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Nasty old bathrooms have Durham parks staff in a bind

City Council members have heard complaints about the state of the restrooms in the city parks – complaints that they are unclean, disrepaired, vandalized and/or just don’t work at all.

So, the matter came up this afternoon when Parks and Recreation officials presented the council with their updated Master Plan.

"I don't want to beat on this, but I want an answer," said Mayor Bill Bell.

“I hear you, “ said Assistant Director Beth Timson. “We do have a problem and we know it.”

A lot of the bathrooms are old, and a lot of them are in floodplains, she said, and that leaves Parks and Rec in a bind due to federal water-quality laws about what you and and cannot do in a floodplain.

“If we taken them out and renovate them at more than their (current) value, they’re gone,” Timson said. “If we take out the old ones, try to renovate them … we can’t do that because of floodplain regulations.”

That leaves the parks department to keep the bathrooms functioning as best it can, without improving them – even when the feds say to.

Councilman Eugene Brown pointed out the irony in that the old bathrooms are far from meeting standards of the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, but bringing them up to ADA compliance would violate the federal floodplain rules.

“I’ve broached that same problem to the inspections department,” Timson said. “They laughed and said, ‘You’ve got a problem, don’t you?’ ”

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