A longtime business owner says 24-hour public toilets will bring much-needed relief to downtown Olympia.
Anne Buck, owner of Buck’s Fifth Avenue spice store, has launched a GoFundMe page titled “Public Bathrooms for Olympia.” Her goal is to raise $7,000 for her self-dubbed “Pilot Public Potty Program,” also referred to as PPPP.
Since Sept. 21, the page has received $336 from 18 donors. Buck said she is willing to find the money for a public toilet — and hopes the city can do the rest.
“For years, we have had a problem in the alleys with people pooping,” Buck told The Olympian. “We get complaints all the time about poop everywhere.”
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The idea for a 24-hour downtown restroom has been discussed for several years without any official proposal.
Buck, who has been in business for 44 years, said she is frustrated by the lack of action and the ongoing inconvenience for downtown visitors. Likewise, downtown merchants are bearing the burden by cleaning up feces found in their entryways or doubling as public restrooms at night. This also creates a sanitation issue.
“I’m just going to buy a toilet,” Buck said. “This might be a wake-up call to the city.”
Sharon Holley, program director of the Downtown Welcome Center and the Downtown Ambassadors, said visitors commonly ask where to find a public restroom. She noted that demand for an accessible public restroom goes beyond the street population.
Likewise, current public restroom options are limited. There’s a Honey Bucket at the Artesian Commons on Fourth Avenue as well as daytime restrooms at the state-owned Heritage Park on Capitol Lake. Holley, who has even directed people to the Olympia Transit Center, said downtown Olympia simply needs a place where the public can make a quick pit stop.
“You would expect your capital city to have a bathroom. We really could use one from several standpoints,” she said. “We have so many great partners down here talking about it who want to see it happen.”
Olympia’s problem is rather common. Other cities such as Seattle have installed public toilets with varying degrees of success. In 2003, Seattle spent $5 million on high-tech toilets, only to have them become magnets for drug use and prostitution, according to The Seattle Times.
Seattle ended up taking a cue from Portland, which has become somewhat of a toilet trendsetter with The Portland Loo. These stainless steel restrooms are the size of a parking space and feature slatted openings along the bottom to discourage mischief. They also come with an anti-graffiti clear coating and a hose for cleaning. However, the cost starts at about $90,000 for a base unit in addition to any plumbing, maintenance and supervision costs.