OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Town officials are considering a pay-as-you-go plan for Old Orchard Beach’s three public restrooms.
The Town Council is scheduled to vote tonight on a proposed 25- or 50-cent fee to use the loo at facilities on Milliken Street and West Grand Avenue and in Memorial Park.
In the past two years, the town has paid more than $52,000 to fix vandalism at the bathrooms, said Town Manager Jack Turcotte. The fees would pay for attendants.
Business owners are concerned that the fees would make the town less tourist-friendly.
The town charged for use of the facilities in the past, and stopped for that very reason, Turcotte said. The proposal is back because of the cost of maintenance.
A 25-cent fee would generate an estimated $30,000 to $35,000 a year, which would cover the pay for attendants from Extreme Clean, the company that now cleans the facilities.
A privately owned restroom on The Pier already has fees – 50 cents for single use or $2.50 for a day pass – but Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce President Bud Harmon said he is concerned that charging for use of public facilities would have unintended consequences.
“It will put an unfair burden on local businesses in town, including the chamber,” Harmon said.
People who don’t want to pay would likely go to nearby businesses and ask to use the bathrooms, he said, and that would put businesses in an awkward position. They don’t want to say no to customers, but they can’t afford to let people who are just passing by use their facilities.
Bernie Orne, owner of Weekend at Bernie’s Beach Club, next to the public restrooms on West Grand Avenue, said bathroom fees would be an inconvenience. There are facilities for patrons in the club, but Orne is concerned that people would come off the street just to use them, which is an additional problem if minors try to enter. “Or people will be running behind buildings” to urinate, he said.
Orne’s concern is echoed by Shari Langlois, who owns the building and an ice cream shop on the first floor, Big Licks.
When the public bathrooms are closed, from 2 to 6 a.m., people go in the alley between her building and the public restrooms to urinate, she said.
With fees for the restrooms, she said, some people would come in just to ask for change.
“I can see the town’s point of view,” Langlois said. “(But) people will probably be upset.”
Town Councilor Robin Dayton said she’s upset that the town is turning to fees to staff the restrooms and prevent vandalism.
“It’s a shameful commentary on what happens in Old Orchard Beach with huge amounts of vandalism,” she said. “(Charging) is extremely unpopular, but really, what are we supposed to do?”
Town Councilor Mike Tousignant said he’s leaning toward charging 50 cents.
“I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” he said. “It will take that burden off the taxpayers and start to put it on the people who use (the facilities).”
Tousignant said that if councilors approve a fee, it will take effect as soon as the town renegotiates its contract with Extreme Clean.
Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: email@example.com