There is good news and bad news this week for those who find themselves on foot in Port Townsend and in need of relief.
While the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee announced plans to spend $50,000 on three new public restrooms, the port had to lock its stalls to all but port tenants and customers at the Boat Haven marina.
Lodging taxes will pay for the three new public restrooms to be built in the next five years, city manager David Timmons said: one at the planned visitors plaza, one near the Quimper Mercantile and one uptown near the site of the Farmer’s Market. The 4 percent lodging tax generates about $500,000 per year, which is set aside for tourism marketing and related infrastructure.
“Adding bathrooms will help local businesses and visitors feel like there is infrastructure, and it makes Port Townsend a more welcoming place,” said Amanda Milholland, director of the Jefferson County Farmers Markets. She’s a member of the Lodging Tax committee and is encouraging the Jefferson County Commission to make Community Center land available for restrooms to serve crowds at the Farmers Market.
The market has placed port-a-potties outside in addition to entering a partnership with the county Recreation Center for use of the bathrooms, but Milholland said they are not adequate for the amount of people who come to the market.
“The Port Townsend Farmers Market uptown on Saturdays is our largest market,” Milholland said. “On summer Saturdays, we have between 2,500 to 3,500 people in attendance.”
It might be hard to predict toilet needs for short-term crowds like those that come and go at the Farmer’s Market. To compare, OSHA standards for job-sites of more than 200 workers call for 1 seat and 1 urinal for every 50 full-time workers.
Joining Milholland is Port Townsend City Council member Michelle Sandoval, who spoke during the public comment period of the Jefferson County commissioners meeting March 5, asking them to support the installation of the uptown public bathroom.
“We’re hoping we can work with you, with the Community Center land,” Sandoval said. “As you know it’s been difficult to have the use of the Community Center’s bathrooms over all this time and the farmers market has continued to grow.”
Milholland’s thinking tracks that of the Portland-based public restroom advocacy group Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH). The group argues that public restrooms put people at ease in public spaces and encourage residents to gather in multigenerational groups, as they do at the Farmer’s Market.
City Manager Timmons added the next step would be to work with the county for a lease agreement.
“The logical location would be the community center park grounds,” Milholland said. “That is all county property. The (lodging tax) could cover the cost. If the county contributed additional funding that would help, but really the request is to ask to use the property.”
Commissioner Greg Brotherton spoke in support of the idea at the county commissioners meeting, adding that the bathrooms would need to be easy to maintain.
Timmons said the city is looking at the “Portland Loo” model, which was originally created by the city of Portland and Portland-based metal fabricators, Madden Fabrication.
“We know they will have to go through the historical preservation review for design,” Timmons said. “We also know that they will have to be virtually indestructible.”
The city had to close the bathrooms at Kah Tai park in 2017 due to vandalism.
“They were totally destroyed,” Timmons said. “The port-a-lets we had placed there were set on fire.”
The Portland Loo is a stainless steel structure with exposed grids near the roof and near the base of the structure. This design discourages people from sleeping in the bathrooms.
“It’s a unit that can be easily maintained and kept clean,” Milholland said.
Portland Loos cost about $100,000 not including installation, Timmons said. The LTAC has committed enough funds for two of the units, but Timmons added that they are looking for other means of funding.