Ever felt the call of nature downtown but had nowhere to go? You’re in for a treat. News leaked recently that Athens-Clarke County is considering placing a public restroom downtown.
During a streaming work session last week, Central Services Director Andrew Saunders told commissioners that a public restroom would relieve pressure on downtown businesses to provide access to their restrooms. They’d also be useful on football game days and during festivals or other events when there is a steady flow of visitors, although ACC would continue to deploy portable toilets. A public restroom was one of the recommendations in a 2016 downtown health and safety study.
Location options include the unused bus shelter at City Hall or in front of the College Avenue parking deck. Commissioners preferred to hold the old bus kiosk for another purpose, but they didn’t put a lid on the debate, saying instead that they wanted to seek more input.
Staff and most commissioners favored a type of prefab restroom called the Portland Loo—designed in partnership with the city of Portland, OR—over one manufactured by Romtec, which is more expensive at $360,000 and would cost $34,000 a year to operate. The $240,000 Portland Loo has a smaller footprint, solar panels to cut down on utilities and a lower operating cost at $27,000, but only has a one-person occupancy as opposed to two for Romtec. The Romtec, however, “looks like a tank,” Commissioner Tim Denson said.
Commissioner Jesse Houle supports the Portland Loo with an optional sink outside. “My main reason for that is, I do believe we should be a sex-positive community, but I don’t think we need to provide spaces for people to engage in personal activities in public restrooms,” Houle said. “I’ve been to all too many Romtec-style public restrooms where that has occurred.”
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