Locking the restrooms at Library Park almost three years ago to deal with vandalism and drug use by the homeless and others was “an easy out” as far as Manteca Councilman Mike Morowit is concerned.
“It punished everyone else for the behavior of a few people,” Morowit said.
He added that families that bring their children to Library Park should be able to use the restrooms that were placed there instead of hoping the nearby Manteca Library is open so they can use the facilities inside.
Morowit wants the city to step up its game and make Library Park more enticing for people. He wasn’t specific but he said the city needs to take whatever steps are needed to make people feel comfortable using the park without compromising anyone’s rights.
While the city’s efforts in dealing with the homeless and others with the issues they have created at Library Park have improved the situation, Morowit wants to make sure all people feel comfortable using the park. And the first step might just center on re-opening the restrooms for general public use whenever the park is open and making sure they are kept in good shape.
Manteca Police Community Resource Officer Mike Kelly for the past three months has been unlocking the bathrooms near the start of his Monday through Thursday shift and locking them at 2 p.m. as he prepares to go home.
Kelly said there have been some issues but most of the time the restrooms are treated well by those using them. That is in sharp contrast to three years ago.
Former City Manager Karen McLaughlin ordered the restrooms locked in the spring of 2014 after city parks workers on a daily basis were dealing with needles, spent condoms, homeless who had slept overnight in them, and even human feces and urine on the floor. The closure was based on concerns for the safety of the public as well as city workers.
The city opens the restrooms for special events. Other than Kelly’s effort, the restrooms are locked with people advised to use the library bathrooms if the library is open.
Morowit wants to see the restrooms open when people are using the park.
“That’s what they were out there for,” he said.
He would like to see a system where the restrooms are unlocked when the park opens at 8 a.m. and locked when the park closes at 7:30 p.m. Morowit said at least once at mid-day he’s like to see city crews check to make sure the bathrooms are clean.
The city has restrooms at Lincoln, Northgate and Morezone parks that they use a uniformed security service to unlock and unlock every day. They went to the security firm after finding it impossible to keep part-time workers to do the job due to unpleasant encounters they had with people who did not want to leave the restrooms when they had to be locked for the night.
When a second community resource officer is brought on board — which may not happen for a number of months — there possibility exists that the restrooms at Library Park could be unlocked from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week.
Even so, Morowit wants the restroom available as well as to be clean and maintained for everyone as it a key element to a fully functioning city park.
The proposed municipal budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 sets aside $50,000 for Library Park restroom upgrades in the 2016-2019 fiscal year of the five-year capital improvement program.
The money would go toward new doors, locking mechanisms, plumbing, fixtures, and American with Disabilities upgrades.
The budget item language notes “the restroom has received excessive amounts of vandalism over the years and is visually unacceptable.”
The city indicated in April the water play feature — turned off four years ago due to the drought — will be turned back on for the summer starting this weekend. The water play feature put in place at a cost of $450,000 will be turned on between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until the end of summer. It is also operational during Tuesday Market and Music events at Library Park.
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