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Spokane County seeks park restroom solution

Thu., April 22, 2010

Officials consider portable toilets in lieu of closures

A cost-cutting plan to leave restrooms locked at seven Spokane County parks this summer is getting a second look.

Restroom service is to be eliminated this summer at seven county parks, but a parks staff report Tuesday said the privation could be avoided for $22,600.

Parks Director Doug Chase suggested renting portable toilets during peak summer months at Bear Lake, Gleneden, Brentwood, Pine River and Sontag parks. They would be cleaned three times a week.

County commissioners – at least the two for whom clean toilet seats may be less urgent – wanted to know whether the cost could be reduced by scrubbing restrooms less often.

Opening the park restrooms is “a need,” Commissioner Mark Richard said. But he and Commissioner Todd Mielke wondered whether toilets need to be as clean as usual.

Richard suggested a schedule “that probably won’t meet all of the expectations of our citizens but hopefully would allow us to get by in difficult financial times.”

Commissioner Bonnie Mager was more inclined to accept the parks staff’s recommendation.

“To me, $22,600 in a $134 million budget is miniscule for the amount of value that we’re going to get for this,” Mager said.

Chase said service could be maintained less expensively at two additional parks – Fish Lake Park and the Liberty Lake Off Road Vehicle Park – by opening the regular restrooms and cleaning them five times a week.

Chase said he was open to other possibilities, but was worried about cutting corners on toilets.

“If they fill up or are overflowing, my concern is that we might wind up dealing with more anger and more complaints than we are now,” Chase said.

He said he and his staff spend two to three hours a day listening to irate citizens. Parks Ranger Bryant Robinson said complaints are “in the hundreds.”

“We already are experiencing some cases where people are using the outside of the restrooms instead of the inside of them, and we are getting some calls from neighbors,” Chase said.

Commissioners hope civic groups will pay for portable toilets, which would cost up to $5,400 per park, but offers so far haven’t been promising.

Mielke had encouraged Chase to seek volunteer help, but acknowledged Tuesday that “a lot of what you’re getting is counteroffers, and that was never the intent.”

Volunteers shouldn’t expect more than a sign recognizing their contribution, Mielke said. He’s not interested in playing “Let’s Make a Deal.”

In other business Tuesday, commissioners approved a proposal to create a new list of properties for potential purchase under the county’s Conservation Futures program.

For the first time since 2005, nominations for the list will be accepted. A handful of properties remaining on the current list will drop off unless resubmitted.

A three-month nomination period will open May 1.

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