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Answering nature’s call

The topic of a lack of public washrooms in the downtown contributing to a problem of public urination returns to council Monday, via a motion by Coun. Ian Findlay. And while Findlay is suggesting that a user-pay system might be a good way to pay for their operation, his motion is silent on this. It’s just as well.
Pay toilets seem to work in European cities with lots of tourists. But at first blush the idea seems a non-starter in Guelph. Call us cheap, but we can’t imagine people being willing to pay for using washrooms in this non-tourist town.
It’s hard to argue with other aspects of Findlay’s motion, though. It says that “public urination continues to detract from the presentation of our downtown,” and it notes that council has previously approved the use of free-standing pissoirs if there’s a permanent public washroom in the vicinity. That’s to address the obvious problem that pissoirs cater only to able-bodied men, not to women or to the disabled.
Given that the downtown doesn’t yet have any permanent public washrooms available late at night, and none are currently planned, Findlay’s motion calls for the issue to be addressed this year. It’s a worthwhile motion, but the issue of who’d pay remains up in the air. Hopefully better ideas would emerge than user-pay. This is a European import that holds little allure or lustre for us.
Findlay suggested this week that the washroom plans could be part of the redesign of downtown streets such as Wyndham Street and proposed redevelopment in the Baker Street area, which are expected to undergo major reconstruction in coming years. It’s a good idea for city hall to start making plans now for public washrooms available to the late-night bar crowd, because nothing much has happened on this front despite years of talking about the problem.
The city has a bylaw imposing a stiff fine for public urination, but it needs to provide more than just deterrence for his call-of-nature issue.

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