PORT ANGELES — The city of Port Angeles will conduct an assessment of its public restrooms this year and begin a multi-year replacement of its facilities in 2020, Parks and Recreation Director Corey Delikat said.
City Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin is urging the city to have more functional restrooms that would give residents a place to relieve themselves 24 hours a day.
The lack of accessible public restrooms has been reported as a major complaint of homeless people.
Schromen-Wawrin suggested that the city use design principles recommended by Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human, or PHLUSH, a nonprofit organization that advocates for accessible public restrooms.
“I don’t want to micromanage the actual contracting, but I do think it’s our place to set policy goals in our public infrastructure, including restrooms,” Schromen-Wawrin said in a City Council think tank Jan. 15.
New design principles include single-door, direct-entry unisex stalls rather than multi-user “gang toilet” rooms and outside sinks to increase efficiency, according to www.PHLUSH.org.
Public restrooms should be attractive, well-lit and built in open spaces to provide natural surveillance by the community, PHLUSH recommends.
“Ultimately, a lot of those design aspects lead to bathrooms that can be open 24-7,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
In a Wednesday interview, Schromen-Wawrin said the goal is to design and build durable restrooms that detract from other uses and can be kept open 24 hours.
The public restrooms in city parks and stand-alone locations like the alley between First and Front streets downtown are generally open from dawn to dusk. In the winter, hours are from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
While the hours of operation have not changed, Delikat said the city’s public restrooms have required more maintenance in recent years because of spikes in vandalism, needles being flushed and other inappropriate uses.
“It’s a very daunting thing,” Delikat said Wednesday.
“It really is, and there’s a lot of safety concerns for not only staff that has to clean them and to fix things, but also the public that has to use them, too.”
Delikat said he would be open to a 24-hour restroom if it was a “different type of restroom in the right location.”
The parks department has been saving $75,000 per year for the last two years to begin replacing the 50- to 60-year-old cinder block restrooms with pre-cast concrete facilities.
Delikat said the first restroom to be replaced would likely be the facility at Ediz Hook.
The city maintains 22 public restrooms, six of which are in the city’s core.
The City Council was flooded with public testimony in November from citizens who complained about human waste and trash accumulating at Veterans Memorial Park and other city property.
While conducting the annual Point in Time homeless count Thursday, Cora Kruger, Serenity House of Clallam County director of permanent housing, said the only public latrine that is open 24 hours in Port Angeles is a portable toilet at the base of Tumwater Truck Route.
City Council member Mike French said public restrooms were “one of the big issues” raised after he, City Manager Nathan West and other public figures spent a night in a Serenity House homeless shelter in December.
West said public restrooms would be a topic for a future City Council work session.
“I do support this, coming back and having some discussion,” French said at the think tank.
Delikat said public restroom replacement is in the city’s two-year work plan.
“Part of 2019 is kind of reviewing websites and things that council member (Schromen-Wawrin) just mentioned,” Delikat told the council.
”There’s many more as well. But we’ve really got to look strategically at our existing restrooms and adding additional restrooms. So we’ll be evaluating that this year with a focus on construction next year.”
Delikat said he would keep the council apprised on the restroom replacement project.
“I want to just reiterate what council member French said, that this really was the top priority issue that many of us saw or experienced in the evening that we spent out on the street,” West told the council.
“But it’s also important that we balance that with the challenges of keeping some of those maintained.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.