WINTHROP — There are some things civilization can’t do without; the public restroom is apparently one of them.

On Monday, the Town Council debated whether to reopen a decades-old building that houses public restrooms at Norcross Point. The facility was shuttered in budget discussions earlier this year when the council eliminated funding for maintenance due to costs arising from vandalism.

Recently, the town was presented with a water bill for $3,000, believed to have resulted from damaged plumbing at the facility.

Councilors argued Monday whether two Porta-Potties brought to Norcross Point to replace the permanent, built bathrooms represents the most reasonable — and, at $200 a month, cheapest — solution to provide for private need in a public place.

“We have had a tremendous amount of vandalism,” Councilor Linda Caprara said. “It’s cost thousands. In my opinion, I am not inclined to keep these bathrooms. This is not a good use of taxpayer money.”

Others argued public restrooms are needed to encourage economic activity such as concerts and weddings at the site.

“If you’re going to have a ‘recreation economy’ you need places to eat, sit and go to the bathroom,” said Patrice Putman, chairman of the town’s Comprehensive Plan Committee.

One of the committee’s top priorities is to support development of recreational businesses such as bike and kayak rental. A related goal is to promote the use of Norcross Point as a site for public concerts and private events, such as weddings, to generate rental income for the town.

“I know personally that we lost a wedding at Norcross Point because the bathrooms were closed,” said Kevin Cookson, Town Council chairman.

After an hour of debate, Town Council voted 6-0 to open the public restrooms at Norcross Point — during events only.

In an effort to reduce fresh acts of vandalism, the locks will be changed and a new protocol for key control will be developed. The facility also will get maintenance during the town’s annual Day of Service.

And, at least for the rest of this year, the two existing Porta-Potties at the point will remain as a backup.

Councilors on Monday also debated the problem of the Dexter Pond Bridge, a private bridge in need of repair or replacement.

Some taxpayers want the town to consider granting an easement in order to obtain grant money to offset repair costs. The town, on the other hand, points out that granting an easement would require the town to bring both the bridge and the road up to standard, at considerable cost.

No motions were made in the matter. Cookson recommended that residents turn to state agencies for assistance.

Councilors also approved, 6-0, a draft ordinance allowing qualifying residents older than 70 to defer payment of increases in property tax in exchange for a lien on their properties.

Town Manager Jeff Woolston said that, in his opinion, only a small fraction of eligible seniors — 10 percent, at most, he said — would take advantage of the program. A public hearing will be the next step.

In other business, councilors:

* received an update on the town’s Comprehensive Plan, with Putman offering to organize an August meeting to come up with a prioritized list of lands the town wishes to conserve, per the request of the Kennebec Land Trust;

* voted 6-0 to authorize the town manager to clear and maintain the cul-de-sac at the end of Little Cobbossee Avenue; and

* tabled consideration of an ordinance governing possible sale or use of recreational fireworks in the town, under authority recently granted to municipalities by the state, with some councilors expressing the desire to hear from police before proceeding.

Wendell Scott is a Kennebec Journal correspondent who lives in Winthrop.


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