'I prefer to sell the bathrooms': Huntsville's costly donated River Mill Park washrooms postponed

The council continues to debate the washroom planned for River Mill Park in Huntsville. Although the issue has been in the works for a long time, the project will be postponed even further.

On Sept. 7, the council directed staff to consult with the District of Muskoka about possible washroom locations for water and sewer services in River Mill Park.

Staff reported the district's response in the council meeting held last Monday, Sept. 25. Here is where the bathroom situation stands.


According to the report submitted by staff, the district is open to making accommodations to facilitate washroom installation. However, due to cost matters, the district preferred to avoid locations where the water and sewer services were negatively affected.

If it is impossible to avoid district services, there are a few things to consider.

"The first item is that when we put it over top of services without moving any, there are associated risks," said Tarmo Uukkivi, director of operations and protective services. "The biggest risk is that if there's a service failure, we have to move the building or come up with costly alternatives to accessing those services for repair. That would also cause a prolonged service disruption of water or sewage services."

The second thing to consider would also mean a cost increase.

"Moving the services can be done, but there would be a cost associated, and that would be adding to the cost of the actual washroom facility," he said.


Despite having the information from the district, the costs remain unclear as the board did not approve any project development budget or location at the last council meeting.

Most of the council agreed that the next step would be choosing a location from those presented in the report from the previous meeting, approve a budget and go for tender to get specific costs. However, not everyone agreed.

"I'm confident that the options when they're put out to tender aren't going to produce numbers that I will be satisfied with," said Councillor Clarke." I prefer to sell the bathrooms to another municipality, recoup what we can and work with the donor to find a less costly option."

At the beginning of the year, a Huntsville resident donated money to build the washrooms.

Councillor Clarke said he would not further support the project due to increasing costs and asked for a recorded vote.

After a lengthy discussion, the council chose options one and eight from the Sept. 7 report and wrote a motion directing staff to put out a bid to obtain accurate costs. To start the bidding process, the motion approves an additional $270,000, with the remaining unspent amount to be included in the 2024 capital budget to be funded with $235,000 from the Parkland In Lieu Reserve.

As the project was opened to more bidders and not only the three previously consulted for estimate prices, the installation of the washrooms will be postponed until next spring.


The council developed the recorded vote, and the motion passed.

Councillor Clarke and Morrison voted "no."

Mayor Alcock, Deputy Mayor Armour, Coun. Stone, Coun. Renwick, Coun. Fitzgerald, Coun. Schumacher and Coun. Clouthier voted "yes."

"I love the motion and that it's going up for tender," said Morrison. "I just can't vote yes because of the price."

Julian Orlando Chaves is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with the Huntsville Forester. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Julian Orlando Chaves, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Huntsville Forester