There are two new public restrooms on Pioneer Avenue in Homer and another facility at the end of the Spit. Cruise ship head tax money was used to pay for them.
The city received about $6 million in head tax funds and roughly half of that went to replace the fenders in Homer’s deep water dock. Now officials are pushing to get the restrooms finished before winter hits. During a recent city council meeting, City Manager Walt Wrede said residents have been reacting positively, for the most part, about the new buildings. But there have been a couple complaints.
“I also hear stuff like ‘gee, why are we building restrooms when we can’t afford new police cars’ and things like that,” he said.
Wrede said city officials probably should have done a better job educating residents about how the buildings were paid for. No city funds were used in design and construction. Homer Public Works Director Carey Meyer said the buildings are 16x16 and cost about $200,000 each.
“And the average person probably thinks that’s ridiculous, but they are built to last. You have to run water. You have to run sewer. You have to run power. We’re running natural gas to these restrooms. It’s a government job so you’re paying Davis-Bacon wages for all the labor,” he said.
Meyer said although money for construction didn’t come from the city’s coffers, the responsibility of maintaining the restrooms is up to the Parks and Recreation Department.
“Parks and Rec maintains the existing restrooms out on the Spit and at Karen Hornaday Park. These will be maintained along with those,” he said.
Right now the city plans to keep at least one stall open during the winter for public use. Meyer said that will change if they aren’t being used for their original purpose.
“If they end of being abused during the winter, then we’ll probably have to close them up,” he said.
Meyer and Wrede both mentioned these restrooms have been on a wish list for the city for a long time.
“Those restrooms on Pioneer Avenue have been requested for many, many years by the businesses downtown… that’s one of the biggest complaints we get from visitors is that there’s not public restrooms on Pioneer Avenue,” Wrede said.
Meyer said since the restrooms are city buildings, they fall into the 1 Percent for Art category.
“One Perfect for Art Committee selected some art to be placed on each one of the restrooms. In many cases local artists who are producing that,” he said.
And he said contractors tried to hire and buy locally during construction as well.