Salt Lake City Council allocates $200,000 for portable potties in Pioneer Park

Posted at 9:55 PM, Jun 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-07 09:41:09-04

UPDATE: The Salt Lake City Council voted Tuesday night to allocate $200,000 for portable bathroom facilities in the park.

Previous story continues below:

SALT LAKE CITY -- Business owners tell the Salt Lake City Council homeless people are using their stoops as toilets.

The problem has gotten so bad, the council is looking at investing big bucks in a new kind of bathroom.

However, some aren’t buying the plan.

Workers in Salt Lake City’s Clean Team walked around Rio Grande Monday afternoon, picking up trash with metal and plastic grab sticks.

Their garbage grabbers often come upon another kind of waste.

“We encounter quite a bit of human waste,” Team Lead Scottie Rewis explained. “We also encounter toilet tissue and rags and such as that, that people have left behind when they are finished doing their business.”

Feces and urine dot the sidewalks, from that area over to Pioneer Park.

“They're just doing their business wherever they feel like it,” Rewis said.

He said a special biohazard team regularly pressure washes the area to clean it up.

Salt Lake City businesses are fed up.

Lisa Adams, District 7 Representative of the Salt Lake City Council says they’ve heard complaints.

“People will defecate on their stoops in the entry areas of their businesses,” she said.

That’s why she and the rest of the council are looking at buying portable bathrooms, called Pit Stops.

“You have two toilets that are on a trailer,” Adams described.

They are portable and can be moved to different locations.

Adams first spotted them in San Francisco while on an urban exploration trip with other council members.

There’s rules and regulations to keep them clean.

First, an attendant would monitor the bathrooms, keeping a log every time someone steps inside, and keeping track how long the person is in the bathroom.

“After so many uses, the attendant cleans the bathroom,” she said. “So, it is kept clean, it’s monitored.”

Every night, the Pit Stop would get taken away and sanitized.

She said the attendant would be hired the same way they hire their current Clean Team—from the homeless population.

This, she said, is a huge component that isn’t happening with the current bathrooms in the area. The city bought and installed two Portland Loos to help, but Adams said the permanent metal washrooms aren’t monitored. Neither are any of the porta-potties that sit around Pioneer Park.

David Kelly with Pioneer Park Coalition said that leads to drug use in the bathrooms.

He worried the Pit Stop won’t fix the problem.

“The portable Pit Stops are another band aid,” he said.

Kelly would like to see more of a long-term solution to homelessness and the rampant drug use in the area.

Adams agrees, but said the Pit Stop could offer relief now, while they continue to look long-term.

“In the interim, I think this is a way to help mitigate the problems that we have in that area,” she said.

Adams is now going over the budget to see if there’s room in the 2016-17 fiscal year to accommodate the $136,000 it could take to buy one of the Pit Stop systems.

That price, she said, is an estimate based on what it costs in San Francisco and could be less for Salt Lake City.

Adams said that price would cover purchasing and maintaining the bathroom for a year, as well as paying the attendant to run it eight hours a day, five days a week.

“I'm more interested in trying it as a pilot for a year,” Adams said.

Adams added it’s possible the Downtown Alliance will chip in to cover costs as well.