City hasn’t flushed Rotary’s public toilet idea

by - April 12, 2018

In an effort to clean up public urination in downtown Yellowknife, a service club floated the idea of building a public washroom at a high-profile location.

And the Rotary Club of Yellowknife is still waiting to hear back from city council, which heard of the plan in January and had some concerns over the cost and location.

“We’re taking a number of things into consideration, including the possible location, ongoing operating costs, how to address safety, and is a stand-alone washroom the best model for Yellowknife?” Mayor Mark Heyck told Yellowknifer on Wednesday.

“We’re also currently considering the future use of the 50/50 lot, which creates some uncertainty if we were looking to locate a washroom.”

The City of Yellowknife is offering a $500 incentive for any business who opens up their washrooms to the public.
Michael Hugall/NNSL photo

Heyck said council has not taken a definite position on whether or not they would build a public washroom in the city.

In the interim, “we’re continuing to look at ways to let the public know about the availability and locations of washrooms,” he said.

During the summer months, Somba K’e Civic Plaza washrooms are open to the public.

As well, all city-operated buildings are supposed to offer bathroom access to people who need it, said city communications officer Iman Kassam.

Those restrooms are looked after by city workers.

The Rotary Club of Yellowknife under former president Kam Hogan wanted to open the facility on the corner of 50 Street and 50 Avenue this summer. The service club, along with Williams Engineering Canada and Guy Architects offered a total $100,000 in resources for the public washroom, said Wayne Guy.

In addition Guy Architects would offer planning services. Williams Engineering would supply mechanical and electrical services.

The group made a presentation to council in January but Guy said they have not heard back.

“We think a public washroom would be a positive addition to Yellowknife,” he said. “We were hoping to begin the process of building it this summer.

Meanwhile, the city is again offering an incentive for local businesses to open their washroom for public use.

The program is designed to increase the amount and accessibility to public washrooms in the downtown area.

Businesses are offered $500 to participate. As of April 10, no business had applied for the washroom incentive this year.

Part of the incentive requires businesses to keep a sign on their front door.

Birchwood Coffee Ko owner Patrick Scott said having a sign outside would “make it difficult to manage the intoxicated people who come in,’ to his 49 Street business.

“Sometimes it can be a nuisance … we are not isolating homeless people, it’s the intoxicated people who are difficult,” he said.

Scott said there is a misconception to the lack of available washrooms in businesses.

“There are a lot of accessible washrooms, but in order to use them you need to ask for a key … even I feel uncomfortable asking for a key,” said Scott. “For the homeless, keeping their dignity is important. I keep my bathrooms unlocked for anyone to use.”

Twist & Shout Bar owner Jason Perrinos said although he applied for the city’s $500 incentive last year – the only business to do so in 2017 – his building has always offered public washrooms to homeless people.

“Since January 2015 we’ve always had our bathroom doors open to the public,” said Perrinos, who insisted it doesn’t make Twist special.

“Some Yellowknife residents have the attitude that if you’re down on your luck it’s your own fault.”

“Some think ‘When you are poor, you made your own choices and you deserve what you get’ that’s the real problem.'”

Perrinos said since he opened Twist’s bathroom to the public he has not encountered any problems.

“No messes to clean up and no drugs to be found,” he said. “It is part of our license to monitor the building so when I make my rounds I check all of the doors, including the washroom. When people come in they know we are watching.”