New Pfiffner bathrooms come with high price tag, council says ‘worth it’
A new bathroom facility was approved for Pfiffner Pioneer Park by the Stevens Point Common Council Monday, Feb. 20, and will come with a maximum price tag of $372,772. Council members argued the new bathrooms must be of high quality to properly represent the city’s most popular park.
During the initial design of the project, Parks Director Tom Schrader said it was the general consensus to fit the building’s design with what is in the park currently.
“We looked at other things like maybe not staining it, going with a different type of paint to save money. We looked at the decking to maybe place plywood instead; we looked at the epoxy floor and could save $1,000 if we went with a different floor; (the architect) said maybe we should go with steel beams instead of wooden laminate, but the wooden laminate is actually cheaper so we wouldn’t save any money,” Schrader said.
After looking at all the possible alternatives for materials used in its construction, the city would only save about $5,000 to $10,000, but the corners cut would add maintenance costs down the road when the cheaper materials started rusting or wearing down.
“One of the problems is how do you match up the rooflines with the band shell, the Central Company Building and the Pfiffner Building? We wanted something presentable because it’s going to be there for 35-40 years,” he said.
“So, the design came in, and it had the roofline matching the band shell, which caused some problems when the bids came back because it’s a little more complicated,” Schrader said. “As that came in we looked if there was anything else we could do to get the cost down. Keep in mind the cost is $324,000 with $48,600 of contingency.”
He said they will work with the architect to help keep costs down during production to not use the full $370,000.
Voting in favor of building the new bathrooms as designed were Shaun Morrow, District 11; Mary McComb, District 9; Cathy Dugan, District 8; Mary Kneebone, District 7; Meleesa Johnson, District 5; Heidi Oberstadt, District 4; Garrett Ryan, District 3; David Shorr, District 2; and George Doxtator, District 1. Voting against the new bathrooms as designed was Mike Phillips, District 10. Jeremy Slowinski, District 6, was excused from the meeting.
Council President Phillips said spending that amount of money for bathrooms is completely absurd, and the project should be sent back and redesigned to a more affordable price.
“This building is extravagant, it’s $340 per square foot for this bathroom. A normal restroom, let’s say Mead Park, would range between $175 to $225. We’re way of the mark on this thing, we only budgeted $204,000 for this project,” Phillips said. “Again, we need to go back to the drawing board.
“I just think that this restroom is too extravagant for the city when you have a beautiful restroom at Mead Park with a metal roof that looks good and functional, low-maintenance … it’s a nice facility,” Phillips said. “(The new) facility (could be) just like Mead Park – which is a tad smaller, but you could expand it a little bit – and maybe spend $225,000 on a facility just like that.”
Phillips said it’s hard enough to keep up with all the capital projects in the city such as street maintenance, and the money from the over-budget project could be used elsewhere.
“Since this did go over budget about $136,000, is there money in the budget (to build this)?” asked Morrow.
“I went through at looked at our 2016 capital project budget and we do have about $240,000 left over form 2016. Of course there’s no shortage of capital needs in the city, I think we all know that. But the money would be available if this is how you’d like to use it,” said Cory Ladick, comptroller/treasurer.
Schrader said comparing Mead Park to Pfiffner Pioneer Park isn’t a fair comparison, due to the vastly different uses.
“It’s apples and oranges here when it comes to usage between the two parks,” Schrader said.
“The one at Mead, the bathroom itself is about 400 square feet, it’s got four water closets. This one is about a little over 1,000 square feet with 16 water closets. This one is quite a bit bigger, so if you were talking about putting something like what’s at Mead there, you’d actually be decreasing the number of stalls we have currently,” Schrader said.
“One of the problems we’re running into is the one currently isn’t big enough right now. So, if you want to make it smaller, my recommendation at that point would be to keep the one that’s there because at least there’d be more bathrooms. Are they usable? No … when somebody’s in there, there’s barely enough room between the stall and the wall for people walk.”
The current bathrooms were built in 1984 and weren’t designed to handle the high column of crowds Stevens Point events now draw.
“It’s important to keep in mind when I talk figures, I’m talking visitors who come to the park. So, a visitor is someone who came to the park today, comes the next day and the following day. That’s a visitor to us, it’s hard to determine who came three times a week or once a week,” Schrader said. “These usage numbers I’m giving are special interest groups using the park, they’re not people who are just down in Pfiffner or Iverson Park just picnicking.”
Schrader said his estimates indicate Pfiffner hosted more than 100,000 people last year during both public events such as Riverfront Rendezvous, Movies in the Park, Taste of the Town, Jazz Fest, Art in the Park, Gus Macker and City Band concerts and private events such as work picnics and lodge rentals.
“The bathrooms down there now are obsolete. Once you get five or six people in there, it’s hard to even move around,” Schrader said. “The functionality of it is gone, it’s outlived its lifetime.”
McComb asked if the new facility will be environmentally-minded.
“All of the water closets will be energy/water efficient. Plus, with the glass we’re putting in I would say in the summer the lights won’t be on until 9 p.m. Right now the lights are on all day because there’s no natural light into that building. This one will have all-natural light,” Schrader said.
“Do we need a new restroom there? Yes. The cost is what is kind of scary and I’m conflicted. I’ve been there during the summer time and they’re horrible. I know there is a definite need, it’s just hard at this point at this way which way to go,” said Morrow.
Doxtator said the money will be well spent and anyone who’s used the bathrooms during summer events knows how big of a difference new, expanded bathrooms will make.
“I think it’s really important we go forward with this … so it can be ready for our biggest event on the river – our gem – at Pfiffner Park,” Doxtator said.
“I’ve talked about the design of the roof, I know it adds to the cost, but I think that design consistency in the park is important. I think a facility that didn’t fit in with the band shell would be more distracting than this building where the shape of the roof echoes the band shell,” said McComb. “I really believe that given how many people, both in town and from out of town, who will use this facility in that beautiful riverside park, I think we need to do it right and use the current design.”
“Is it a high price? Yes. Is it out of line for the facility? No. We’ve actually talked to other experts and asked how much it would cost to build this and they’re all in the same line. The assessor looked at it, right in the same line. The three bids were very close together, so that should tell you that’s just what it costs,” said Wiza. “Now, this is a commercial-style building, it’s built to last. So, it’s going to be more expensive than your other run-of-the-mill restroom facility.
“The unique thing about it is the architecture, it was specifically designed to fit in more with the existing architecture we have in the band shell. So, it’s more of a complement. It doesn’t look like a bathroom, it looks like part of the park system and because of that it’s a little more expensive,” he said.
“Could we get something cheaper? Yes. We could build concrete block walls with a hole in the floor and we could do it for a couple hundred bucks, maybe a few thousand. But what we want is something functional for the next 40 years and not only functional, but aesthetic and complementary to the park,” Wiza said.