LEWISTON — An effort to address public urination in city parks and parking garages will go back to the drawing board after officials said this week that a plan for a standalone public bathroom was too costly.

During a City Council workshop Tuesday, city staff said a previously supported option for a public restroom, known as the “Portland Loo,” had increased in cost. The original budget of $131,000 to purchase and install the structure is now $223,000, Public Works Director Mary Ann Brenchick said.

In response, several councilors said they could not justify the expense for a single restroom, and questioned how much impact it would have.

“One bathroom at this cost, my question is how effective will that be,” Councilor Linda Scott said. “It’s something that’s needed, but that’s a really big price for one unit.”

Offering public bathrooms — as well as day shelter or warming shelter facilities — was among a set of recommendations from Lewiston’s Housing Committee in 2020. Last year, officials whittled down options to single out the “Portland Loo” design, and included $131,000 in this year’s Capital Improvement Plan to fund it.

According to a memo from Brenchick, several locations were considered but staff settled on the parking lot next to the Oak Street parking garage. The goal, she said, would be to have the unit in service all year long with permanent connections to public utilities.


The city previously experimented with two portable restrooms near Kennedy Park and the “PUG” park on Bartlett Street, but said they were heavily vandalized. Brenchick said it had “become a disaster,” and that the companies involved eventually refused to continue to maintain them. Officials considered the “Portland Loo” option due to its stainless steel construction, which is more resistant to vandalism and graffiti.

Councilor Lee Clement said Tuesday that the steep cost would keep him from supporting it, adding that if “you label something like that as ‘vandal-proof,’ they’ll see that as a challenge. A pretty expensive challenge.”

Brenchick said she looked at Portland Loo structures in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and that they were cleaned by city staff four times a day. She said the structure and location were “not perfect,” but said it was a “place to start.”

The city previously spoke with local organizations like the Center for Wisdom’s Women about a potential partnership, but said it wouldn’t have been able to offer the 24-hour availability.

Councilor Rick Lachapelle, who was recently among councilors to support a six-month moratorium on homeless shelters, suggested that if a new shelter eventually opens, it could potentially incorporate a public restroom.

“I know I’m the big bad villain, but this is more for the homeless population than anything else,” he said. “I have a problem spending $230,000 for a toilet. One toilet is not going to help with the three parking garages that people are sleeping in.”

Councilor Robert McCarthy questioned the price and the proposed location, stating, “I don’t think the bathroom is going to attract enough people who are committing the offenses to make it worthwhile.”

Brenchick’s memo said the price of the Portland Loo went from $95,000 last year to $130,000, with a six-month lead time at a minimum.

Based on the council’s reaction Tuesday, she said her department would meet with administration to see what other options are available, including another look at partnering with local organizations.

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