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The half million dollar toilet

Let’s talk toilets. Yep. That’s the topic with your morning coffee today. Toilets.

I’m guessing anyone who reads this while sipping their morning latte is well aware of how critical a toilet can be soon after that coffee goes down. So, the idea of having clean, fairly sanitary toilets for public use as opposed to the infamous porta-toilets we have all known and loved since our first band concert makes sense. As someone who has traveled to most 3rd world countries in Asia and Africa, I can’t emphasize enough how important public restrooms can be. Especially the kind that don’t leave you wishing for death.

I have encountered the type of toilet that the Assembly recently voted to buy and try in Anchorage in Europe. They were wonderful. Clean. No noisome smells. Toilet paper that didn’t feel like a streamer gone bad. Some public toilets in France were better than what you’d find in many hotels.

Which brings us back to the $5 million dollars’ worth of public toilets the Assembly is putting in front of the voters this spring. And let us not forget, these are the same voters who have voted down school bonds and library bonds. Now we are asking them to buy toilets instead of books and I have to wonder how that will play out over the coming months of campaigning.

I follow what the Assembly is doing fairly well. And yet this toilet bond kind of jumped up and surprised me. It doesn’t feel like there was a lot of public information put out before the bond was set for voter approval. Maybe the idea is to eventually flood the airwaves with more information on public toilets than we ever wanted to have.

As a bleeding-heart liberal, I want to support these toilets. Heck, as someone who once wandered the streets of Kathmandu looking for a place of comfort, I am anxious to be able to throw my full support behind them. But I find a lot of information missing that I think is important.

So, whoever is ramping up the campaign to get decent porta-toilets in our community, here are some questions that I truly need answered. For starts, who will clean them? How many people will be required for that task? Will they be new city employees? Are the toilets hooked up to the city water and sewage? If so, will they be checked routinely – and by routinely, I mean a few times a day – to ensure no one has made the kind of mess in them that has given porta-potties such a fine name? Will they be placed downtown? Will they be hooked up for use all winter, even after the tourists have left?

Those are just a few of the questions I have before we vote on a toilet that is essentially $500,000. Actually, I have two toilets in my house and my whole house costs way less than that.

I don’t know what amenities come with half million-dollar toilets. I just know that any toilet costing that much should definitely come with amenities. I’m not asking for a butler to be standing at the door handing out warm hand towels. I’m not talking about 4 ply toilet paper. I’m simply asking what we actually get for that price. Are these things under warrantee should they not make it through a winter? And please tell me that for half a million dollars they are expected to function all winter.

So, yea public toilets that don’t induce an instant barfing reflex. Yea for public toilets that the general public can actually use. It makes us so much more attractive as a tourist destination when tourists don’t have to duck behind a building to relieve themselves. And let’s be honest – neither should a homeless person.

I fear for the future of these toilets given their cost. The general public is usually not in favor of bonds of any sort, let alone bonds for toilets that cost more than their home and car combined.

I think these toilets are going to make for a very interesting campaign season – even more interesting than the (so far unofficial) proposal to permanently name winter snow berms “bronsons”.

One thought on “The half million dollar toilet”

  1. Lady S says:

    They must be for recreational users and Anchorage just does not have enough. I’’d vote for that proposition but good thing I’m not a local voter of Anchorage.

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