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City scrambling to halt Bdwk. stench as restrooms unfinished

(June 28, 2013) Everyone knows that a certain substance rolls downhill – both in reality and in metaphor.

But it appears that the literal gravity of poo has caused something else to roll uphill to City Hall, as the city has been fielding a number of complaints about the stench emanating from the waylaid restroom project on the Boardwalk.

The malevolent miasma generated Saturday night when the substitute portable toilets were pumped out allegedly cleared the entire plaza at North Division Street, including the deck at iconic Tony’s Pizza.

“It was terrible. It chased away a lot of our customers,” said Lisa Russo, whose family founded the popular slice joint decades ago. “The smell lingered for about 45 minutes to almost an hour, too.”

For the past several weeks, the city has been using portable bathroom trailers – parked on the concrete pad behind the firefighters’ memorial – as replacements for the restroom facility on the Boardwalk between Caroline and North Division Streets.

That facility is under reconstruction and was slated to be finished in May. But wet weather, and the complexity of the concrete work involved in the new facility’s advanced, eco-friendly design, have stalled progress.

“We’re probably looking at least another 30 days, but I would hesitate to speculate on the exact date,” City Engineer Terry McGean said this week. “It’s been much more complicated and difficult than we imagined.”

The central portion of the new structure is largely formed out of concrete, requiring complex molding and pouring that has turned out to be far more intensive than expected.

McGean said earlier this month that the contractor selected by the city for the project – Black Diamond Builders – has brought on additional help from construction firm D.W. Burt, which specializes in concrete work, to expedite the process.

But the project’s delay would likely not be as much of an issue if the waylaid amenity were not public toilets, especially ones located on a wooden promenade of greasy food and cheap alcohol.

The temporary trailer restrooms that are currently at the site were originally billed as being able to be hooked up directly to the city’s sewer and water. But the trailers themselves do not provide suction, and given the city’s relative lack of slope, a hook-up was unsuccessful. Thus, sanitation workers have been pumping the holding tanks out with a service truck during the wee hours of the morning.

“Based on the volume of people that were using them over the weekend, however, we had to have them pumped not only at 5 or 6 in the morning but also at 5 or 6 in the evening,” said city Public Works Director Hal Adkins. “We had no choice, they were at capacity. I mean completely full.”

Adkins said this week that the trailer facilities will be replaced on July 1 with “several rows of port-o-johns” that will provide a greater number of stalls than the trailer units, and thus – while not as posh – will reduce the overall load on each toilet.

“The portable bathroom trailers are ideal for a wedding setting, or a small concert, but the volume of use we’re looking at now, they’re not designed to handle,” Adkins said. “There will be a lot more port-o-johns available than the limited number of stalls in those trailers.”

Additionally, the individual port- o-johns can be cleaned selectively, instead of having to crack open the trailers’ sealed hold­-

ing tank and unleashing the foul airs.

Councilman Brent Ashley said he had not only received calls from concerned citizens, but had been there himself.

“I didn’t have to hear about it, I smelled it personally,” Ashley said. “It was like being in a bubble you couldn’t get out of.”

The in-progress facility was conceived roughly a year ago as a replacement for the decades-old concrete block bath­-

house at Caroline Street, a structure often described by city staff as “bunker-like” due to its inset construction.

The city also desired to create some kind of public performing arts venue at the location. After much discussion by City Council, McGean and architect David Quillen were able to design a structure that features a central stage area as well as expanded restroom facilities.

The central concrete platform will allow beach-facing shows and concerts, but will be flanked by two separate wings with expanded men’s and women’s bathrooms, and will feature low-cost, low-energy ventilation systems for heating and cooling. The cost of the project is approximately $950,000.

Black Diamond Builders’ contract with the city gives the company 200 days to complete the project, after which a $1,000 per day liquidated damages penalty kicks in. With the rain delay days factored in, McGean said this time limit will be up in early August.

“With the weather delays, [the contractor] had 67 days left as of June 1,” McGean said.

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