Self-cleaning toilets on city’s immediate to-do list


$430K public washrooms among dozens of projects to be completed by end of 2021

CBC News, Dec. 18, 2020
Kate Porter

Ottawa could have self-cleaning public toilets on Sparks Street and in the ByWard Market, as well as Wi-Fi in more community centres, by this time next year.

The city has been allocated $20.1 million under a COVID-19 program funded entirely by the federal and provincial governments. City council will hold a special meeting Friday to ensure staff can submit the city’s list of dozens of relatively minor but doable projects by the Jan. 7 deadline.

“It’s pretty important in high-traffic areas to have somewhere to go.”
– Bessa Whitmore, GottaGo! campaign

This particular bucket of money is meant for building retrofits, pathways and other projects that can help with physical distancing. They must be completed by the end of 2021, leaving little time for design, noted infrastructure general manager Steve Willis in a memo to council.

Staff have suggested a list of projects they deem achievable in that time, including a facility for the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa in the Heatherington area, an expansion of the Beacon Hill North Community Centre, as well as several pathways, pedestrian crossovers, picnic areas and LED lighting in recreation centres.

The list of projects would also see Wi-Fi installed in community houses in neighbourhoods such as Michele Heights, Foster Farm and Banff-Ledbury.

Toilets $430K apiece

The GottaGo! campaign, which advocates for clean and safe public toilets as a public health necessity, was pleased to see two self-cleaning public washrooms make the list, each pegged at $430,000.

The group recently sent councillors a letter saying the pandemic, with the closure of coffee shops and other facilities, highlighted the city’s lack of public washrooms. People with medical conditions or who are homeless especially need access to public washrooms, the group said.

“It’s pretty important in high-traffic areas to have somewhere to go,” said Bessa Whitmore. “It’s non-partisan, and it affects 100 per cent of the population, so I’m just delighted to hear this is in their proposal.”

City staff anticipate far more infrastructure funding to flow in the months to come. In his memo, Willis pointed to $100 billion in stimulus money announced by the federal government in November. Earlier this month, council approved the first preliminary step toward turning the Prince of Wales rail bridge into a multi-use pathway, so the city can be ready to apply for funding when the time comes.

City staff are also preparing applications under a COVID-19 program aimed at the long-term care sector.

To create housing for vulnerable residents during the pandemic, the city has received another $31.9 million under the rapid housing initiative to create 77 units for homeless men and women, and 32 units for families.