After about three months of discussions, two inconclusive votes and after being yanked from the agenda twice, the issue of the Riverwalk restroom has been concluded. By a 7-1 vote this morning, Columbus Council approved the city’s funding for the project.
With Councilors Gary Allen and Pops Barnes, both opponents of the project in past votes, absent, Mayor ProTem Evelyn Turner-Pugh, standing in for Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, moved the vote forward from the city manager’s agenda to the mayor’s agenda, which is the first order of business.
After some discussion, and after deciding that the restroom should be locked at night to prevent vandalism, council voted. Red McDaniel, Mike Baker, Skip Henderson, Bruce Huff, Glenn Davis, Mimi Woodson and Turner-Pugh voted for the restroom. Only Councilor Judy Thomas, long an opponent, voted against it. Councilors Pops Barnes and Gary Allen, both opponents in past votes, were absent.
The state Department of Transportation has agreed to pay about $195,000 of the project, or 80 percent of the $244,000 price tag. The local match would have been about $49,000, but Uptown Columbus Inc. has donated $10,000, lowering the city's cost to about $39,000.
McDaniel said he was originally opposed to the project because of the price, but relented because he realized the need for a restroom at the base of a facility like the pedestrian bridge.
“I was kind of against it because of the price. You can build a very nice house for a quarter of a million dollars,” McDaniel said. “Even though we’re only paying 20 percent of it, it’s still all taxpayer money. I know the people need a restroom there, but it should have been included in the original plan.
“I’m glad to get it over with. It’s something they need to get started on, so I’m glad to get it off the table.”
Thomas said she does not object to the restroom, only to its cost, which could have been lower if the restroom had been built along with the rest of the bridge renovations.
“I believe that this was an afterthought and had this been part of the original design of the bridge, it would not be a $250,000 restroom, and that that money could have been spent in a better manner than it is being spent,” Thomas said. “I recognized early on that this is something that would probably be passed, and perhaps mine was a protest vote, but it was hopefully to bring this issue to the forefront so that those people who are planning such structures from now on will take this into consideration.”
The restroom will be about 900 square feet and will feature vandal resistant doors and fixtures, City Planner Rick Jones said.
The restroom construction 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 have a mile round-trip walk for a restroom break without the new facilities.