ANY of the three sites presented as options for where Latrobe City Council builds a permanent public toilet can be built in Churchill would be “suitable”, Margaret Guthrie, president of the Churchill & District Community Association (CDCA), told the council last week.

For the second month, Churchill’s lack of an accessible public toilet was discussed at a Latrobe City Council meeting. Most recently, on Monday, councillors unanimously endorsed an allocation of $100,000 (excluding GST) for the detailed design of a new public toilet facility within the Churchill town centre.

Last week’s decision follows the June council meeting when Council considered urgent business related to a proposed new public toilet in Churchill. Council officers prepared a report in response, outlining options, including a temporary solution and two permanent options with associated costing estimates.

Ms Guthrie thanked councillors and council officers for giving the issue their “urgent attention”, reflecting the public’s desire for a public toilet, which CDCA has advocated for since 2022.

“We should be getting our solution now because CDCA wrote to council in 2022 and said ‘we haven’t got a toilet’. It’s been two years that we haven’t had a useful public toilet in the Churchill town centre,” Ms Guthrie said.

The council report said Churchill town centre has never had a separately publicly accessible, council-owned public toilet that is open 24 hours a day.

When it submitted a submission regarding allocation in the Council’s Draft 2024/25 Budget, the CDCA asked for a permanent public toilet to be built in the town centre. However, this was rejected in a response citing that “competing priorities resulted in there being insufficient funds available to include in 24/25”.

Now, Latrobe City Mayor, Darren Howe, says the $100,000 council will provide from the Accumulated Cash Reserve for a detailed design for the construction of a new public toilet “will ensure a fully informed future Budget bid as part of the mid-year Budget process to construct the facility”.

“As the town grows, we understand the community desire for a public toilet located in the town centre and will work to get this toilet in place,” Cr Howe said.

Ms Guthrie said a temporary solution was a priority before a permanent solution, which she said “won’t be constructed for a good 12 months”.

Cr Howe said Council would provide a temporary toilet for Churchill while working on a more long-term solution.

Central Ward Councillor, Graeme Middlemiss emphasised this in a council media release.

“It may be up to 12 months before the new toilet block is in service in Churchill, which leaves us with a period where there will be no dedicated public toilets within the town centre. Council will work to ensure a temporary solution is made available until we have constructed the new toilets,” Cr Middlemiss said.

The media release said Council would also write to the owners of Hazelwood Village Shopping Centre seeking to enter an agreement for toilet facilities within the venue to be made available to members of the public. Subject to a written agreement with the Shopping Centre, Council said it would also allocate $5000 (excluding GST) to have way-finding signage at appropriate locations within the Churchill town centre.

Suppose Council cannot enter an agreement with the Shopping Centre. In that case, it says it will allocate $100,000 (excluding GST) from the Accumulated Unallocated Cash Reserve to provide a temporary toilet within the Churchill Activity Centre.

Council hasn’t had much luck getting a response from the owners of Churchill’s second shopping centre, the West Place Shopping Centre, which has no public toilets. The centre is open from 7am until 9pm every day, anchored by Woolworths’ trading hours.

Last month, Ms Guthrie told the Express that the federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, and the Council contacted the Sydney-based developer, Revelop, and their commercial property manager, Masis Markarian, but to no avail.

Ms Guthrie said, “When I think of the broader community, the views I’ve heard are that we shouldn’t let Revelop off the hook”.

“The CDCA’s opinion is that you’ll be throwing good money after bad to try and get them to the table to provide a public toilet,” she said.

Between a temporary solution and a permanent council-owned facility, Council officers said they consider the temporary solution will “provide an inadequate return on investment” compared to the long-term option.

“Officers also consider that the only viable option Council can fully control the availability of a public toilet within the Churchill Town Centre is to provide a council-owned-and-managed public toilet on council owned land,” the report said.

The temporary solution the report outlined was to open the Churchill Town Hall facilities, culminating in a cost of $99,440. The two permanent options included one with changing places, a unisex accessible toilet, and one ambulant unisex toilet. This would cost $440,000 to build. The other option is to have one unisex accessible toilet and two ambulant toilets, which cost $220,000.

Reiterating what she discussed at June’s council meeting, Ms Guthrie said that the public toilet should be accessible, close to public transport and ideally, on flat land.

“The report that officers have prepared identifies three potential sites, all three sites are within the central car parking area of the shopping centre, they’re all council-owned sites…and the land there is flat, they’re centrally located, they’re all close to the central bus stop and the taxi rank and from our point of view any of those sites would be suitable,” she said.

The Deputy Mayor, Councillor Tracie Lund, said Council had heard from the community about the need for public, accessible toilets in Churchill.

“We understand the expectation from the community that we act on this matter and don’t push it aside. Ensuring that we have the amenities we need in all our towns is a priority, and given that Churchill has waited a long time for this toilet, it’s important that we move this along quickly,” Cr Lund said.

Council says people can find existing public toilets at the Churchill town centre at the Churchill Community Hub.