Pilot program will test portable restrooms in downtown Fargo

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FARGO (KVRR-KFGO) – After seeing an uptick in biohazards downtown over the summer, several organizations are partnering to roll out a pilot program to put portable restrooms in two locations in downtown Fargo.Cindy Graffeo, executive director of Downtown Community Partnership (DCP) said the Business Improvement District (BID) found they were cleaning more biohazards. Over the summer, that number was in the range of 500 instances.

The DCP works with a group of stakeholders who work with the homeless. In working with that group, Graffeo said they found the problem stems from a lack of free and open public restrooms downtown, especially during the night hours.

“In the past, road construction port-a-potties were filling that need in the downtown area,” Graffeo said. “But, if you drive downtown, there are not a whole lot of street projects this summer.”

The pilot program will last 60-90 days and be managed by the DCP and BID and be funded by the City of Fargo. Graffeo said she hopes to see the portable restrooms installed within the next two weeks.

Graffeo acknowledged that bringing portable restrooms downtown is not ideal or a long-term solution to the problem, but the need is there now.

“We have a gap and we need to do our best to fill it because, at this point, it’s a public health and safety issue,” Graffeo said.

Cost for the program is yet to be determined as DCP waits for bids from portable restroom vendors to come in. Interim City Administrator Mike Redlinger said the city will be billed directly.

BID will monitor the restrooms and work with a vendor to make sure they are cleaned and maintained.

The restrooms will be located at Elim Lutheran Church and near the Downtown Engagement Center.

During the pilot program, Graffeo said they will evaluate things like safety, which was brought up by other communities who have tried portable restrooms.

“What we’re hoping for out of this pilot program is to see whether or not it addresses the root issue that we’re finding downtown, or if it creates a whole new set of challenges,” Graffeo said.

Graffeo said crews from BID will be out walking the streets daily. She said that is what could set this program apart from others because they will be able to monitor the restrooms.

“We have staff who will be checking it several times a day…making sure they are being used as intended,” Graffeo said. “That when they’re damaged, they’re getting serviced. When we have concerns or issues pop up, we’re going to know about it much faster than some other monitoring organizations would be able to do.”

Graffeo said the restrooms can be used throughout the winter, so the program will not be hindered by weather.

Graffeo reiterated that placing public restrooms downtown is not ideal, but is filling a need the city has right now.

“In an ideal world, we would have 24/7 available, clean, safe, open, public restrooms,” Graffeo said. “But, until we get to that in downtown Fargo, this is a band aid that we hope is going to improve the situation.”

Categories: Local News, North Dakota News