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Vandalism stalls plans for Decatur Park restrooms

Theft and vandalism at public restrooms, including this one in downtown Berlin near Town Hall, caused the Town Council on Monday to reconsider its plans for permanent public restrooms at Stephen Decatur Park.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(July 26, 2018) Vandalism of several Town of Berlin public bathrooms has led to a revaluation of planned permanent restrooms at Stephen Decatur Park.

The Town Council on Monday voted 4-0 to delay seeking a grant for the work and to hold off building the new bathrooms for at least a year.

Human Resources Director Jeff Fleetwood on Monday said both existing public restrooms, ones adjacent to Town Hall and at Dr. William Henry Park, had suffered repeated vandalism, from components going missing to “people leaving their scent.”

“We’ve had issues here at Town Hall where sinks have been torn off the wall. We’ve had issues where ceiling tiles have disappeared out of the ceiling. We’ve had issues where computerized mechanisms with the sinks have disappeared,” Fleetwood said. “So, it’s an issue of design, I believe.

“Personally, what I think it’s going to take from the town is … it doesn’t matter where the restrooms are located – I think it’s more of a design,” he added.

Asked if the town would consider installing security cameras outside the restrooms Fleetwood replied, “That I don’t know.”

Because of the difficulty with the existing public bathrooms, Administrative Services Director Mary Bohlen asked the Town Council to change the objective of a Maryland Program Open Space grant application seeking money for that project.

The town had budgeted $133,000 for permanent restrooms at Stephen Decatur Park and hoped to get $120,000 from the grant.

Instead, she proposed the town focus this year on installing lights around the basketball courts at Henry Park.

“Every year we submit a Program Open Space priority project list, we usually refer to as our wish list,” Bohlen said. “In reviewing some of the issues we have encountered … we would like to delay the Stephen Decatur Park restroom project to give us a better handle on what we need to prepare for.”

Bohlen said a survey of residents near Henry Park was conducted a few years ago and found overwhelming support for the lights. She said they would be similar to lighting recently installed around the tennis courts at Stephen Decatur Park and, once installed, would require a “slight change to the code to allow for after-dark uses of the basketball courts.”

“We’re not completely getting rid of the concept and the idea of putting in permanent restrooms at Stephen Decatur Park,” she said. “We just feel like … with the grant application being due in mid-August, it would be prudent to put it off for another year to better prepare.

“This time next year, our hope is that we will be prepared to move forward with the Stephen Decatur Park restrooms application,” Bohlen added.