By Kathryn G. Menu
After months of raising a stink over weekend closure of the public bathrooms in Sag Harbor’s Municipal Building, business owners can now breathe a sigh of relief. A majority of the village board has agreed to work with the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce to keep those facilities open through Columbus Day weekend.
On Tuesday night, the resolution was approved by Deputy Mayor Robby Stein, as well as board members Ed Deyermond, Kevin Duchemin and Ken O’Donnell, with Mayor Brian Gilbride voting against the proposition citing concerns with the upkeep of the bathrooms as well as the security of the building, which holds village and justice court records.
While O’Donnell—who helped broker a deal between the village and the chamber alongside Stein—said he hopes to have the bathrooms open as early as this weekend, the vote was contingent on the approval of Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Thomas Fabiano.
Under the agreement, the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce has agreed to pay C’s Home & Office Management $600 weekly to man the bathrooms while they are open between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Chamber President Kelly Connaughton presented the potential deal to the village board Tuesday night, noting the village’s employee and police unions have signed off on having a private company handle the responsibility.
Chief Fabiano, who had not been consulted about the plan, asked to have the ability to weigh in. According to O’Donnell, he had been in contact with Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Milazzo, who said his union would not have an issue with a private firm manning the facilities, although Gilbride noted as chief Fabiano should also have a say in the decision.
Outside of the havoc that ensued when the recently-renovated bathrooms have been opened in the past, was the concern that village records could be vulnerable should the vestibule the bathrooms are housed in be opened to the public outside of village business hours.
“But we do have cameras in there,” noted O’Donnell Tuesday night. The village has cameras that show the inside of the vestibule the bathrooms are located in, as well as the outside of the Municipal Building, the staircase leading to the second floor, which houses the justice court, its offices and the building department, as well as the justice court and village meeting room itself. The cameras are viewable from Sag Harbor Village Police Department headquarters and can be programmed to record.
“We have a solution to have attendants there the whole time, not just attending to the bathroom but also maintaining a presence,” argued Connaughton.
“I look at this as a government building that is closed,” said Gilbride, noting East Hampton Village does not keep its offices on Main Street open for bathroom facilities on the weekend. The village—like East Hampton—has separate municipal bathrooms on Bay Street next to Marine Park. When the bathrooms in the Municipal Building have been opened, he added, it invited people to paint, and trash them.
“We certainly understand and appreciate your point,” said Connaughton.
However, she added unlike East Hampton Village, the Bay Street bathrooms can be a far walk for parents with toddlers needing to use the bathroom, or elderly patrons of Main Street businesses and restaurants.
“We just want this to be a reflection on the village that we are a friendly place to visit,” said Connaughton, noting business owners have dealt with an onslaught of complaints about the facilities being closed.
She added the agreement with the chamber would be on a trial basis and could be canceled by the village should it prove problematic.
“The huge difference is there will be a person sitting in the lobby monitoring it,” said O’Donnell. “We talked about port-o-potties, but I feel like asking a 60-year-old to hike down to the back parking lot and use something that looks like it would after a Giants or Jets game is appalling.”
“When [the bathrooms] were open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. we never had someone break into the building and with someone sitting there you will have more protection,” said Wharf Shop owner Nada Barry. “I beg of you to resolve this. It has been more of a problem than any of you can humanly imagine.”
After the vote, Gilbride said if the plan proves faulty he wanted it known he was against it.
“I am ready with a ‘I told you so’,” he said.