Huntington – The consensus is clear. There are not enough public restrooms in downtown Huntington.
But considerable study of the issue has resulted in no common agreement as to how to solve the shortage.
Downtown Councilwoman Tia Rumbaugh has been spearheading discussions and studies to determine what might be the best solution.
Rumbaugh said she’s tried to include “all interested parties” in the discussions.
Mayor Steve Williams is convinced he has the solution but all do not agree with his plan.
“When discussing restroom facilities, the talk inevitably turns to focus on the city’s homeless population,” the mayor acknowledged.
“But are public restrooms just for those who live on the street? Do average customers not expect many retail stores to provide sanitary bathrooms as well?”
Management of the retail business enterprise near the center of the discussion, Pullman Square, thinks their facility offers sufficient restroom facilities for their customers. More provided by the city would not help or hurt Pullman, according to “Cathy Adkins.
“Additional restrooms provided by the city would not help or hurt Pullman Square,” said Adkins. “We have sustained our business by managing our facility to the needs of our shoppers and tenants.”
Cathy McKenna, director of the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation Commission, said plans are already underway to open Harris Riverfront Park facilities from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily.
“Establishing longer, regular hours will help,” according to McKenna.
Rumbaugh says those plans will definitely improve things and can’t be implemented too soon to help the situation.
She’s even given thought to locating portable restrooms downtown but most seem opposed to that idea.
Rumbaugh is a major supporter of Mayor Steve Williams. She said she looks to the Mayor and his administration for permanent solutions.
The concern about the homeless and adequate facilities “has been a subject of great discussion for years,” said the Mayor.
Meanwhile, Williams believes he has the best solution.
Williams “firmly believes that the most responsible and compassionate way to address this issue is to form partnerships with our organizations that provide services to the unsheltered population on a daily basis.”
To that end, “in recent days, the City of Huntington provided $250,000 to the Huntington City Mission to keep its low-barrier shelter (currently located in the church at the City Mission) open year-round,” said the Mayor. “This shelter was scheduled to close May 1 without this additional funding.”
He continued, “this funding comes from the city’s general fund as well as a federal COVID Emergency Services grant.”
The Mayor went on, “In addition, Huntington City Council will be voting on a budget resolution on May 22 that proposes to appropriate $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to the City Mission.
“The organization will use that to renovate a building it has already purchased for a permanent, low-barrier shelter that will include additional restroom facilities, showers, and laundering facilities for the unsheltered population to use.”
So what will the ultimate answer be?
Perhaps Williams’ plan addresses the concerns, long-term.
In the meantime, Rumbaugh and the Mayor are urging greater cooperation between all parties involved.
Meanwhile, Rumbaugh welcomes input from local residents. She can be reached at TiaFixHuntington@gmail.com.
This is a developing story that will be updated as events warrant.