This alley runs parallel to Cherry Street between Fourth Avenue and State Avenue (in the 500 block) in downtown Olympia. The Downtown Ambassador Clean Team regularly cleans up human waste in this alley. Andy Hobbs The Olympian
This alley runs parallel to Cherry Street between Fourth Avenue and State Avenue (in the 500 block) in downtown Olympia. The Downtown Ambassador Clean Team regularly cleans up human waste in this alley. Andy Hobbs The Olympian

Local

Downtown Olympia will get another 24-hour porta-potty

June 24, 2016 01:31 PM

A second 24-hour public porta-potty will be installed downtown this summer, part of Olympia’s long-running — and so far, losing — battle with human waste.

The porta-potty will be next to the Intercity Transit bus station on city property at Olympia Avenue Northeast and Franklin Street Northeast.

The downtown business community has long complained of finding human waste in entryways, alcoves and alleys because of a lack of accessible public restrooms at night.

The new porta-potty will open by Aug. 1 and will be the second 24-hour restroom downtown. The first was installed in April at the Artesian Commons on Fourth Avenue Southeast at Jefferson Street Southeast.

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“Given its proximity to a number of services in the area, I am confident it will be used,” said downtown liaison Mark Rentfrow at the Olympia City Council meeting Tuesday.

The new portable restrooms are part of a pilot project approved by the Olympia City Council in March in attempt to manage the public health issue. The council devoted an additional $68,100 to install as many as four temporary 24-hour porta-potties at nearly $13,700 each.

Money also went toward expanding the Downtown Ambassador Program’s Clean Team, a seven-member CPR-certified crew that’s part of the Capital Recovery Center. The team works 7 a.m. to noon seven days a week to clean up human waste, and it remains on call throughout the day. The team also washes downtown sidewalks twice a week.

The Clean Team cleaned up human waste at 104 locations in April and May. Rentfrow added that 70 businesses have been served so far since the program’s expansion.

Those 104 spots were contained within a slice of downtown where the Clean Team works. That rectangular-shaped area stretches east to west across downtown and is bordered by State Avenue Northwest to the north and Legion Way Southeast to the south.

Nearly half of the cleanups occurred along Fourth Avenue East. Rentfrow said the city lacks data about the need for cleanups outside of the Clean Team’s territory.

However, a map covered in red icons — one for each report of human waste — showed the problem’s pervasiveness throughout the downtown business district. The map surprised some council members because it failed to show a clear pattern that could help the city determine where to put more restrooms.

Mayor Cheryl Selby said the Clean Team, and not the porta-potties, will make the difference in the long run.

“It doesn’t matter where we put (a porta-potty), they’re not going to walk to it, they’re not going to find it,” she said Tuesday. “I’d rather put the money into hiring more Clean Team people.”

Councilman Jim Cooper said the map of cleanup locations makes a compelling case for creating two or three 24-hour restrooms at facilities that are already in place, such as downtown restrooms at Percival Landing and the East Bay Public Plaza.

“We need to move in the direction of having a level of service standard for all restrooms in our city that are public,” Cooper said. “I do think the transit center is a place where we would want a permanent facility in the future.”

A long-term goal is to install a heavy-duty permanent facility in downtown Olympia, according to the city’s restroom plan. Another goal includes collaborating with the future Providence Community Care Center. The center has been proposed as a social service hub for people who are homeless or mentally ill.

The city’s pilot project is funded through the end of 2016.