SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Visitors to town often go to Harbor House to use the restrooms, so the chamber of commerce board figures the town might as well make it easy for them by constructing new facilities right in front of the community center’s building.
Town and chamber officials have talked for several years about the need to replace the old, unsightly public toilets that are located behind the Village Green.
Both Harbor House and the chamber office are in the building on Main Street next to Pemetic Elementary School.
“We have a lot of people using the bathrooms at Harbor House already because merchants will recommend people come in here,” said Ingrid Kachmar, executive director of Harbor House and a member of the chamber board.
Kristin Hutchins, another chamber board member, told the board of selectmen last week that she estimates at least half of the people who walk into Harbor House in the summertime have only one question: “Do you have a toilet?”
“Harbor House and the chamber would like to see (the restrooms) outside the building because it would relieve traffic flow within the building,” Hutchins said.
Harbor House is located on town-owned land.
Town Manager Don Lagrange said that if restrooms were built there, then the spot where the restrooms are currently located could be turned into four parking spaces for public use.
Selectmen George Jellison and Tom Benson expressed concern that locating public restrooms in front of Harbor House might create parking and traffic problems in that area. Scott Alley, the town’s highway foreman, said he would worry about the potential increase of traffic on the circular drive in front of the school.
“Do we want to run cars around that turn where the kids are going to be playing?” he asked.
Selectman Lydia Goetze asked whether most people would park in that vicinity specifically to use the restrooms or if they would be “out and about in town” and walk there after parking somewhere else.
Other board members said it probably would be some of both.
“Most people park as close as they can to what they need to take care of,” Jellison said.
He said he would like to have an explanation of the pros and cons of locating restrooms in front of Harbor House versus tearing down the existing restrooms and rebuilding on the same site. The town manager said he would provide proposals and cost estimates for both options.
In the meantime, Kachmar said she planned to discuss the restroom idea with the Harbor House board of directors. She said that if restrooms are built out front, it would make sense to start the project this coming spring.
“As they are finishing the (Main Street) construction, they could tie in to water and sewer at the front of the building,” she said. “All of the utilities and other expenses association with the restrooms, as well as their construction, would be borne by the town.”
The site being considered for the public restrooms is on the north side of the area immediately in front of Harbor House, where the drop-off box for redeemable bottles currently sits. The wheelchair ramp at the front of the building probably would have to be relocated.