After some consideration, Columbus Council delayed pulling the handle on a $244,000 public restroom under the Frank Martin Memorial Bridge at its Tuesday meeting.
Several councilors questioned the high cost, even though the state Department of Transportation would pay 80 percent, or about $195,000. The city’s 20 percent would be about $49,000.
The restrooms would be built into a space that was created when the Martin Bridge was undergoing renovation. The space is now bare concrete walls with door and window openings and a dirt floor.
After the price tag drew some critical comments and questions, Deputy City Manager David Arrington clarified that the actual cost of building the restrooms is about $160,000, which is in line with similar projects. The rest of the cost will to bring utilities down 14th Street and underneath the bridge to the restrooms.
Councilor Judy Thomas questioned not only the cost, but the year-long timeline and the propriety of using money from the city’s paving fund for the project, as was proposed.
Arrington said the long timeline is because it is a part of a three-part project involving extending the Riverwalk from 13th to 14th Street and the connecting infrastructure between the bridge, the proposed bridge plaza and Riverwalk itself.
He said using paving funds for the bathroom is appropriate because the restroom is an enhancement of an alternative transportation project – the Riverwalk.
But the total cost was still a sticking point for Thomas.
“My only concern in this entire issue is paying $243,000 for a 900-square-foot bathroom,” Thomas said. “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.”
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson reiterated that the restroom is primarily a state project and that the DOT is shouldering four times the amount local taxpayers are being asked to pay.
“Does the state have some kind of review process through which they review these kinds of state taxpayer dollars, or are they just handing out money?” Tomlinson asked.
Arrington said the state does have a review process, which is one reason the restroom project was delayed and not included in the bridge renovation, completed last year. The project was also put out to bid by the state and went to the lowest of three bidders, he said.
But in the end councilors voted to delay a decision on whether to move forward with the project.