Public bathrooms will be free to use in Old Orchard Beach this summer
OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Visitors to the downtown this summer will not have to pay to use the public bathrooms.
More than a decade ago, the town began implementing a 50-cent user fee for the seasonal bathroom on West Grand Avenue. The fee was put in place to help defray the cost of an attendant, after several incidents of vandalism.
On March 7, the Town Council voted unanimously, with Councilor Shawn O’Neill absent, to approve a contract with Defining Lines Landscaping for seasonal cleaning of the beach and downtown. The first year of the contract, the town will pay $287,500 with a three percent increase the second and third years.
The town has been using Defining Lines since 2018 and has been pleased with their services, said Town Manager Diana Asanza. The cost of the new contract is a 20 percent increase from the previous year, and includes $27,000 to cover the expense of a bathroom attendant.
As the new contract includes funding for a bathroom attendant, it eliminates the 50-cent user fee that previously funded the attendant.
“I think it’s a great idea for us to forgo charging for the bathroom and move forward with this increase,” said Asanza.
She said the town has had “quite a few complaints” regarding the bathroom fee.
Deputy Police Chief David Hemingway said many people now use credit cards instead of cash, and are increasingly less likely to have the pocket change to pay the bathroom user fee. He said the bathroom attendants have had late-night confrontations from intoxicated people who wanted to use the bathroom but didn’t have the cash on hand to pay. There have also been incidents of people using alleyways or the beach instead of the bathroom to relieve themselves, said Hemingway.
“I’m very happy to see us jettisoning the 50-cent fee,” said Councilor Larry Mead.
He said people who visit the town hate having to pay to use the public restrooms, and he didn’t blame them. He said he’s never encountered a public toilet that requires a user fee in any other tourist town in the country.
Although Councilor Michael Tousignant voted in favor of the measure, he said he thought the cost of the bathroom attendant should be covered through business licenses instead of by taxpayers.
Publisher Liz Gotthelf can be reached at [email protected].