City council remains undecided about temporary public restrooms as busy summer nears
Kalli Hawkins

City council remains undecided about temporary public restrooms as busy summer nears

The city of Grand Marais is in the final stages of preparing for the new city hall/liquor store construction project to begin. 

Construction crews are arriving on the scene, and building demolition is expected to begin in the coming weeks. 

However, as the construction project nears fruition, the city council remains undecided about how to proceed with temporary restrooms during the upcoming summer season. 

In recent months, the city has discussed leasing or purchasing an ADA-designed portable restroom trailer to use as a substitute during the construction process since the public restrooms, located inside the city hall building, will be demolished. 

On Mar. 13, the city council met to review and discuss alternatives for public restrooms while the new city hall is re-built. The agenda includes a document outlining potential cost estimates and associated service costs of porta potties, an ADA-designed portable restroom trailer, and a non-ADA-designed restroom trailer. The city council decided to move forward with an ADA-designed portable restroom trailer option. 

Then, the city council held a special meeting on Mar. 20 to review three potential ADA-designed portable restroom trailers. 

Dave Tersteeg, the recreation parks manager, was tasked with compiling the ADA-designed portable restroom trailer information and estimates for the city council to review. During the Mar. 20 meeting, Tersteeg presented the following four options to the council. 

  • Satellite Industries
    • $95,280 
    • Three total stalls (1 ADA compliant)
    • 14-week lead time for orders. It wouldn’t arrive until late June.
  • Jag Mobile Solutions
    • Option 1
    • $86,000
    •  Three total stalls (1 ADA compliant)
    • Available mid-May
    • Option 2 
    • $128,607
    • Nine total stalls (1 ADA compliant)
    • Available end of May
  • Portable Restroom Trailers, LLC 
    • $107,980
    • Seven total stalls (1 ADA compliant) 
    • Available by Memorial Weekend. 
    • Offers a buy-back option of up to 80 percent of the retail purchase price

Given that the busy summer season kicks off on Memorial Weekend, Tersteeg said he recommends ruling out the Satellite Industries option given that it wouldn’t arrive until late June. Instead, he suggested focusing on Jag Mobile Solutions option 1 for $86,000 or the Portable Restroom Trailers 7-stall option for $107,980. 

Tersteeg and the council then discussed the differences in the trailer tank sizes and the frequency at which they would need to be pumped. Tersteeg said he received a rough estimate from G&G Septic. An approximate 3-stall trailer with a 330-gallon tank would need to be pumped twice a week, whereas the larger 7-stall and 600-gallon tank would be pumped once a week. 

Mike Roth, the city administrator, said, “A bigger tank would be very handy.” 

The council then began discussing how the trailer and associated costs are budgeted. 

Councilor Ben Peters said he has yet to see how the trailer will be budgeted. “I think it’s a little concerning to me that we don’t have a lot of the detail on this, but we’re going to spend $110,000 figuring it out. “

Roth said while the cost of the trailer wasn’t specifically budgeted for, “we can afford it.”

He said the city currently has approximately $10 million in reserves, and the reason it is so high is to prepare for the city hall/liquor store construction project. 

Peters said he wants to make sure there are minimal unknowns and that the cost of cleaning and pumping the stall is factored into the discussion and decision. 

Grand Marais Mayor Tracy Benson said the need for temporary bathrooms had been identified and requested by the downtown small business community for a while. “There are a lot of unknowns to this, but I think the one thing that’s not unknown, is that we have to provide something, and I believe it’s more than a porta-potty to get us through this.” 

“I don’t think we’re really being respectful of the rest of the business community if we just have a bunch more porta-potties to get us through this summer,” Benson said. 

After more conversation about the details of the portable restroom trailer options, Peters made a motion to table the discussion. He said his reasoning is because “I don’t think three people still want the trailer.”

“Time is of the essence,” Benson said. “So what are we going to do? If we kick this one more time, then we potentially lose what we’re choosing.”

Councilor William Lovaas said he remains unsure about the ADA portable restroom trailer options because of the lack of trailer build details and specifications. 

Councilor Craig Schulte then seconded the motion. The motion passed 3-2. 

The city council then met a week later on Mar. 27. The agenda made no mention about alternatives to downtown public restrooms. 

During the Mar. 27 public comment period, Linda Jurek, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Cook County said she was disappointed and “completely baffled on the vote of last week to table the decision.”

She said that throughout the process, the Grand Marais business community was asked to provide feedback and opinions on the most suitable solutions during the summer when the city hall and public restrooms were to be reconstructed. “I believe there was resounding support for an ADA restroom trailer,” she said. 

“Bottom line is when you ask for input from your business community and then completely disregard that input, there is no building of trust in community,” Jurek said. “We count on you to make decisions that support our community.” She said she was shocked to not see the item included on the Mar. 27 agenda for further discussion. 

The next city council meeting is Apr. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Room at the Cook County Courthouse.

Find the Mar. 20 city council special meeting here.

Find the Mar. 27 city council meeting here