks the city is doing really well for city employees, but she questions whether it is with contractors.

“That’s on my mind whenever one of these contracts comes up for renewal. It’s another opportunity for us to make sure we’re hiring or contracting out to companies who treat their employees well, like we treat our employees well, and that we are a leader in our community in that area.”

She said she realized she’s late bringing up the topic but would like to sit down with staff to explore the issue.

Coun. Tim Lavery said it would be council’s responsibility, not staff’s, to come up with a fair wage policy.

The washrooms included in the contract listed as opening and closing on April 1 and Oct. 31 are: Canoe Beach, Mosquito Park, Marine Park, Jackson Field House, Ross Street Plaza, Fletcher Park, Blackburn Park and Little Mountain Field House.

Ones listed to stay open all year are at the Salmon Arm Foreshore, McGuire Lake and Klahani Park.

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