PORT TOWNSEND — The Port of Port Townsend has closed its Boat Haven restroom and shower facilities to the general public because of vandalism, port officials said.
As of Friday, the facilities are available only to tenants, port commissioners decided Wednesday after hearing about damage to the recently upgraded facilities.
“This step is intended to promote a safe, clean and healthy environment for our tenants,” Jim Pivarnik, port executive director, wrote in a letter addressed to all Boat Haven tenants.
The restroom and shower facilities had been closed for a month for repairs.
The first night after the facilities were re-opened, the door handle on the men’s restroom was kicked in and broken, the soap dispenser was ripped off the wall, and a man was found sleeping on the shower floor, commissioners were told.
The second night, a woman was found sleeping in the women’s shower.
Pivarnik said vandalism has been an ongoing issue.
“We’ve had things pulled off the wall, mirrors broken,” he said. “We’ve had people trying to get into the coin machines in the showers and they knocked those right off the wall.
“Our tenants are really scared to go into the shower because they never know what they are going to find, Pivarnik added.
“Tenants who are paying money to the port should expect some kind of security. Without locking them down, we have none.”
Recent repairs made to the facility included scraping down the ceiling to drywall and sealing it with epoxy paint and installing a new ventilation system. The entire heat exchanger was serviced.
The facilities received a fresh coat of paint, new mirrors, new dispensers and new wall coverings.
The “refresh” cost $22,000, according to Pivarnik.
As of Friday, the restroom/shower will be locked 24/7 and may be entered only through the use of an access code provided to all tenants.
Pivarnik said it’s a deterrent until a new security system can be installed: an electronic smart lock system that can be operated by a key fob or QR code on a smartphone.
Pivarnik laid out the current costs of operating its restroom/shower facility in an interview Friday.
“Our income from showers is $27,000,” he said. “But we spend $147,000 a year.
“That’s a lot of quarters. It just goes to show how many people in the community use the facility.”
The janitorial contract is $38,000 per year to clean the restrooms, Pivarnik said.
He estimated supplies at $12,000 for paper towels, soap and toilet paper.
The port pays $77,000 for such utilities as water, power, sewer and propane.
“When you look at the $147,000 we spend on that facility, obviously there is an element of that money that needs to be spent for our tenants. But we will never recoup all the other money,” Pivarnik said.
“If a shower costs a dollar, that’s 27,000 showers a year,”he said. “And a dollar doesn’t nearly pay for the heat, water, sewer, and everything else.”
Pivarnik said the facilities have been used by several groups.
“There’s a lot of different segments we serve,” he said. “One is our tenants and they are the most important. Then there are the law-abiding professional people who choose to live off the grid or those who use the showers after running the Larry Scott trail before going into work.
“And then there’s the homeless population, and that’s the problem.”
He complemented work done to maintain the Winter Shelter in the basement of the American Legion Hall but said it’s a dry shelter.
“All those on drugs or alcohol have to go somewhere else,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are that defacto somewhere.
“I don’t think they are taking showers. They are just looking for a warm place to be during the weather.”
Pivarnik said the issue of homeless people has been discussed for at least five years.
“This now might be the impetus to get the county, city and port together and ask how to solve this problem, and what can we do,” he said.
The new security system that’s expected to be installed in a couple weeks is computer-controlled.
“There will be small key fobs for tenants,” Pivarnik said.
”Each fob is coded and we can control what times are available to use the facilities. We can turn it on and off if they haven’t paid their moorage bills. We can also email an access code to a late arrival that allows them to use their smartphones to open the door.”
Pivarnik said the system will cost around $12,000 but in the long run, it will save a lot of maintenance money.
“Technology and security have come a long way,” he said.
There are five portable restrooms located throughout Boat Haven that are available to the public, and two unisex restrooms near the head of the Larry Scott Trail.
The port is installing signage to explain that public shower facilities are available at the Mountain View Commons swimming pool, at Fort Worden and at the shelter.
But not at Boat Haven.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.