What should be done with the outdated restrooms at the Bee County Expo Center?
“Our restroom facilities are outdated and in very poor condition,” said Eloy Rodriguez, county commissioner, at Tuesday’s meeting at the courthouse. “We are grandfathered in on some items, including the handicapped department.”
Because the restrooms were built in 1972, the county is not obligated to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, if new ones are built or a significant improvements are made to these, then they will have to follow ADA rules.
Normally, the restrooms are easily cleaned, but when the crowd grows exponentially, usually only a couple of times a year during the county’s largest events, the conditions inside can become deplorable.
“I have never been in the women’s side, but I know the men’s side is horrible,” Rodriguez said. “And, again, because of the number of people out there, it is impossible to keep it clean unless you had two or three people out there keeping it clean all the time.”
During Western Week, which drew in thousands of visitors, port-a-potties were brought to the Expo Center and the freestanding restrooms were locked.
“We met with the Western Week committee, and the decision was to shut down the restroom facilities at the Expo Center and they would provide the portable restrooms,” Rodriguez said.
He asked and was given approval by his fellow commissioners to see just how much an upgrade to the restrooms would cost the county.
“What I am proposing is we do a study and get some nonbinding bids to upgrade our facilities,” he said. “I don’t think we are capable of upgrading them to accommodate the 8,000 people that go out there for Diez y Seis and Western Week.
“My motion now would be to get bids and see where we are.
“We need to let the public know we are concerned about their concerns.
“It might be something we cannot afford. But, at least, we are going to see how much it would cost to upgrade.”
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt reminded that the Expo Center restrooms were never designed for an event as large as these two.
“You have a facility designed for about 300 people, and you have 8,000 to 10,000 people,” he said. “It is never going to work unless you have a lot of facilities and lot of people cleaning on a continuous bases.
“A restroom is going to run about $250,000 just for a six- or seven-stall restroom.
“I agree we need to do a study.”
For now though, the port-a-potties are the only viable solution. “What they did by supplying the port-a-cans got us through the situation,” DeWitt said
Commissioner Ken Haggard added, “You don’t want to build a facility that will handle that size crowd being that you only use it twice a year.
“But you are right, we need to upgrade what we have as far as being presentable for these smaller events.”
Rodriguez didn’t sound as content with the portable restrooms as his fellow court members.
“For females, it is my understanding that in talking to people, there was concern of there not being enough toilet paper when they came back, so what they were doing was taking extra so when they came back, they had it,” he said. “Consequently, we were running out because they were taking extra.”
Resident Nelda Garza was still not happy with the restroom situation at the Expo Center.
“I am glad something is being negotiated,” she said at first.
“I was at Western Week, and I was very, very sad to see the restrooms were closed — locked down,” she continued.
“Those port-a-potty facilities that y’all were talking about — disgusting, pathetically disgusting.
“It wasn’t any better.
“I am not a pig. You are not either.
“The citizens of Bee County are not pigs.”
Garza said that she didn’t think they were cleaned during the event.
John Contreras, who heads the maintenance department for the county, said that the port-a-potties were cleaned and disinfected twice a day during the event.
Shelby Rosales, who heads the Expo Center, said that the use of port-a-potties is nothing new.
“Port-a-potties have always been required,” she said. “They have always been there.”
“Fiesta Diez y Seis was told that if you are expecting a large crowd, you get port-a-potties.”
Now comes Winterfest, which is also planned at the Expo Center.
“With that event, you are talking about 3,000 or 4,000 people, and for that event, they are required to have port-a-potties.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.