This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic.
The people who came to Sawmills Town Hall to advocate for new restrooms in Veteran’s Park, some of them repeat visitors on the issue, left without a definitive answer Tuesday evening.
The park has a small restroom at its far edge, about a quarter-mile from the spot where most events are held, and there are port-a-johns in a more central location. In May, a handful of town residents came to the town’s budget hearing and argued that elderly people, parents of young children and the veterans who come to the park for the town’s annual Veterans Day ceremony need a centrally located, permanent restroom.
When the town council passed the 2013-14 budget in June without money for a restroom, council members promised to revisit the bathroom issue July 16.
Six or seven people showed up at the council’s meeting Tuesday to again advocate for the bathrooms.
Reid Lingerfelt and Carolyn Turner argued that since the money for the bathrooms is available and represents a small portion of the overall budget, there’s no reason not to approve it.
“Use the money now,” Lingerfelt said. “Don’t hoard it back. Use it for something that the citizens of Sawmills are going to be proud of.”
Later Lingerfelt said, “It’s a million dollar facility with 10-cent bathrooms.”
Sawmills resident Jack Keller repeated a point that has been brought up previously: that having restrooms is more important because the park is meant to honor military veterans.
“I’m embarrassed, as a citizen of Sawmills, that we don’t have centrally located restrooms down there,” Keller said.
Sawmills resident Lloyd Carter, who walks with a cane, said it would be difficult for him to get into a port-a-john or walk to the permanent restrooms on the edge of the park.
“I think we need it badly,” Carter said. “I couldn’t climb up to a port-a-john, even two or three steps.”
No citizens spoke in opposition to the proposed restrooms. One resident stood to thank the town council for its work and for Veterans Park but did not comment on the restrooms.
No town council members said they were opposed to eventually amending the 2013-14 budget to appropriate funding for the restrooms, but most said they weren’t ready to do so on Tuesday.
Council members Trena McRary Kirby and Donnie Potter said they didn’t want to rush a vote. Several council members mentioned looking into options for a lower cost than the bids initially offered.
Councilman Joe Wesson advocated strongly for approving the restrooms Tuesday.
“We’re absolutely denying the right to some of these people that shed their blood for us to be able to get up here and do this, to get up here and talk, and we’re doing that by refusing these bathrooms,” he said.
Several council members asked Town Administrator Seth Eckard to look into less expensive options. Eckard indicated the issue could come up again by February.