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The City of Owen Sound prematurely ended a one-year pilot project of having a sharps disposal container in the washroom at the Farmers' Market due to vandalism that left the public exposed to used needles and drug residue. Drug use in the washroom and concerns for staff and user safety caused the City to close the washroom completely.

Mayor Ian Boddy says there are two issues – one about public washrooms, and one about drug use in the city – brought to council as part of a Community Services report.

The City Hall washrooms are open only during business hours, as the washrooms with access from the outside were removed and not included in the recent renovations.  With the river precinct project intended to bring more people downtown for events and enjoying the riverfront, access to public washrooms will be a consideration.

One recommendation was “Staff initiate conversations with the Downtown Improvement Association (DIA) to investigate if there is interest in a public washroom promotion partnership with downtown merchants". Councillor Scott Greig reported on his informal survey of downtown businesses. He said those he spoke to were unanimous in saying that the provision of public washrooms was a municipal responsibility. While every business accommodates customers and compassionate needs, the security, staffing and cost considerations are challenging for small businesses. Greig was the only councillor opposed to sending the question to the DIA.

Concerning the drug use issue, council recognized that any solution would require all the community partners – police, emergency services, public health and mental health, as well as the City itself.
Who assumes the responsibility for spearheading action? asked Councillor Carol Merton. City Manager Wayne Ritchie says there will be some options coming forward for the council to consider, but that they would come with budget implications.


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