Porta-potty gets good use in its first weekend

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Highway workers Nick Ryan (left) and Jim Lenzer install a railing outside the porta-potty on Bridge seat.

The Island’s new municipal porta-potty on Bridge Street got plenty of use over the Memorial Day weekend and was full to overflowing by Tuesday morning. Highway Department personnel were expecting it to be serviced that morning and were installing a guardrail in front of the unit to assure no one using it will ever stumble into the water.

There were no incidents of vandalism or other problems with its use reported over the weekend.

“So far, I’ve gotten good feedback,” Supervisor Jim Dougherty said. Despite the hullaballoo over where a porta-potty might go, and if one should be installed at all, the supervisor said people had told him they thought it was in the right spot — in the parking lot at the base of the town dock at the bend in Bridge Street.

Opponents of its placement complained about it taking up a parking spot in an area where parking is at a premium. Some expressed concern about the danger of vehicles pulling in and out of the lot.

Highway Superintendent and Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. said he had noticed there was still room for a small car in the parking lot’s corner because the facility wasn’t taking over a full space.

Will it stay at that site?

“I’m not sure if it’s the final resting spot,” Mr. Card said. That’s a call for the Town Board to make.

It’s a “wait-and-see,” according to Mr. Dougherty. Installation and servicing of the porta-potty comes out of the public works budget. Mr. Card didn’t have the figures readily available as he has been on the road with his crews since the holiday weekend. But he said he thought the cost for maintenance was $225 per week for a single cleaning. If a second pumpout is required within a week, he thought the additional cost would be $75.

As for the town’s most prominent critic on the issue, Dory owner Jack Kiffer said he was not convinced the porta-potty achieved the goal of providing a bathroom for those who come calling at his place to ask to use his facilities. Mr. Kiffer has favored a public toilet in Volunteer Park on Bridge Street.

“They look at me like I have two heads,” he said of the people he directed to the porta-potty during the holiday weekend. “People expect a bathroom in a bar,” he said, noting that not all his commercial neighbors have the same number of requests he gets at the Dory.

“It’s not my fault” that the Dory septic system can’t handle another 150 people a day, he said.

Bliss Department Store’s Peggy Johnson called the weekend experiment unsuccessful because it resulted in the loss of a parking space. Ann at Redding’s Gourmet Market, who declined to give her last name, said, “It was fabulous. I’m very grateful as are all the patrons.”

Tom Petersen at Jack’s Marine & True Value Hardware said there never had been a bathroom issue for him. “We allow people to use the bathroom,” Mr. Petersen said.

But Mr. Kiffer noted that people are less apt to ask to use a bathroom in a hardware store than they are at a restaurant and bar.
“I’m all for it,” Allie Long of Bridge Street Gifts said of the porta-potty.

As for locals shopping on Bridge Street Tuesday morning, many said they don’t like porta-potties but they’re necessary. And one shopper pronounced them dirty, smelly and not a facility she would choose to use.

But a young mother said she was on Bridge Street Memorial Day and her child needed a bathroom. She’s not a fan of porta-potties but admitted she was grateful it was available.

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