A Portland Loo-style washroom will soon open in downtown Courtenay. Scott Stanfield photo

A Portland Loo-style washroom will soon open in downtown Courtenay. Scott Stanfield photo

Courtenay council gives green light to Wachiay housing project

Courtenay council has given the go-ahead for the Wachiay Friendship Centre housing project at 1679 McPhee Ave. Wachiay and M’akola Development Services will construct 40 units of housing in a five-storey building. Some of the units will be at the income assistance rate.

“I’m really happy to support this,” Coun. Wendy Morin said at the Nov. 15 meeting. “I think this checks off all the boxes that we’re looking for.”

Coun. Doug Hillian, noting some concerns expressed by the public, questions how a facility intended to provide housing for seniors, would have an adverse effect on a neighbourhood.

“I think it’s a mistake to draw that inference,” Hillian said. “People have a right to have a place to live. We have a credible organization with a long history in the community that will do, in my view, a superior job of managing this project.”

READ: Wachiay planning next steps for housing project in Courtenay

Portland Loo

Council supported a request by Will Cole-Hamilton for a report for options for round-the-clock washroom access in the downtown core.

He notes the Portland Loo, or Urbaloo, will soon open at 6th and England, but not from dusk to dawn. He is concerned that closing the facility and other public toilets during these hours will leave people with no safe hygienic options for long periods of time.

“This is an issue of human dignity,” Cole-Hamilton said. “It’s also a matter of public health and hygiene.”

Coun. Manno Theos recalled a 24-hour washroom at the riverway walkway that was a target for vandalism and drug use.

READ: Courtenay council considers downtown washroom facility

Fire department report

The third quarter of 2021 was the busiest time on record for the Courtenay Fire Department, which responded to 295 incidents between July 1 and Sept. 30. There were large structure fires on Ross Avenue in July and Warren Avenue in August — both in Royston — along with many outdoor fires during the extreme heat in summer. Fire Chief Kurt MacDonald said the department has never responded to more than 100 calls in a month.

“We did that in July and did it again in August, so we broke two departmental records within two months of each other,” he said. “The way that this last quarter has started, I’m quite certain that some more records are going to fall before the end of this year.”

Firefighters spent 872 hours in training scenarios such as fighting fires in multi-storey buildings, confined space rescue, self-rescue training and rope rescue. Fire inspectors performed 377 inspections of commercial properties in the city and fire protection districts. Most properties were compliant.

Sid Williams update

The Sid Williams Theatre Society is grateful for the steady support it has received from the City, and for funding from senior governments that helped bolster its sector during the challenging times of COVID.

The introduction of cultural roundtable meetings has also been helpful.

“It has been a really long haul since March of 2020,” SWTS general manager Deb Renz said in a presentation.

She said patrons appreciated being refunded about $400,000 worth of tickets from March to June 2020. She noted lawsuits have resulted from venues that held onto ticket money during COVID.

The Sid’s booking calendar looks strong for the winter. The society hopes to reach full capacity, but it continues to see some audience reticence to return, despite robust safety protocols. So far, the theatre has been able to reach about two-thirds capacity.

“We still have some big hurdles to get through,” Renz said. “Number one is how to bring audiences, our staff, and volunteers and performers together, working in the Sid safely. The little theatre that could — we do a huge number of events, but we have a lot of congested spaces.”

For 2019, the society finished the fiscal year with a $300,000 surplus. In 2021, it posted a modest loss of $40,000. A $70,000 loss is projected for 2022. The society hopes to get revenues back to the 2019 level by the next fiscal.

City CouncilCourtenay