The Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce is optimistic it won’t have to close public washrooms.
“I think our request has been successful so are optimistic we won’t need to consider closing them,” said Denny Warner, general manager of the chamber. The organization received unofficial signals from the three municipalities that they will support covering additional costs of cleaning washrooms on Highway 17.
Chamber president Katie Kroeker had said in a letter to Sidney council (also before Central Saanich council Monday) that the organization does not have the additional $600 per month needed to cover the necessary cleaning costs. Her letter requested $2,400 each from Sidney, Central Saanich and North Saanich to cover the costs for one year.
“We believe it is in the best interest of the local business community, public health and our tourism industry for these washrooms to remain open and clean,” she said.
Without the financial support, the chamber would be forced to close the washrooms, impacting tourists, local tradespeople and other workers, said Kroeker.
Should the washrooms close, it would mark a return to an earlier phase of the COVID-19 pandemic when the washrooms were closed for several months, resulting in what Kroeker called a “serious public health and safety issue” that forced many people in their “desperation” to relieve themselves behind or near the washrooms.
“Dozens of people fouled the area every day,” she said.
According to the letter, 100 to 150 individuals use these washrooms every day, with most being local workers from a variety of industries. Closing the washrooms would force workers to take costly detours, said Kroeker.
The question of who pays how much for which public facilities has come to the forefront in recent weeks after the Capital Regional District (CRD) decided to close a temporary outhouse, that it operated for more than a decade on private property (Michell’s Farm Market). This move sparked public opposition. Central Saanich currently funds a replacement facility but remains in discussion for a permanent solution.
“We now understand that the washrooms on our property constitute a public good for the Peninsula similar to the washroom that was removed and is a subject of concern at (Michell’s Farm Market),” said Warner.
Kroeker said that “after several requests” North Saanich provided the necessary funding to meet the new COVID-19 standard of twice daily cleaning at a cost of $1,200 per month. That funding expired at the end of 2020.
On Jan. 25, Sidney council approved the additional funding from its COVID-19 relief grant. Coun. Peter Wainwright said the requested amount is small but noted the chamber deserved Sidney’s support in light of its work during the pandemic.
North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr said Wednesday afternoon that the letter from the chamber could appear as a late item at the next council meeting Monday. “I don’t think North Saanich will have any hesitation in terms of council’s point of view supporting on-going contributions to the facility in 2021,” he said. “So I don’t see this being any issue whatsoever.”
Central Saanich forwarded the request to its budget process, but also signalled support.
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