City Council approves $244K public restroom on RiverWalk - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

City Council approves $244K public restroom on RiverWalk

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COLUMBUS, Ga. - After multiple attempts, Council finally approved the $244,000 RiverWalk restroom. The city only has to pay $39,000 because of grants and donations. 

During Tuesday's Columbus City Council meeting, Council voted 7-1 to approve the restrooms. Henderson, Huff, McDaniel, Woodson, Baker, Turner Pugh and Davis voted for the restroom. Thomas was the lone councilor who voted against it. Barnes and Allen, who voted against the restroom the last time it came to a vote, were absent.

The restrooms first came up at a Council Meeting in March. Councilors tabled the vote and asked that more information be provided after they saw the price tag. Rick Jones, the Director of the city's Planning Department told Council the high cost is mainly because of its difficult location along the RiverWalk. City officials say the restrooms are necessary because there will soon be everyday pedestrian traffic and a lot of events held on the bridge.

A few weeks later, the public restrooms were up for a vote, but did not pass because there was not a conclusive vote. An item needs 6 votes for it be approved or denied. If an item does not receive 6 votes, it comes back at another council meeting. The public restroom vote was on the agenda for three following council meetings, but the City Manager pulled it each time because there would an inconclusive vote due to certain councilors being absent.

The restroom was approved on Tuesday with the condition that the restrooms be locked at night. Councilor Red McDaniel says other public restrooms are vandalized because they are always open.

"We have to redo those other restrooms on the RiverWalk about every 5 or 6 months because people tear them up," said McDaniel. "If this one is locked and secured by someone responsible, we should be alright."

The state will pay 80% of the project and the city would pick up the other 20%. City officials say the city will lose the grant if they don't approve the bathrooms. Uptown Columbus recently offered to pay for $10,000 of the city's costs.

Councilor Judy Thomas says she voted against the bathroom because even with the discounted price, the city will still have to pay to take care of the bathrooms.

"My objection is not to a restroom on the RiverWalk," said Thomas. "My objection is to the cost of this restroom, to the upkeep of this restroom, and to all of the surrounding issues."

Thomas also added that the price would have been lower if the bathrooms had been part of the original bridge plan. She says she hopes it can be a lesson for future development.

Construction could begin as soon as two weeks and the bathrooms are expected to be completed in about 4 months, Jones said.

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David Hurst

David Hurst, a graduate of the Univ. of Georgia, focuses on how your tax dollars are being spent.
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