Merrickville may still get its public washroom, thanks to the combined efforts of the Merrickville Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce. The Lions Club members, who have been working on this project for over a year, were very disappointed when Council decided to put a moratorium on the project and dissolve the committee a couple weeks ago.
“I’m not opposed to a public washroom, but I wasn’t convinced that the proposed project would solve the problems experienced by our residents, businesses and\or visitors,” says Deputy Mayor Ann Barr, who was one of the councillors who voted against the project at the meeting. “This isn’t a reflection on the efforts of the committee, just a recognition that their timeline and mandate didn’t allow for the review and analysis that is needed before a project like this is taken on.”
The Lions Club do not agree. “The Lions consider this an insult of the largest proportions,” says Merrickville Lions Club President, Rod Fournier. “All they do is discount what we’ve done.” The Lions Club has donated a lot to the Municipality over the years, including the building that houses the Merrickville Public Library. “We have a record of taking care of things,” Rod says.
The main issue for council was the financial burden that they would have to incur with the building of a new washroom facility. The Lions Club committed $100,000 of the money they earn through the operation of their campground, and were asking the Village to come up with the $45,000 extra they estimated would be needed, as well as some in-kind donations, such as the waiving of building permits and supplying the land. The Municipality was also concerned about the $20,000 they believed it would cost the Village to operate the facility on a yearly basis.
In response to this, the Chamber of Commerce has stepped up to the plate. Chamber president Karl Feige says they are talking to local contractors and looking at changes they can make to save on building costs. The Chamber is also willing to take over the upkeep and maintenance of the washroom once it is up and running. “The Municipality will just have to pay the soft costs, like the land and building permits,” Karl says. “They just have to be willing participants, which they haven’t been to date.”
Karl says he believes a public washroom will increase the number of visitors coming to the Village. Because of Canada’s 150th anniversary, they are expecting a 30% increase in people using the Rideau Canal during the summer months. “There is going to be lots of things going on,” Karl says. In the past, he says, it hasn’t been unusual for there to be a lineup of 10-20 people to use the bathroom in the mall on Saint Lawrence Street, which is a washroom meant for the shop owners only. “They had to put up signs, so that merchants could skip the line,” he says.
Once the Chamber has all its ducks in a row, they will be bringing a revised proposal to Council to construct the new washroom in the previously proposed location, in the municipally-owned parking lot on Wellington Street West. Karl hopes that, with the easing of the financial burden on the Municipality, the project will be approved. “It’s something that the community needs desperately,” he says.


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