June 28, 2010

PISSED OFF: Montgomery County government can't afford johns

Montgomery County parks are about to go potty-less, thanks to budget cuts at the county's Department of Parks. Portable toilets, installed to give hundreds of park visitors a proper spot to heed nature's call, are set to be removed June 30. The county has more than 80 potties in more than 80 parks, said Montgomery parks spokeswoman Kelli Holsendolph. Meanwhile, Gene Giddens, the acting deputy parks director, said he is readying procedures so that groups can sponsor a potty at the same discounted rates the county has paid Don's Johns, under a $154,900 contract that covered portable toilets in county parks. But the prospect of parks with no portable toilets has some county residents worked up.

"It's not just a convenience, it's a public health matter," said Jim Zepp of Silver Spring, whose friend Fiona Morrissey ran her own successful crusade four years ago to get a portable toilet at their neighborhood park, North Four Corners, in Silver Spring.

Now Morrissey is worried that she again might have to wash people poop off her dogs after a walk in the park. Waste also draws rats, and Zepp and his wife, Carole Ann Barth, an environmental planner, said parks that should be a public amenity could become a public nuisance. Morrissey said she had better things to do in the spring of 2006 than tail grown men, including many who gathered for soccer games, into the brush to document their relieving themselves in public. But when they ignored her pleas not to poop in the park, she took notes and called park police who arrived within 10 minutes and issued $50 fines. After days of poop patrol and police calls, the potty that Morrissey said she was told they'd have to wait years for was installed in a few days.

"I'm from Ireland — we don't take any crap," she said.

Under a deal park officials worked out with Don's Johns, a sanitation services company based in Chantilly, Va., sponsoring a standard potty for three months would cost $165, and sponsoring a handicapped-accessible potty would cost $198. The prices include weekly service and a charge that covers damage to the portable facility. Everyone would get to use the potties, and sponsors would get signs on the potties acknowledging their donations.

PICTURE: Anthony Castellano/The Gazette Carole Barth, president of the Northwood-Four Corners Civic Association, and NFCCA member Jim Zepp say they may lose the portable toilet that their organization lobbied for at North Four Corners Park in Silver Spring.
SOURCE: Gazette

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