November 29 -- Although scaling back the costly program,
the City Council Tuesday agreed to pitch in what may become more
than $300,000 a year to keep Downtown bathroom attendants at their
posts and local businesses happy.
Spurred by intense pressure from business leaders and Downtown
officials, the decision comes nearly two months after the City
scrapped a $320,000, four-month pilot program that paid for improvements
and salaries for attendants in two of the six parking structures.
City officials, who had decided the program was too costly, made
the decision to reinstate a scaled-back version after meeting
with officials of the Bayside District Corporation, which runs
the Downtown, and waste management staff, said Craig Perkins,
the City’s Environmental and Public Works manager.
"We did not feel we could adequately ensure the quality
of the restrooms in the structures without attendants present,"
said Perkins, who said there was a "strong lobby" by
the business community.
The program will scale back the overall cost by no longer paying
to keep trash-strewn alleys clean and by cutting the number of
hours attendants are on duty, Perkins said.
"It costs significantly less," he said.
At nearly $25,600 a month and $304,000 a year – mostly
in salaries – the program is still an expensive proposition,
"We had to take a look and find the least costly option,"
With figures showing that nearly 62,000 people used the bathrooms
over the summer – or an average of 42 people an hour –
City officials are hoping the program will bring return shoppers
and dollars to the nearby Promenade and surrounding streets.
"I would be hard pressed to say there is a direct correlation…
but if we can give a positive experience to visitors, maybe they
will want to return is the idea," Perkins said.
The numbers, in fact, reflected a stronger interest in using
the facilities that previously thought.
"You assume they are getting used more than you think, but
I personally was surprised by that number of people,” Perkins
Downtown merchants and officials have long complained that the
bathrooms -- which are frequented by the transients who hang out
around the thriving Promenade area -- are unkempt and unsafe.
The bathrooms are also among the first and last public facilities
used by Downtown visitors, leaving a lasting impression, Downtown