City will bring $244K restroom back before Council Tuesday

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 24, 2014 

The city Planning Department will bring a proposal to build a public restroom beneath the Frank Martin Memorial Bridge back before Columbus Council Tuesday night, according to council’s agenda.

Council postponed making a decision on the project after several councilors balked at the cost -- $244,000 for the entire project, of which almost $160,000 is for the restroom itself.

“My only concern in this entire issue is paying $243,000 for a 900-square-foot bathroom,” Councilor Judy Thomas said at the time. “You can buy a good-sized house for $243,000. I just can’t see us paying this kind of money for a single restroom.”

Of the $243,861, the state Department of Transportation would pay 80 percent, or about $195,000. The city’s portion would be about $49,000, according to city documents.

Rick Jones, director of the Planning Department, said Monday that the cost of the project can be attributed to two things that make it much different from other construction projects: the difficult location and the materials to be used.

First, he said you can’t compare building on a riverbank under a bridge to a project like building facilities along the Fall Line Trace, which is flat and offers contractors easy access with heavy equipment.

“You’re not on a flat piece of property,” Jones said. “You’re having to come down that riverbank to get up underneath that bridge to work on it, and you’re having bring all your equipment down with you.

“Also, to get sanitary sewer on the site they’re going to have to go 20 feet deep just to hook up to it.”

The materials to be used are not what you would buy off the shelf at a home improvement store, Jones said.

“Some of the materials they’re going to be using are going to be vandal resistant in terms of the doors and toilets,” Jones said. “We’re going to try to minimize any destructive damage that might be done to the restroom itself.”

It’s important to have the facilities at that site because the Martin Bridge going to be the site of a lot of events and everyday pedestrian traffic, and the closest public restrooms are a half-mile to the south and about a mile to the north, Jones said.

“We’re trying to be proactive in terms of making sure that we provide conveniences down there, so people don’t have to leave the area to find a restroom,” Jones said. “The time is now to be doing this project, not a year from now, because the RiverWalk will go under the Martin Bridge there.”

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