AUGUSTA — The city has closed downtown’s only permanent public bathrooms, saying they are unsafe.

The bathrooms have many deterioration issues, the most recent being a fire in an electrical panel on the Fourth of July.

City officials said a Porta-Potty will soon be installed for public use at the site at Haymarket Square off Water Street.

The small building housing the bathrooms was determined to be unusable by Bob LaBreck, facilities and systems manager for the city, according to Leif Dahlin, the city’s director of community services.

“It has been deemed unsafe,” Dahlin said. “We do have some real issues there. Until such time those are remedied, the bathrooms are closed.”

City Manager William Bridgeo said the proposed capital improvement plan, which is up for discussion by the City Council in August, could provide funding to fix the bathrooms.

Dahlin noted officials have been aware the small building had issues — including corrosion apparently caused by water leaking through the flat-roofed structure.

In November, Augusta voters rejected a plan for the city to borrow $500,000 to buy an ambulance, new bleachers for Alumni Field and improvements to downtown’s Haymarket Square, including the bathrooms.

Dahlin said the Haymarket Square improvements, which included a proposal to move the bathrooms to the nearby parking deck, and other improvements, would cost about $167,000.

The bathroom building’s issues came to a head on July 4, when the city’s downtown is packed with revelers taking in the fireworks and other holiday activities. That’s when the electrical service panel of the building caught on fire. Dahlin said Augusta-based Hutchins Electric did a temporary fix so the building could be used on the busy holiday.

Dahlin said power has since been disconnected to the building, and it is not a fire hazard. A Porta-Potty will be installed at the site soon, Dahlin said, and there are also Porta-Potties for the public to use at the nearby waterfront.

The bathrooms have been available to the public for many years. Dahlin said they are used often enough to justify putting a temporary bathroom on the site until they are replaced.

The electrical panel at the site is also used by the city for downtown events, such as the annual holiday tree lighting.

Michael Duguay, development director for the city, said having electricity at a city-owned and controlled site is extremely important for downtown.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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