The City of Moncton is on the hunt for a washroom that cleans itself.
On Thursday afternoon that tendering process closed.
The city is looking to have the automated self-cleaning washroom facility installed at 655 Main St., right by City Hall.
The permanent self-cleaning washrooms will be accessible 24-7 and require minimal maintenance, said Isabelle LeBlanc, director of communication for the city.
Business and homeless advocates are rejoicing at the completion of this step.
Upon hearing the news, Debby Warren – executive director of Ensemble Greater Moncton, an organization which addresses harm-reduction and has many homeless clients – exclaimed “Eureka!”
Many homeless advocates had been speaking about this need for some time and it's a great step forward, she said.
Meanwhile, Anne Poirier Basque, executive director of Downtown Moncton Centre-ville Inc, was also pleased.
“DMCI has been advocating for public washrooms in the downtown for many years now. Responses from surveys to our business community reflect the necessity for public washrooms in our city’s core.”
“The installation and maintenance of public washrooms are a necessary and important investment for continued growth of downtown,” she said.
According to the tender, the city is looking to purchase a pre-engineered or pre-fabricated washroom with one unisex unit. The intention is for the washroom to “fully plumbed and connected to City services.”
The detail of plumbing is an important one, said Warren.
Currently, there is a portable toilet installed outside City Hall. But she recalled an early morning during the pandemic where a client expressed to her how grateful he was to be able to wipe his hands and face while using the facility at Ensemble.
Ensemble is located on Weldon Street and serves about 900 clients, but Warren said the washroom they have made available since expanding during the pandemic is only available when the facility is open.
The need for public washrooms has been even higher during the pandemic and many people have had no choice but to simply “go” outside, she said.
It isn’t the fault of businesses, she said. It shouldn’t be a business’ responsibility to provide everyone access to a washroom, she said, adding that not everyone is comfortable going into a shop or restaurant to ask to use the facilities.
If you travel to bigger cities, such as in Europe, it is not so unusual to see self-cleaning bathrooms that can be used by someone shopping downtown, or walking to the park.
“It’s nice to have a clean facility,” she said.
Last November, the city’s budget report stated that the city was looking to pursue capital projects that included spending $300,000 for two permanent bathrooms in the downtown area. Potential locations discussed by director of economic development Kevin Silliker included the plazas by City Hall and the Avenir Centre.
As the bidder has not yet been selected by the city, the confirmed cost for the self-cleaning washroom facility by City Hall is not yet available nor is exactly what they will be like.
Self-cleaning washrooms installed in Montreal in 2018, for example, were free-standing units featuring automated sprinklers and squeegees that wipe the toilet seat and floor after each use, a 90-second process.
"Water and electrical hook-up along with a concrete pad is all that is required," said LeBlanc.
She said Moncton will wait to see what bidders come back with as to the self-cleaning mechanism used.
"We believe that this might be the first self-cleaning washroom in the Maritimes," said LeBlanc
– The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Initiative de journalisme local est financée par le gouvernement du Canada.
Caitlin Dutt, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal