Once again, Council fails to decide RiverWalk restroom issue

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comApril 22, 2014 

Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com The city’s Planning Department will ask Columbus Council Tuesday for permission to enter into a contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation to build a $244,000 public restroom on the RiverWalk beneath the Frank Martin Memorial Bridge, according to council’s agenda. The project will be funded primarily with state DOT funds. Eighty percent, or about $195,000 will come from DOT High Priority Project funds while the remaining 20 percent, almost $49,000, will come from the city’s paving fund, according to city documents. 03/11/14

MIKE HASKEY — mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

After six weeks of discussion, Columbus Council once again failed to approve paying part of the tab for a $244,000 public restroom beneath the Frank Martin Memorial Bridge on the RiverWalk.

The vote was 5-4 in favor of the proposal, making it the second inconclusive vote on the issue.

Councilors Skip Henderson, Mike Baker, Mimi Woodson, Evelyn Turner-Pugh and Glenn Davis voted for the proposal. Councilors Judy Thomas, Bruce Huff, Gary Allen and Pops Barnes voted against it.

Councilor Red McDainel, who had been present earlier, left council chambers before the vote. Had McDaniel remained, either way he voted, the issue would have been resolved. Had he voted for the proposal, it would have passed 6-4. Had he voted against it, a 5-5 tie would have left it to Mayor Teresa Tomlinson to break the tie.

“We’ll bring it back when we’ve got 10 councilors here and we can conclude the vote at that time,” Hugley said.

Tomlinson expressed some concern that the state Department of Transportation grant that would fund 80 percent of the project, might not be available in perpetuity and asked City Manager Isaiah Hugley to check if there is a sunset date on it.

The proposal to build the restroom first came to council on March 11. But after several councilors expressed concern, if not outrage, over the cost of the facility, they decided to put off a vote so more information could be presented.

Then on March 25, the issue came back, but with only seven councilors present. Councilors Pops Barnes and Judy Thomas, who both face opposition in next month’s election, voted against the proposal. Councilors Skip Henderson, Mimi Woodson, Evelyn Turner-Pugh, Bruce Huff and Glenn Davis voted for it. Woodson also faces opposition on May 20.

Without six votes either for or against the proposal, it was carried over to a future next council meeting, setting up Tuesday’s vote.

The restroom would be about 900 square feet and would feature vandal resistant doors and fixtures, according to city Planning Director Rick Jones.

The contract is with Scott Bridge Co. for $243,861 for the entire project. Scott Bridge is subcontracting the bathroom work out to River City Construction, which will build the actual restrooms in the concrete-walled space beneath the eastern end of the bridge for $159,450.

Other costs include concrete and rebar work ($11,808), manhole work ($4265), testing ($4,600), electrical and lighting ($22,128), concrete sidewalks ($16,200) and a project manager fee ($8,835).

The nearest public restroom is about a half-mile south, so citizens visiting the Martin Bridge would half to walk a mile there and back for a restroom break, Jones said.

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