AMERICAN FALLS — After vandals recently left hypodermic needles and several other disgusting items in the restrooms at city parks, American Falls Mayor Marc Beitia has taken steps to control the problem.
He's closed the restrooms indefinitely, with the one exception being the facilities at Willow Bay Park.
Beitia said in his weekly newsletter that what was found in the restrooms at city parks was gross in every sense of the word. He was especially upset that the items were found in the restrooms only one day after they had been reopened following a month-long closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Beitia said the facilities at North City Park were hit hardest by the vandals.
“But in light of these behaviors and the fact that COVID-19 lingers on hard surfaces for hours it’s not prudent to leave them open,” he said about the restrooms.
And the city can’t afford to just clean them more often. It takes over an hour to clean and disinfect each city restroom facility. And that costs the city $30 to $50 per cleaning per restroom facility, Beitia said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is already expected to reduce city operating funds by as much as 20 percent in the current fiscal year.
“Those cuts are already occurring in all departments. But non-critical services such as cleaning up after such messes will absorb a larger portion," Beitia said.
He added that the city’s personnel for handling restrooms are extremely limited.
Beitia says he can’t assure that the restrooms will be reasonably safe for public use. So he chose to lock the restrooms.
But the playground equipment will remain open and sanitized once a day. Sunshine and UV light will help with this process, Beitia said.
“But do not rely on it in place of hand sanitizer and other proper hygiene precautions for children,” he said.
The restrooms at the city's parks will remain closed indefinitely, but groups that can provide a comprehensive plan on how they will keep the restrooms clean and sanitary during events that have been approved by the City Council can temporarily have the facilities reopened, according to Beitia.
Meanwhile, he said that the Lee Street Park playground was intended to be in place by now in American Falls. But the COVID-19 virus shut down the factory that builds the equipment, according to Beitia.
“We hope to have the new playground installed in June,” he said.
Further, Willow Bay concessionaire Cris Schulz has agreed to keep the public restrooms clean and open at Willow Bay Park. He is providing the staff and the city is providing the supplies.
The Willow Bay restrooms will be open on May 30 and will remain open barring any further problems, Beitia said. But he’s recommending that they be locked from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily to prevent vandalism.
And he recommends people continue to use caution surrounding the COVID-19 situation.
“Social distancing and a bit more personal hygiene are minuscule requests that will help ensure the safety and greater good,” Beitia said.