Olympia is fine-tuning details for a pilot project that would reduce human waste on the streets of downtown Olympia and increase the number of public restroom options there.
At a study session Tuesday, the Olympia City Council reviewed a list of remedies for the downtown restroom void, which has become a burden and a health hazard for the business community.
If the council approves the pilot project next week, the city would immediately devote an additional $68,100 to expand the Downtown Ambassador Program’s Clean Team. For the rest of 2016, the team would pick up human waste from downtown alleys, alcoves and doorways starting at 6 a.m. daily. The money would pay for training, health coverage and extra part-time staffing.
A map shows at least 25 locations in the downtown core where the team cleaned up human waste in February.
“It is an extensive problem throughout downtown,” said Anna Schlecht, housing program manager, during a presentation to the council Tuesday. “By not having enough public restrooms, we put an undue burden on private businesses.”
In another short-term fix, the city will install temporary porta-potties in as many as four locations while allowing the porta-potty at the Artesian Commons, 415 Fourth Ave. E., to remain open 24 hours a day instead of closing at dusk. City crews may need up to four weeks to reconfigure the park’s fence for proper access to the restroom, said Paul Simmons, parks director.
The porta-potties are expected to cost as much as $13,700 per unit for rental and daily cleaning, according to the city. Recommended sites for temporary porta-potties aside from the Artesian Commons are:
▪ 318 State Ave. NE, across from the Olympia Transit Center
▪ The Salvation Army at 808 Fifth Ave. SE, which lacks restrooms for clients
▪ 207 Seventh Ave. SW, at the edge of Heritage Park at Columbia Street
▪ 911 Adams St. SE, near the Fertile Grounds Guesthouse and the Olympia Timberland Library
The city’s proposal also takes security into account: Car patrols would monitor the porta-potties overnight.
One long-term goal, at least for the Artesian Commons, is to install a heavy-duty permanent restroom similar to the stainless steel Portland Loo model. That restroom could take up to a year to be installed at the site.
Also down the road, the city wants to collaborate on restroom options at the future Providence Community Care Center. The proposed center would act as a social service hub for homeless and mentally ill people in downtown Olympia.
In the meantime, the pilot project will be funded through the end of 2016. The cost could be higher in 2017, and at this time, the city has no dedicated revenue source for the program next year. Mayor Cheryl Selby suggested the city could use the project to attract bids for a private contract, for example, or to secure funding from Thurston County.
Aside from finding ways to keep the current crop of public restrooms open later, another concern raised Tuesday was the need to measure the pilot project’s success.
“These are meant to be restrooms for all citizens and not just our street-dependent people,” said Councilwoman Jeannine Roe, who criticized the fruitless past conversations on downtown restrooms. “What we really need to look at is something that can be immediate.”