Oxbow's portable toilets

Complaints about the portable toilets at Oxbow Park led Morristown officials to switch providers. They will break ground either this fall or next spring on permanent public bathrooms at the park.

The reviews are in: The portable toilets at Morristown’s Oxbow Park are a mess.

There’s a solution on the horizon — community development coordinator Tricia Follert expects the town to build two fully plumbed bathrooms at the park this fall or next spring.

In 2018, town meeting voters approved a five-year $75,000 loan for the permanent bathrooms, and Follert said the project has all the state and local permits it needs.

But that’s in the future.

Right now, Oxbow Park has portable toilets to serve the crowds at Wednesday Night Live and the Oxbow Music Festival.

Morristown contracts with Middlesex-based Hartigan Portable Toilets, and Follert says the quality of the service changed last year.

“Ever since then, honestly, we’ve had issues with portalets,” she said. “We have issues with portalets at our pit, and here. I don’t know if it’s their mismanagement but they tell us they’re going to do one thing and then they do another.”

Follert said she’s “very concerned. I can’t go down there and have portalets that are overflowing. I understood where the community was coming from. That’s unacceptable. These are portalets out in a park when it’s 80 degrees out. It isn’t like we gave them one shot at this.”

When she saw complaints online, Follert walked to the park to check out the situation, and found the doors to the portable toilets weren’t broken, contrary to social media posts.

Morristown Police Chief Richard Keith says his department hasn’t received any reports of injuries at the portable toilets, again contrary to social media posts.

“We have been working on this day in and day out,” Follert said. “We’ve had many, many phone calls to Hartigan about this. If you can’t take care of cleaning a portalet and changing it out as it needs, then we need to do something about it, because those are public bathrooms.”

She said the town is switching to Danville- and Montpelier-based Calkins Portable Toilets.

But either this fall or early next spring, the town will break ground on two permanent bathrooms, Follert said.

They’ll be gender-neutral, and will be locked automatically at sundown each day except when Oxbow Park has an event.

The bathrooms won’t be accessible in the winter, Follert said.

Questions about the plan

Not everyone favors the bathroom project.

Patrick Lajoie of Morristown, an online critic of the condition of the portable toilets, thinks it’s better to stick to portable toilets — just do a good job of maintenance.

Michele Swift, a Morristown resident, also weighed in online, saying she likes the idea of not having to use portable toilets, but worried the bathrooms will eventually become a place for law-breaking and drugs.

“The skate park was supposed to be a blessing for local kids, but on more than one occasion, I saw, what appeared to be human feces, trash and at least one needle,” Swift wrote. “I would not let my dog near it, let alone my son.”

Stowe’s experience

Stowe has permanent public bathrooms in the Depot Building on Main Street. Town Manager Charles Safford says the town leases the bathrooms from Ampersand Properties, paying $778 a month, plus an average $228 per month for utilities and $1,386 for cleaning and supplies. The total is about $30,000 per year, said Stowe’s finance director Cindy Fuller.

The Green Mountain Inn staff cleans and maintains the bathrooms, Fuller said.

Stowe also contracts with Hartigan for 13 portable toilets, two year-round at Lintilhac Park and Thompson Park, and 11 more for the busy tourist season from May through October.

Stowe taxpayers pay $10,980 for all portable toilets, Fuller said.

She didn’t report any complaints about Hartigan’s service, and Stowe Police Chief Don Hull said he hasn’t received any reports of needles found in the public bathrooms.

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