CENTRAL MANITOULIN – A community member’s request that the municipality place its mobile washroom facilities at community recreation sites earlier this year (on May 1 instead of the Friday before May 24) proved the catalyst for a lively debate at Central Manitoulin’s April 22 municipal council meeting.
The original recommendation from the safety, security and health committee was, “That we recommend to council to have porta potties set up in the municipality for May 1, 2021 and further, that council write a letter to Ministry of Transportation (MTO) requesting their rest area bathrooms are open for May 1, 2021.” The committee recommendation was moved at council by Councillor Derek Stephens and Councillor Angela Johnston.
Asked for staff input on the recommendation by Mayor Richard Stephens, CAO/clerk Ruth Frawley responded that the proposition could certainly be met, but would involve additional costs for the municipality in the ballpark of $1,100 due to staff time and materials to clean the facilities.
Councillor Rose Diebolt said that while she did agree with putting some of the facilities out, she did not agree with putting all of them out. “These have to be cleaned two times a day, seven days a week,” she said.
Councillor Dale Scott said that he agreed with Councillor Diebolt and that placing those facilities out might be sending the wrong message to tourists during a provincial stay at home order.
Mayor Richard Stephens noted that off-Island visitors are already showing up in Central Manitoulin.
Councillor Derek Stephens objected to the characterization of the facilities as being strictly aimed at tourists. “No,” he said. “We are doing this for our own residents.” He pointed out that community recreational spaces are vital to the health and well-being of Central Manitoulin residents, especially during the pandemic. “They are not at stay-at-home orders,” he said. “They can still go out. I can see us not wanting to open up our buildings, but there is no reason to not put out the porta potties early for the extra bit of money it will cost us. To say this is only for the tourists is wrong, we are doing this for our people.”
Councillor Diebolt reiterated the question of whether all of the porta potties needed to be put out, suggesting that the municipality could put out “just a couple.”
As discussion began to focus on where the facilities might be placed, Mayor Stephens suggested that the motion “is getting ahead of ourselves” as staff had not been consulted on where the best location would be to place the facilities.
Councillor Stephens suggested the municipality should place the facilities where they normally would be installed, but that perhaps boat launches could be left out.
CAO/clerk Frawley listed the various locations the porta potties were normally placed for the summer season.
Councillor Steve Shaffer said he had been “going back and forth” on the issue, noting the provincial stay-in-place order, “but as much as we want to deny it, the tourists are here.”
A suggestion from Councillor Scott that the public works superintendent be consulted on the issue received pushback from Councillor Stephens who noted the delay to consult would make the early installation moot. Councillor Diebolt said she agreed with Councillor Scott.
Councillor Johnston said she was not averse to placing a reduced number of porta potties out early.
Councillor Scott said that even though the request was to only put the porta potties out a few weeks early, “it will still be an expense.” He suggested that perhaps five or six would be sufficient.
Councillor Stephens stuck to his assertion that the facilities should be installed at parks and playgrounds, but was willing to omit boat launches.
In the end the motion: “that council approves having the porta potties set up in the municipality at the parks and playgrounds (not the boat launches) for May 1, 2021, and further that council write a letter to MTO requesting that their rest area bathrooms be open for May 1, 2021” was carried without dissent.