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Town marina bathroom policy to be reviewed

by Tom Chillemi

A recent “misunderstanding” about who is permitted to use the bathrooms at the Urbanna Town Marina at Upton’s Point developed into another debate at Friday’s work session of the Urbanna Town Council.

Council member Janet Smith said that when the Virginia Charter Boat Association approached council about docking boats at the town marina for the fall rockfish season, the association president told council the group did not need the bathrooms.

“We didn’t restrict them,” said Smith. “They said they didn’t need it (bathroom).”

The town would have provided bathroom access if they had asked for them, Smith added.

There was a misunderstanding by one of the captains, who wanted the bathrooms open, said Smith.

Smith’s information was not reported in a Southside Sentinel story on December 17 because she arrived late for the December 11 work session and was not present when the issue was discussed.

That December 17 article explained how the town marina bathrooms are locked and for use only by rent-paying slip holders. Anyone else must use a porta-potty.

Smith said she heard critical comments about the bathrooms at the marina after the story came out. “It concerns me that the citizens have an attitude that we are not going to open the restrooms for anybody except those people who are full-paying customers or that we are not going to provide restroom facilities for anybody who goes to the marina.”

Former town council member Bob Straw, who was in the audience, commented, “We’re sending a very unfriendly message with this to the public.”

“This is a public thing (marina facilities) with public funds and the way we’re closing it is awful, just awful,” said Straw. “This porta-potty business is awful.”

Marina manager Diane Franck said if she is at the marina she will use her “discretion” and open the bathroom for persons who are “elderly, handicapped or pregnant. I don’t want to send them to the porta-potty.”

Town citizen Buddy Wyker immediately asked, “What difference does it make who it is, Diane? If they need to go to the bathroom they are visiting our town. Why can’t they use the bathrooms? We need some public restrooms.”

Franck said she was told to open the bathrooms to town residents if she is asked.

Council member Don Richwine, who chairs the marina committee, said, “The marina wasn’t built for public restrooms. If you open it you’d better put in $2,000 a year for maintenance and upkeep because they are going to trash it.”

The bathroom was vandalized one time when they were kept open, said Franck. 

The policy at this time, Richwine said, is that the bathrooms are “strictly reserved for the boat slip holders.”

Wyker suggested opening the bathrooms while a manager is there.

Council member Lee Chewning said, “If you leave restrooms open and unattended, you’re going to have major problems. You’ve got to re-examine your whole policy.”
Richwine agreed. “We need to re-visit the whole policy with regard to use of the restrooms.”

Richwine said the marina committee would work on a policy before the spring season starts.

“There is a possible solution to this,” said town administrator Lewis Filling. “I just have to work things out.”

Smith added, “[Opening] the marina restrooms may not be the only solution. We may have another solution.”

Neither Smith nor Filling elaborated.

posted 01.20.2010

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