Just before the Town Board adjourned its work session Tuesday, Jack Kiffer, owner of The Dory, entered the meeting room and handed papers to Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar announcing that after six years of delaying providing public bathroom facilities, he will sue the town.
Mr. Kiffer is making a case that the town’s promise to provide the facilities at Volunteer Park, across Bridge Street from his business, hasn’t been met.
After the meeting, Mr. Kiffer told the Reporter the suit seeks $50,000 in damages because overuse of his restaurant-bar facilities has cost him money and aggravation. He’s hired Sag Harbor attorney Mary Whelan to represent him.
The businessman said he’s tried everything, including humor, to remedy the situation, without success. He’s issued many warnings, he said, that if the town didn’t take action to remove the burden his business has absorbed because of a lack of a public bathroom, he would sue.
“In six years, there has been total disregard for my problem,” Mr. Kiffer said.
At the work session, before Mr. Kiffer delivered the documents, board members noted that it’s the Suffolk County Department of Health Services that’s holding up installation of a facility. Informed about the discussion of the situation before he arrived, Mr. Kiffer told the Reporter if the town had moved on his request six years ago, the lawsuit wouldn’t have been necessary now.
A unisex bathroom with a price tag of $104,670 was ticketed for Volunteers Park, with hopes it would be in use by Memorial Day, and then the date changed to this week. Called “the Portland Loo,” the unit is a sleek, efficient, single-toilet facility manufactured in Portland, Oregon, according to Commissioner of Public Works Jay Card Jr.
The town secured a Suffolk County grant of $67,700 as part of the total cost of the unit, the Chamber of Commerce is providing about $35,000, and the town will pick up the rest.
The structure was expected to be delivered Tuesday and might have been installed and operable by the end of the week. But the county’s health department determined that the pre-approved bathroom isn’t fully compliant with its requirements, Mr. Card told the board.
The county is requiring a system that would be appropriate for a household, Mr. Card said.
The toilets along Bridge Street are currently putting more pollutants into the surrounding water than the new structure would, Mr. Card said, adding that “leeching fields” the health department wants installed would also result in dumping pollutants into the bay.
The health department is requiring six leeching fields, which would mean digging up the park and would have been prohibitive from the outset, Mr. Card said.
The Portland Loo would be emptied regularly with the waste taken off-Island, the same as a Port-a-Potty in the parking lot adjacent to Marie Eiffel’s on Bridge Street. In addition, the facility would use 3 ounces of water per flush, as compared with a home system that uses much more, Mr. Card said.
Mr. Card plans a visit next week with a health department official who may have the authority to grant exceptions to the current requirements. Failing that, it would likely take about two months to appeal the decision and if the town prevailed, the new bathroom could then be installed.
“It’s not that we’re not trying,” Mr. Card said about the effort to get the bathroom structure in place and open. “I want this thing to be done like everybody else.
“I don’t feel they’re working against us,” Mr. Card said of health department officials. “They are trying to work with us.”