No one in
Chesterton town government likes the portable chemical toilets in Thomas
That much can be
They’re noxious to
use, they skew in the direction of low-class, and--in an otherwise lovely
and charming venue--they’re an eyesore.
But the Town
Council has never found the wherewithal, or for that matter the simple
will, to replace the chemical toilets with a more permanent facility.
The council last
grappled with the issue four years ago. In 2012 it solicited quotes for a
trailer-mounted restroom facility whose specs included direct connection to
sanitary sewer and water lines, a baby-changing station, ADA compliance, a
wrap-around skirt to conceal the trailer’s wheels, and fold-up steps mounted
to the trailer. Low quote: $48,945.
A number of
residents, however, very vocally opposed the idea of a trailer-mounted
facility, on the ground that it would send the wrong message to visitors. To
visitors, that is, who didn’t urgently need to use a restroom.
So the council made
a point of actually voting to officially abandon all consideration of
trailer-mounted solutions and instead began to investigate the feasibility
of Chesterton High School’s building trades students’ erecting a permanent
facility as a class project. Park Superintendent Bruce Mathias did a lot of
work coordinating the initiative, which ultimately died, however, over legal
and liability concerns.
At that point--in
the fall of 2012--the council bit the bullet and retained architect Dave
Kinel to design a bricks-and-mortar restroom, on the assumption that such a
project would cost in the neighborhood of $150,000 to $175,000. Kinel
delivered his design in May 2013, with an estimated cost of $226,000.
And that was a nut
just too big for the council to crack. Members haven’t publicly discussed
the issue in three years and Kinel’s design is still languishing in a drawer
Now, though, the
Park Board has made a move: it’s formally added the construction of a
restroom at Thomas Centennial Park to the list of projects to be funded by
last year’s $2-million bond issue.
Putting the project
on the list is no guarantee that it will get done. Much depends on the cost
of other projects and the availability of funds. But this much is clear: the
price tag of the manufactured restroom being installed at Dogwood Park--by
Concrete Modular Systems Inc. of St. Petersburg, Fla.--is only $138,140.35,
significantly less than the Kinel’s estimate.
As Member Paul
Shinn noted at Tuesday’s meeting of the Park Board, “A lot of people are
reading the paper about the bond projects--the splash pads, new playground
equipment, the new restroom at Dogwood--and they’re getting excited. And
they’re wondering about a restroom in Thomas Park.”
Members agreed to
see how the manufactured restroom at Dogwood Park looks, works, and wears,
after it’s been installed, and then go from there. Construction drawings for
that facility are currently being reviewed by Town Engineer Mark O’Dell.
Town Council Member
Nate Cobbs, R-4th--who serves as the Park Department’s liaison--agreed with
Shinn, that folks in the community are taking notice of the improvements.
“The first six months next year, people will see us putting in playground
equipment, the splash pad. We’re going to get a lot of momentum and there’s
going to be a lot of excitement.”