The cost of renting porta-potties for the Saturday downtown farmers market prompted its governing society to seek a permanent solution from the City.
But while council was sympathetic, it didn’t see a good fit with any of the nearby City-owned buildings to provide relief to vendors or shoppers.
Frank Blom and Deanna Heurstfields with the farmers market society appealed to council Tuesday for a better solution to the toileting dilemma. They also asked for a longer contract with the City, so they wouldn’t have to go through the renewal process every year and would have more certainty.
At 35 years old, the market has grown and become established as a regular part of downtown during the summer.
Blom said a survey of 925 participants at a Saturday and Wednesday market showed 70 per cent spend more than half an hour there, and more than half attend the markets two or three times a month or more.
The overall estimate is that the market draws 3,360 customers a day, and 86,000 throughout a season. The average spending is $32 per person per visit, which Blom calculated puts $4.8 million into the local economy annually. He estimated the spinoff for downtown businesses from market shoppers is $2 million.
But with all that business going on, the downside is that vendors and shoppers don’t have a permanent public washroom, especially at the Saturday market on Saint Paul Street.
The cost of porta-potties is $100 per day for one, and $35 more for a second unit. The toilet budget eats up 10 per cent of the society’s annual operating budget, he said.
Blom said his group looked at using the museum, but there were liability issues.
City parks, recreation and culture director Byron McCorkell said the problem is the museum washrooms are in the bottom floor, past the children’s area. It’s not suited to people coming and going from the washrooms.
The society hasn’t asked about access to Stuart Wood elementary school, but was afraid there would be costs for security to provide access to the building.
Coun. Pat Wallace suggested the group explore the school option first. The City does provide the street space and gives up the parking meters that would otherwise be collecting coins, she said.
Coun. Nancy Bepple tried a motion asking for staff to look at the cost of extra security and janitorial staff at the museum, but it was defeated.
Coun. Ken Christian summed up his view by saying the market is temporary, the location is temporary and a porta-potty is suitable because it, too, is temporary.
But council did ask that the permit request be referred to its service agreement committee to look at a two-year permit.