SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Voters at town meeting in May will be asked to approve funding for new public restrooms in town.
The board of selectmen made that decision Tuesday, Feb. 10.
Now, they have to decide where to put the restrooms. One option is to tear down the old, unsightly ones behind the veterans memorial park just off Main Street and replace them with modern, more attractive facilities. The other option is to build the restrooms next to the Harbor House building.
An idea floated a few months ago was to attach the restrooms to the front of that building in the area where the bottle recycling bin is currently located. But the latest proposal is to attach the restrooms to the south side of Harbor House.
“I think it can fit there, and properly designed, could look nice there,” said board of selectmen chairman Dan Norwood. “I can envision it better there than along the westerly [front] side, which I think would be too much in the face of the public.”
Susi Homer, president of the Southwest Harbor-Tremont Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the restrooms would be “less obtrusive” on the side of the building.
“Both the Chamber and Harbor House are happy to go along with that idea,” she said.
But she told selectmen she wasn’t advocating for either location. She just wants them built in time for the 2016 tourist season, when the Acadia National Park’s celebration of its 100th anniversary is expected to bring a lot more visitors to the island.
“I don’t think either location [for the restrooms] is bad,” Homer said. “But it’s a bad decision not to make a decision.”
Selectman Tom Benson agreed, saying, “We’ve got to move ahead with this. It’s an embarrassment what we have now.”
Norwood called the existing restrooms “unacceptable.”
“It’s our duty to provide something that’s clean, sanitary and safe,” he said. “It’s been kicked down the road too long, and we need to take action on it.”
The selectmen agreed to make a decision on the location of the new restrooms at their Feb. 24 meeting once they have all had a chance to visit the proposed new Harbor House site.
Town Manager Don Lagrange has estimated the cost of construction would be about $98,000 regardless of which location is chosen. Voters at town meeting will be asked to authorize taking up to $84,000 from surplus for the project. The rest would come from a capital improvement account.