By Don Nelson
Rock legend Chuck Berry sang about having “no particular place to go.” Visitors to downtown Twisp might share that sentiment, with a different implication.
The issue of providing public bathrooms, now that the Methow Valley Farmers Market is open and the tourism season looms, was raised again at last week’s Twisp Town Council meeting.
A satisfactory answer has been on hold since early 2019, when the public restrooms in The Merc Playhouse building were closed because of safety and maintenance concerns.
Last summer, downtown merchants had to deal with visitors asking to use their in-store facilities. Denise Tompetrini, who works at Glover Street Market, recently sent a letter to the council, asking about the town’s plans for this summer.
“I would like to see something worked out as I am truly not looking forward to dealing with this issue through another COVID season, and it is not fair to put this on local businesses,” Tompetrini said in the letter. “Again, how can we responsibly promote the town of Twisp without providing this basic service? … There has to be some resolution in sight!”
But the only thing to be seen so far is a single portable toilet installed in Commons Park adjacent to the Methow Valley Community Center parking lot, serving visitors to the Farmers Market. And that facility is only on the site because Twisp Public Works Director Andrew Denham had it placed there on his own initiative.
“I took it upon myself to put up the porta potty,” Denham said in an interview last week. He said the toilet would remain there in the near term.
“It’s a tough one,” he said. “It’s one of our biggest nightmares. They [portable toilets] are easy to abuse and hard to regulate.”
There is another portable toilet near the Commons Park, placed there by the Methow Valley Community Center, Denham said.
At last week’s Town Council meeting, Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said the portable toilets are not likely a long-term solution. Denham confirmed that the portable are “a stopgap measure.” The town currently doesn’t have the funding for anything more permanent.
Council member Mark Easton, the town’s liaison to the Twisp Chamber of Commerce, said he is hoping for some ideas from that group. But the town’s options seem limited.
“This is a good conversation starter,” Ing-Moody said at last week’s council meeting. “We’ve put it on hold for a long time.”
The downtown public restrooms in The Merc Playhouse building were previously cleaned and maintained by the town under a contract with The Merc. The street entrance to the bathrooms had been kept open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and was locked and unlocked with an automatic timer. Police Chief Paul Budrow earlier said that in the past, the bathrooms in The Merc building were frequently vandalized and used for shelter.
Winthrop provides public restrooms at several locations in and around downtown.