Watkinsville building public restrooms, adding more parking spaces to downtown

The city of Watkinsville will soon open its first public restrooms in the downtown area along with providing additional parking for the business district.

Construction on the project, located on Water Street near the Oconee County Courthouse, began four weeks ago and might conclude in December, Watkinsville Mayor Charles Ivie said Monday.

“I hope it will be an improvement that will make it more conducive to tourism, and that locals who shop downtown will have a clean facility as a restroom and a place to park near the shopping areas,” Ivie said.

Main Street has few parking spaces. Though public parking is available behind the courthouse, the restroom project will add an additional 22 spaces, according to Ivie.

The approximately $280,000 project is being built with special purpose local option sales tax money, the mayor said.

“Congratulations to this town, because it’s not easy to do it and mobilize the funding,” said Carol McCreary, co-founder of Phlush, a nonprofit organization based in

Portland, Ore., that encourages cities to provide public restrooms.

“We consider public toilets fundamental to human dignity and we know they make good business sense,” she said.

Many people need frequent access to toilets, including the elderly, children and people with medical conditions, she said.

Public restrooms were once common in towns and cities, but this changed beginning in the 1950s with more money going to highway programs and people moving into the suburbs, said McCreary.

“Those trends are now reversing,”
she said.

An important facet of the Watkinsville project, Ivie said, is that the parking lot is being constructed using pervious concrete that allows water to seep through to the ground below.

“The better job we can do with controlling storm water, obviously the better off we are,” said Ivie, explaining that state and federal environment agencies have rules regarding the control of storm water.

In this type parking lot, there is a 14-inch gravel bed and the pervious concrete is poured on top, he said.

“Water goes through the concrete … goes into a gravel bed and is absorbed into the soil,” Ivie said.

While such an endeavor is more expensive than an asphalt parking lot, this design could eliminate a water problem due to the contour of the land, he said.

Once the restrooms are opened, Ivie said the city may also install an electric charging station for electric powered vehicles.

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