Susan Ornelas: Achieving Public Toiletude – June 29, 2010

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mayor Susan Ornelas

Special to the Eye

ARCATA – There is an issue that has come up in the past, but has never been satisfactorily solved. Public toilets –people are talking about them. There is an understandable need for a public toilet. Society has wrangled with this need for a thousand years or so – OK, not in Arcata – but in civilization. A civil society should have a public toilet – many people think so.

Particularly people who have traveled overseas. They see a third world country being able to offer a public toilet and ask – why not at home? Why not in Arcata? Many public toilets overseas cost a small token to a caretaker, who sees to the cleanliness of the room. It is not a well-paid job.

I have heard of public toilets in Paris – often they cost from one-half to one Euro to use ($0.70 to $1.40), give the user 20 minutes, then the toilets clean themselves. Without someone watching them, they often go out of service. At times, all they need is more paper.

There are other interesting automated toilets – one being by the company Exeloo. The City looked into these in 2006 – particularly the models Orion and Galaxy. They include anti-loitering, anti-vandalism and automated cleaning features.

Their 2006 costs were between $160,000 to 225,000 to install, plus $23,000/year for a service and maintenance cost – with a three-year agreement with the company to handle everything (service, maintenance, consumables).

How can we provide a public toilet in Arcata, successfully?

Arcata has been through this discussion, and some feel we have been through it and out the backside, so to speak. Recently, Councilmember Alex Stillman stated that if the council wants to discuss public toilets, can we schedule it for Oct. 5 – when she is out of town?

City staff reminds me we had a public toilet at the bus transfer station and it was a disaster. We learned a public toilet must be watched, someone has to care for it, like they do in third world countries.

It has been suggested that maybe an entrepreneur could open a toilet, but it is hard for me to believe a private enterprise in the number one and two business can really be economically sustained, on its own. I think it needs some public investment, and, can I suggest, ongoing public support.

The City Council has not recently had a discussion about public toilets, and there is currently no direction to staff regarding this issue.

I am proposing my opinions in this column as a private citizen, not as the mayor or even as a councilmember. The following thoughts are my own musings.

So here is a suggestion I have – how about a three-way support system? Strong, like a three-legged stool. Maybe the Co-op, the City and the public can be partners?

Here’s how I imagine it could go – the City provides funding through CDBG*, or redevelopment funds, to build a nice public toilet at the Co-op. Maybe it is automated? It needs to be associated with a business, so someone can oversee the cleanliness, and I suggest the Co-op as they have shown an interest and are close to the Plaza.

But the Co-op should not bear the full cost of the toilet maintenance – this is where the public can come in. I suggest every Arcata household pay $5 per year on their wastewater bill to contribute to the public toilet. I understand this would need to be approved by the voters, but for this discussion I will assume voters approve it.

Five dollars, multiplied by 7,000 households is $35,000. This could be a supplement to salaries for two jobs at the Co-op.

This is not a gift of public funds, but a public–private partnership. There are public–private partnerships to deliver public toilet services in Italy, why not Arcata?

As a community, we can discuss this issue through the paper. Maybe some good ideas can be discussed, vetted and explored. This information could be fodder for the Council when we take up this discussion – maybe on Oct. 5?

* CDBG – Community Development Block Grants is a federal program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of community development needs.



9 Responses to “Susan Ornelas: Achieving Public Toiletude – June 29, 2010”

  1. enufalreddy

    “Progressive” Arcata is already a third world cesspool. Why not give the vermin a place to shit other than in the entranceway to the donut shop? Give them some privacy to smoke crack and shoot up. The Silly Council spent hundreds of hours on this brilliant idea a few years ago, when Meserve was wasting the People’s time and money. Will you people never go away?

  2. Mr.Z

    Well, it would be nice if the need to poop or pee didn’t become a crisis every time that I am near the plaza. Would that not be nice?

  3. sanecitizen

    “The vermin”? How much money or connections do you require [enufalreddy] before the homeless, wayward, and insane are considered real people to you? I understand the concerns(…in a primitive, fear-driven way), but those are probable possibilities that should be addressed by giving them some basic respect and allowing them simple dignities like the right to use a bathroom, whereas the inevitability of having to defecate is certain. To ignore an identifiable and solvable problem is to make acceptable the consequences.

  4. Dukdog

    Well said Enufalreddy! The taxpayers of the welfare state of Arcata shouldn’t be on the hook for paying the pooper!

    If there was only some way to tax the grow houses in town, the town would be flush enough to mitigate the problem before it really hits the fan!

    Times really haven’t changed so much, when the railroad ran through town, the passenger car toilets used to flush directly onto the railbed. Not much different than what’s happening now. Different Day, Same shit!

  5. enufalreddy

    @Mr.Z: As my mother used to say, “Why didn’t you go before we left the house?”

    @sanecitzen: OK, “human vermin” There, I fixed it. The “insane” should be institutionalized. There are countless resources available to the “homeless.” The “wayward?” WTF? Is that a new class of people the taxpayers are supposed to take care of? How about we give the “wayward” a chit that allows them to come shit in your toilet, eat your food, crash in your yard?. If Downtown Arcata wasn’t already infested, a public pay toilet, properly attended, might be feasible. Alas, it seems far too late for that.

    BTW, I don’t know how many “third world” public toilets Ms. Ornelas has been to, but I’ve seen scores in a dozen countries from Central America to Asia (not to mention NYC). Cleanliness? Ms. Ornelas, you are kidding us, right? Perhaps you forgot to remove the rosy lenses when you entered.

  6. “The “insane” should be institutionalized. There are countless resources available to the “homeless.” ”

    Thank Ronald Reagan for emptying the mental health care facilities. It is also illegal to institutionalize someone that is not a danger to themselves or others.

    “BTW, I don’t know how many “third world” public toilets Ms. Ornelas has been to, but I’ve seen scores in a dozen countries from Central America to Asia (not to mention NYC). Cleanliness? Ms. Ornelas, you are kidding us, right? Perhaps you forgot to remove the rosy lenses when you entered.”

    A dirty public toilet is by far better than having to clean human feces from my yard, or the streets. We tried human waste in the streets once, it was called the dark ages.

  7. Robert Benson

    If socio-economic status was added to the hate crimes classifications, half of Ar Qaeda would be in prison.

  8. Robert, as Mark told you one time, you’re going to have to step up your game here. We’ve been having some content-rich conversations in the Comments section, and that’s what it’s for. When you come along with snippy slogans, you just take up space and bore me.

    So this is your notice. If you have something interesting to say, bring it. Otherwise take the noise to the blogs, where they thrive on small-bore sniping.

  9. Tom Vanciel

    Are you nuts…

    This is a public health issue…

    It is the Citys responsability to provide this nessecary service…


    This job is more important than your city manager or police chief….



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