Jack Gist Park and Karen Hornaday Park will finally be receiving new public restroom facilities. The city’s current goal is to have them ready for use by midsummer.
Jack Gist has never had a brick-and-mortar bathroom installed, an issue for which the city has been examining solutions for at least the last three years, City Manager Rob Dumouchel said. Karen Hornaday’s restrooms were demolished in early 2021, according to Dumouchel. They’d been shut down for some years previous due to declining conditions. Both parks have been making do with port-a-potties for public use.
“We wanted something more stable and easier to maintain,” Dumouchel said.
At their last regular meeting on Jan. 22, the Homer City Council adopted Ordinances 24-03 and 24-04, as well as Resolution 24-011, to fund the acquisition and installation of mobile restroom units at both parks.
The units will be provided by Comforts of Home Services, Inc., a trailer manufacturer based in Illinois that specializes in designing and building luxury standard trailers and custom trailers unique to their customers’ needs, their website states.
Each unit comes with three stalls, one of which is ADA-compliant, and is equipped with flushable porcelain commodes and sinks. The units will have running-water access, since they can be connected directly to the city’s water and sewer mains.
According to a Nov. 16, 2023, memorandum from Parks Maintenance Coordinator Chad Felice to the Parks, Art, Recreation & Culture Advisory Commission and the ADA Advisory Board, the unit trailers can also be lowered, so that the floor is no more than 4 inches off the ground, and they can be equipped with an ADA-compliant ramp.
Felice brought back the idea of installing mobile restroom units in Homer after encountering one in Wrangell while attending the annual Alaska Parks & Recreation Association meeting last September. According to his memo, the units are used all over the country, including Alaska. Aside from Wrangell, they can also currently be found in Petersburg.
According to the resolution, after conducting research on the feasibility of purchasing mobile restrooms, Public Works staff concluded that they would be “appropriate and beneficial” for use in Homer. PARCAC also recommended this plan after reviewing the proposal at their regular meeting on Nov. 16, 2023.
The city plans to install one mobile restroom at Jack Gist Park and two restrooms at Karen Hornaday Park. For Karen Hornaday, one will be placed near the pavilion and the other placed adjacent to the playground.
According to the resolution, Comforts of Homer priced each unit at a little over $60,000, including shipping to Washington. The city has set aside $65,000 for each unit to also cover shipping from Washington to Seward and to provide a small contingency in case of any unexpected additional costs.
Resolution 24-011 states that the cost for each unit is “fair and reasonable, as it will provide for a bathroom with running water and flushable toilets at … our busiest parks for less than the cost estimated to build … the brick-and-mortar restroom that was planned.”
Ordinance 24-03 amends the FY24 budget by reappropriating funding to install one mobile restroom unit at Jack Gist Park. According to the ordinance, the FY24 budget included $120,000 to install new water/sewer connection services at the park, with $77,500 coming from the city’s General Fund Unassigned Fund Balance and the remaining $42,500 coming from the Homer Accelerated Water and Sewer Program.
The original plan for Jack Gist Park, according to a Jan. 2 memorandum from former Public Works Director Jan Keiser to the city council, was to install a water and sewer extension from the adjacent residential subdivision to the park. The city would then fund the installation of a concrete slab, upon which the Homer Softball Association would fund and build a wood-frame restroom for park users.
The HAWSP funds were sufficient to complete the water and sewer installation at the park. However, by adopting Ordinance 24-03, the city will redirect the $77,500 from the General Fund previously designated for the concrete slab to acquire and install a mobile restroom unit.
Ordinance 24-04 amends the FY24 budget by reappropriating FY25 funding from HAWSP for the purchase of two mobile restrooms to be installed at Karen Hornaday Park.
According to a Nov. 30, 2023, memorandum from Keiser to the council, the FY24 budget has already set aside $30,000 for the installation of new water and sewer connection services at Karen Hornaday Park. The FY25 budget contains $150,000 of HAWSP money and $350,000 from the General Fund for the construction of a brick-and-mortar restroom.
Because the cost for two mobile restrooms is much lower than the cost of constructing a brick-and-mortar facility, the funds from the FY24 budget and HAWSP should be sufficient to fully fund the project.
“Assuming the new service lines come in on budget, we may not need to tap the General Fund in FY25,” Keiser wrote in the memo.
Resolution 24-011 was passed in contingency with the adoption of Ordinances 24-03 and 24-04. The resolution awards a contract to Comforts of Home Services in the amount of $195,000 for the purchase of three mobile restroom units.
The ordinances and resolution can be read in full at www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/citycouncil/city-council-regular-meeting-308.
The next city council regular meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Homer City Hall Cowles Council Chambers.