Coupeville’s business hub is no longer a place for residents or visitors to, well, do their business.
Mayor Molly Hughes announced last week that the town will not be renewing its lease for the restrooms in the Chamber of Commerce building, meaning they will no longer be publicly accessible.
The restrooms were closed for the Arts and Crafts Festival last month and will not be opening for public use again.
The mayor cited several reasons for choosing not to renew the lease. Because the bathrooms weren’t built with public use in mind, nothing in them was designed to sustain heavy use; Chamber of Commerce Director Lynda Eccles described them as household, not industrial restrooms.
The toilets are constantly getting backed up because the water and sewer lines in the bathrooms are old and in bad repair. Sewage water seeps out between the floor and toilet. The bathroom fixtures are not commercial grade and break frequently. Fans and heaters do not function properly because of electrical issues.
All the necessary repairs could easily cost $50,000, and much more than that if the town were to hire a contractor.
“I cannot spend this much of our taxpayers’ money on a building that the town does not own,” Hughes wrote in an email. “This type of improvement to a private building would be considered a gift of public funds and is illegal.”
As the 10-year lease drips down the drain, however, the town is countering with two portable toilets, one of which is handicap accessible, between the Haller House and Cooks Corner Park on North Main Street. Hughes said the town will soften their appearance with lattice and track their use to determine how great the demand is.
Hughes also added a reminder in her email that the portable toilets aren’t the only option for Coupeville residents and visitors who’ve got to go.
“There are four public restrooms in the town’s parking lot, four in Town Park, two at the boat launch and one at Lions Park,” she said.
Eccles said the chamber has not yet discussed with the building owners what to do about the restrooms going forward.
“We’ve had a lot of problems with those bathrooms over the years,” she said. “While it’s very unfortunate that they’ve closed them, I can certainly understand the town’s decision and the reasoning behind it.”