Residents are wondering why most city washrooms are substandard and in shambles and now need $13-14 million in upgrades and renovations.
A city staff report, tabled at committee of the whole on Jan. 19, found that 83 per cent of washrooms in the City of Victoria need either extensive or moderate to extensive upgrades and renovations.
Taxpayers should ask council what they have been spending their tax dollars on the last two terms, if not critical infrastructure such as public washrooms?
Good governance is about choices and making good decisions. Clearly, providing quality washrooms for residents and our tourists was not a priority, but should have been.
Council could easily find various non-essential items to trim in the 2023 budget to fund upgrades to public washrooms. Arguably, millions in excessive tax dollars are spent annually for non-essentials such as poet-and-artists-in-residence, public relations, public art, and community grants.
The new city council needs to make critical infrastructure needs such as roads, parks, traffic systems and public washrooms a priority.
Eleven of the city’s 18 park washrooms were opened prior to 1970 and haven’t been upgraded since, according to the report. Staff recommend two options to council – adopt a workplan that upgrades the neglected system in either four or seven years.
There are questions: When washrooms in restaurants and businesses were less available to the public during the pandemic the last three years, why wasn’t the city system upgraded? Why has maintenance been deferred up until now? Are homeless in parks magnifying? If active transportation is a priority for city hall, why weren’t the outdoor facilities also improved?
Most were built between 1960-80 and require significant renovations to meet current accessibility standards and require renewal to address obsolescence.
The 23-page audit was undertaken on accessibility but does not address ways to mitigate the vandalism in city park washrooms. Upgrades and renovations to public washrooms should take into account vandalism – an expensive and perennial issue – and design the washrooms to address the problem.
Unfortunately, the Park Washrooms Accessibility Assessment report does not reference the millions of tax dollars also required to upgrade toilets outside parks in the downtown.
Stan Bartlett, vice-chair
Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria