Chesterton Tribune



Pavilion Partners, not DNR, has job of maintaining beach restrooms

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In Monday’s edition the Chesterton Tribune ran a Voice of the People submitted by a reader appalled by conditions in the restrooms of the new comfort station built by Pavilion Partners LLC at the Indiana Dunes State Park beach.

In particular the reader expressed her disgust at the state of the toilets: “Raw sewage was overflowing on the floor. People in bare feet had to wade through waste.”

Monday’s Voice is the third one published by the Tribune since May to make basically the same point: the condition of the new comfort station’s restrooms leaves a great deal to be desired.

For the record, a check of the comfort station by Tribune staffers around 3 p.m. Monday found all toilets functioning in both the men’s and women’s restrooms and neither “sewage” nor litter of any kind on the floors, although they were wet and sandy, as one might expect of restrooms at a beach. The urinals, sinks, and hand dryers were likewise functioning and the soap dispensers stocked.

To be sure, beach traffic on a non-holiday Monday afternoon will always be substantially less than that on a weekend afternoon but Monday was hot and muggy and the main (east) parking lot was nearly full, so it’s not the case that the restrooms weren’t getting some serious use on that day.

On Tuesday, Brandt Baughman, property manager at Indiana Dunes State Park, talked to the Tribune about the challenges of maintaining the comfort station’s restrooms. He made three points:

¥The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is no longer responsible for maintaining the comfort station’s restrooms. Pavilion Partners is.

¥The greater the volume of use, the harder it is to keep public restrooms clean and stocked.

¥Public restrooms are not infrequently targeted by vandals. And folks without a trace of malice in them at all still--children, many of them--sometimes try to flush unflushable items.

The DNR has been out of the comfort station restroom business since Pavilion Partners gutted the Pavilion last year, Baughman told the Tribune. The maintenance of the comfort station’s restrooms is now “all on Pavilion Partners,” which has retained a “housekeeping” contractor to keep them clean and stocked, he said.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of timing,” Baughman noted. “If a visitor goes into the comfort station earlier in the morning, before housekeeping has arrived, it might be a mess. If a visitor goes in soon after housekeeping, it’ll probably look pretty good.”

Even so, on a busy day the beach can see more visitors than the Town of Chesterton has residents. “There might be 15,000 people in a day converging on one set of restrooms,” Baughman said. “The impact of that is going to be great. We faced the same challenges when we were in charge of the Pavilion restrooms.”

Baughman did say that there are actually more toilets in the new restrooms than were in the old ones.

Baughman also suggested that the use of the term “raw sewage” by the author of Monday’s Voice of the People calls to mind backups and sewer main failures, when to his knowledge there have been no such failures ever.

Much more likely is a clogged and overflowing toilet, which Baughman said is certainly disgusting and hardly unheard of but may have any number of causes having nothing to do with the actual quality of the plumbing or the fixtures. “Our maintenance staff pulls all sorts of things out of the lift station that shouldn’t have been flushed. Swim suits. Sunglasses. Some things make it through the system and end up clogging the lift station. Other things don’t and clog the toilet instead.”

And there’ll always be that kid who thinks it’s funny to clog a toilet deliberately, Baughman added.

Baughman did acknowledge that the design of the comfort station--which opens to the beach--exposes the interior to sand blown in by a north wind. Pavilion Partners is planning to implement a fix for that over the winter. Right now, though, the sand on the floors is mostly “being tracked in by visitors who are wet and whose feet are covered in sand,” he said.

Should visitors have any issue at all with conditions in the comfort station’s restrooms, Baughman encouraged them to find a housekeeper and report the problem. Failing that, they can contact DNR staff at the park and the staff will make sure that housekeeping is made aware of the concern.



Posted 7/14/2016





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