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I see the Mayor is getting out his signs again this year. This is a welcome sight because he deserves another term for...

Town Common restroom facilities approved, to be open in July

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

After multiple years of research and debate, restrooms on the Town Common are scheduled to become a reality by midsummer. 

On Monday night, the Greenville City Council unanimously approved a $422,400 contract with Unshakable Builders LLC to build the facility. 

The restrooms will be located just west of the inclusive playground on the east side of the park. Gary Fenton, director of the Recreation and Parks department, presented the contract. He said the facility will include six stalls each for men and women and multiple sinks. 

Fenton said the restrooms will be heated and available during park hours throughout the year. They will be secured by magnetic locks set on a timer.

When council members expressed concerns about residents being locked in, Fenton assured them that the locks allow people to exit the restrooms. 

“When I came to Greenville a decade ago, I was impressed that we had a riverside park in the central city,” Fenton said. “But I was also surprised to learn that this place that so many people considered our ‘central park’ was without a public restroom and had been that way for over 30 years. We’ve wanted to change that ever since and we’re finally going to do that.” 

The vote comes almost a year and a half after the council approved designs for the facility and other Town Common improvements as part of its master plan to update the 25-acre park between First Street and the Tar River, adjacent to the city’s downtown area.

In November 2016, council members approved a design for the facility by Rhodeside & Harwell Inc., a landscape architecture firm in Alexandria, Va. hired by the city to develop plans for the park.

Delays since then mostly have been related to the overall cost of the project and multiple failed attempts by the city to receive a bid within the range council approved. 

On Monday night, council members said that  although the price tag associated with the project was larger than anyone would like, it was necessary for the park and long overdue. 

District 5 Councilman Will Litchfield said the price of the project was high, but the growing popularity of the greenway and isolation from any public alternatives make the facility a must-have for the park. 

“I think at first glance there can be some sticker-shock by looking at the price of this,” he said. “I have experienced the lack of restroom facilities down there personally and witnessed how many people are utilizing the Town Common and the greenway right there. So with all the development downtown and all the events happening down there, we have to have facilities for the citizens and people using the Town Common.” 

Following his comments, he motioned for approval of the project, which was later seconded by District 1 Councilwoman Kandie Smith. 

Litchfield noted that the city has gone through three different bid processes and tried various techniques to lower the costs of the project.

In January 2017, city planner Lamarco Morrison presented preliminary cost estimates for several projects related to the Town Common Master plan, including the bathroom facility and the Sycamore Hill memorial to honor the neighborhood that once stood on the park. Costs were estimated at $2 million for the memorial and about $500,000 for the bathroom facility.

In September, the city hired BW Architecture for architectural services related to the restroom facilities. In February, three bids were received by the city, and all three were rejected, because the lowest bidder was unresponsive and the other two exceeded project costs.

Staff met with design firms to discuss a value management plan in an effort to reduce costs. In early March 2017, a redesign was put out for bids that split the restroom building and site work into separate packages in hopes of increasing the number of prospective bidders.

Three bids were received March 22, two for the restroom and one for site work, but after consideration all three were once again rejected. In conversations following the rejection of the bids, staff discovered that splitting the work made the project less profitable and desirable to contractors, according to agenda documents.

On March 27, the city put the project out to bid again after combining the redesign into a single package. On April 3, three more bids were recieved and the city selected a $440,000 bid from Unshakable Builders. Further negotiations with the company lowered the cost to the proposed $422,400, including $120,000 in site work and $302,400 for the building.

Now approved, Fenton said the facilities will take roughly 90 days to complete after a notice to proceed is given to contractor. He said construction is expected to complete near the end of July.

Fenton said construction should not affect access to the park or nearby boat launch.  

Also on Monday night:

• Council heard a presentation from city staff about increasing some city fees to more adequately balance the city’s share of certain expenses, including fire safety inspection, parking and parks fees. 
• Council was presented proposals from city to reduce some vegetation requirements for expanding commercial businesses, including removing any requirement for areas of impervious surfaces. 
• Council was presented a preliminary overview of the 2018-19 fiscal budget, which includes funding for several council initiatives, including a small business loan, road clean up and street lighting. 

Contact Seth Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth

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